The 2019-20 Memphis Grizzlies in Review

November 14th, 2020

by Alan Lu

The Memphis Grizzlies’ current logo.
(Photo:
Memphis Grizzlies/Sports Logo History)

The 2019-20 Memphis Grizzlies were an exciting, young team that exceeded expectations under first-year NBA head coach Taylor Jenkins, and they managed to win 34 of 73 games in order to play in the play-in game against the Portland Trail Blazers.  The Grizzlies lost in the one-game playoff in the fight to get to the postseason, but that they surpassed everyone’s expectations was a tremendous accomplishment in itself.  Their prodigious point guard, Ja Morant was the 2019-20 NBA Rookie of the Year, and he is a very athletic, electrifying playmaker that surely looks to be a superstar in the making, as he could lead the Grizzlies to deep playoff runs for years to come.  The Grizzlies have an exciting future that lies ahead of them, but the one sour note is that Jaren Jackson Jr. tore a meniscus in the Orlando bubble, and he may end up missing most of the 2020-21 season.

Memphis Grizzlies’ star guard, Ja Morant won the 2019-20 Kia NBA Rookie of the Year award, and he may be one of the most exciting players in the NBA right now.
(Photo:
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images, via USA Today)

G Ja Morant – A

2020 (MEM): 67 GP, 17.8 PPG, 7.3 APG, 3.9 RPG, 48 FG%, 34 3PT%, 78 FT%, 31 MPG, 17.4 PER, 3.8 WS

He is a very athletic, skilled point guard that had a terrific rookie season with the Memphis Grizzlies.  He showed off a very good ability to score and distribute the basketball, and he was also active on the boards.  Morant will need to improve his outside shot and on-ball defense, but so far, he’s looked to be the best rookie in the 2019 draft so far, and he could be a future superstar in the NBA.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Starting point guard of the Memphis Grizzlies
Projected 2021 rating: 3 stars (4 star potential)

Memphis Grizzlies’ second-year big man, Jaren Jackson Jr. had a solid season in 2020 up until he suffered a season-ending knee injury late in the year, which may cause him to miss most or all of the upcoming 2020-21 season.
(Photo:
Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images, via Hoops Habit)

F-C Jaren Jackson Jr. – B

2020 (MEM): 57 GP, 17.4 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 47 FG%, 39 3PT%, 75 FT%, 28.5 MPG, 16.3 PER, 3.5 WS

He is a very athletic, skilled big man that excelled at shooting and scoring the basketball, and Jackson is a gifted sharpshooter that can knock down shots from all over the floor.  He also is a good shot blocker and interior defender, but he will need to improve his rebounding.  Late in the season, he suffered a knee injury, and he may miss most, if not all of the upcoming 2020-21 NBA season, and the Grizzlies should take precautions to ensure that he will be fully healthy and cleared to play when he comes back.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Starting power forward of the Memphis Grizzlies
Projected 2021 rating: 2.5 stars (3 star potential)

Side note: Got hurt in the Orlando bubble, may be unlikely that he’ll be healthy to play the 2020-21 season.

C Jonas Valanciunas – B+

2020 (MEM): 70 GP, 14.9 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 1.9 APG, 58 FG%, 35 3PT%, 74 FT%, 26.4 MPG, 22.2 PER, 7 WS

Jonas Valanciunas had a very good season, and he excelled as the team’s scorer and rebounder on the court in 2020.  He also showed off solid passing and shot blocking skills, and he excelled as an interior defender for them.  He played very well for them overall, and he will likely be their team’s starting center next season.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Starting center of the Memphis Grizzlies
Projected 2021 rating: 2.5 stars

F Kyle Anderson – B-

2020 (MEM): 67 GP, 5.8 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 2.4 APG, 47 FG%, 28 3PT%, 67 FT%, 28.5 MPG, 12.5 PER, 2.5 WS

Kyle Anderson is a skilled point forward that excels as distributing the basketball, and he is a smart, savvy player that sees the floor well.  He also is a good rebounder and defender, and he is one of the best defenders on his team.  He will need to improve his outside shot and he will need to be more assertive in taking shots on offense, but his ability to excel in all of the other facets of the game enables him to be a solid role player for the Grizzlies.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Rotation player
Projected 2021 rating: 2.5 stars

G Dillon Brooks – C+

2020 (MEM): 73 GP, 16.2 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.1 APG, 41 FG%, 36 3PT%, 81 FT%, 28.9 MPG, 11.3 PER, 1.2 WS

Dillon Brooks had a fairly solid season with the Grizzlies, and he experienced personal bests in numerous statistical categories.  He is a skilled swingman that can shoot and score the basketball, and he is also an unselfish player that will keep the ball moving.  He will need to improve his rebounding and on-ball defense, as well as his ability to knock down two-point shots.  There’s a possibility that Brooks may have been a bit overextended last year as a scorer last year, but his ability to knock down outside shots and space the floor will likely earn him plenty of minutes on the Grizzlies in 2021.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Starting shooting guard on the Memphis Grizzlies
Projected 2021 rating: 2 stars (2.5 stars potential)

Brandon Clarke has soared above and beyond what was expected of him, and he was one of the best rookies to have played the 2019-20 NBA season.
(Photo:
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images, via NBC Sports)

F Brandon Clarke – A

2020 (MEM): 58 GP, 12.1 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.4 APG, 62 FG%, 36 3PT%, 76 FT%, 22.4 MPG, 20.9 PER, 4 WS

Brandon Clarke is an athletic, energetic combo forward that played very well in his role as a rookie on the Grizzlies this past season.  He excelled as a shooter and scorer on the floor, and he made shots very efficiently.  He also played solid defense when he was on the court.  Clarke is a solid player that could be one of the best players to have come out of the 2019 draft class.  Surely, the Grizzlies got a steal by selecting him with the 21st overall pick, and there will be plenty of teams that will have regretted passing on him that day.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Solid role player
Projected 2021 rating: 2.5 stars (3 stars potential)

F Justise Winslow – C- (C- with the Miami Heat, Incomplete with Memphis)

2020 (MIA): 11 GP, 11.3 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 4.0 APG, 39 FG%, 22 3PT%, 67 FT%, 32 MPG, 8.5 PER, 0 WS

Justise Winslow is a very athletic, talented swingman that was occasionally very good in the NBA, as was the case during parts of the 2018-19 season.  Most of the other times, though, he has underperformed when he was on the floor.  Once billed as a potential Kawhi Leonard-type of player prior to being selected in the 2015 draft, Winslow has been relatively disappointing in the NBA.  While he is unlikely to ever reach the once lofty expectations that were placed upon him back then, Winslow still shows considerable potential as a role player in the NBA.

He’s struggled to shoot or score the basketball consistently, though he has shown occasional flashes of solid outside shooting skills, but Winslow has shown that he can facilitate, rebound, and defend well when he is on the court.  The Grizzlies acquired him in a trade while parting ways with Iguodala, and Winslow could be in a role similar to Kyle Anderson for the upcoming season.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Rotation player
Projected 2021 rating: 2 stars (3 star potential)

Side note: Winslow missed considerable time due to a hip injury.

G Tyus Jones – B

2020 (MEM): 65 GP, 7.4 PPG, 4.4 APG, 46 FG%, 38 3PT%, 74 FT%, 19 MPG, 15.7 PER, 3 WS

Tyus Jones had a solid season as the backup point guard for the Memphis Grizzlies this past season.  He’s a pass-first point guard that excels at distributing the basketball, and he also shot the ball well this year on offense.  He’s a solid team defender that can ably guard his man.  On the other hand, he’s rarely played in the playoffs in the NBA, and he also did not play in the Orlando bubble.  Though he is not really a scorer nor will take many shots on offense, Jones is a solid, team-oriented role player that can reliably run the team, and he will likely earn plenty of minutes on the Grizzlies once again in 2021.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Rotation player
Projected 2021 rating: 2 stars (2.5 stars potential)

G De’Anthony Melton – B

2020 (MEM): 60 GP, 7.6 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.3 SPG, 40 FG%, 29 3PT%, 77 FT%, 19.5 MPG, 13.5 PER, 1.7 WS

He is a very athletic, energetic combo guard that had a fairly solid second-year with the Grizzlies in 2020.  Melton excelled as a playmaker, rebounder, and defender, and he may be one of the best defenders on this team.  On the other hand, he will need to improve his ability to shoot and score the basketball, especially from beyond the arc.  Melton is a talented role player that will likely earn plenty of playing time in the Grizzlies’ rotation in 2021.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Rotation player
Projected 2021 rating: 2 stars (2.5 stars potential)

Side note: Will be a restricted fee agent at the end of the 2019-20 season.

G Grayson Allen – B+

2020 (MEM): 38 GP, 8.7 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 47 FG%, 40 3PT%, 87 FT%, 18.9 MPG, 12 PER, 1.2 WS

Grayson Allen had a solid second-year with the Grizzlies, and he is an athletic sharpshooter that excelled at knocking down shots to help his team off the bench.  Allen also showed improved defensive skills, but he will need to continue to improve and progress as an overall player.  Allen played well for the Grizzlies in 2020, and he will likely be a regular rotation player for them next season.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Rotation player
Projected 2021 rating: 2 stars (2.5 stars potential)

G Marko Guduric – D+

44 GP, 3.9 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 39 FG%, 30 3PT%, 92 FT%, 11 MPG, 8.8 PER, 0.1 WS

A skilled swingman that had previously played in numerous competitive leagues overseas such as the Euroleague amid others, Guduric played his first season in the NBA recently.  He struggled to make shots efficiently though, and he will need to show the sharpshooting skills that he put on display in Europe to get consistent playing time on the Grizzlies in 2021.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Fringe rotation player, backend roster player
Projected 2021 rating: 1.5 stars (2 stars potential)

G John Konchar (Two-Way) – A-

19 GP, 2.8 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 1.2 APG, 65 FG%, 50 3PT%, 50 FT%, 9.5 MPG, 18 PER, 0.7 WS

The rookie combo guard played extremely well in limited minutes after having signed on to a two-way contract with the Grizzlies for the 2019-20 season.  He’s a stat-stuffer that did virtually everything well, and he has a habit of exceeding the expectations that get placed upon him.  It’s uncertain if he will have played into getting a regular rotation role next year, but he’s definitely put himself in the conversation of those who should.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Rotation-caliber player
Projected 2021 rating: 1.5 stars (2.5 star potential)

F Josh Jackson – C+

2020 (MEM): 22 GP, 9.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.6 APG, 44 FG%, 32 3PT%, 70 FT%, 17.3 MPG, 14.1 PER, 0.5 WS

Josh Jackson is a very athletic combo forward that was once considered to be a potential superstar back when he ended up being a top 5 pick of the 2017 NBA Draft, but Jackson has been a considerable disappointment ever since, as he has failed to live up to the lofty expectations that were placed upon him.   The Grizzlies took a chance and gambled to trade for him in a package deal that also netted them De’Anthony Melton. 

While Jackson no longer is likely to come anywhere close to meeting the once very high and now unrealistic expectations, he played well enough to suggest that he could still carve out a decent career as a role player in the NBA.  Jackson excelled as a facilitator and defender, and he showed that he can earn minutes on a competent basketball team this past season.  He will really need to improve his outside shot, and also show that he can excel as a regular rotation player on a competitive basketball team, but Jackson has shown enough promise with the Grizzlies to suggest that he just might be ready for an expanded role in 2021.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Fringe rotation player, backend roster player
Projected 2021 rating: 1.5 stars (2 stars potential)

Side note: Will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2019-20 season.

C Gorgui Dieng – B (B with Minnesota, C+ with Memphis)

2020 (TOT): 63 GP, 7.4 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.9 BPG, 46 FG%, 36 3PT%, 77 FT%, 17.4 MPG, 17.1 PER, 2.9 WS
2020 (MIN): 46 GP, 7.4 PPG, 5.6 RPG, .3 APG, 0.9 BPG, 45 FG%, 38 3PT%, 80 FT%, 16.9 MPG, 17.8 PER, 2.1 WS
2020 (MEM): 17 GP, 7.2 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.0 BPG, 0.9 APG, 48 FG%, 25 3PT%, 74 FT%, 18.7 MPG, 15.5 PER, 0.9 WS

Gorgui Dieng had a solid season in the NBA, and he may be ready for an expanded role on the Grizzlies in 2021.  The athletic, high-motor big man excelled as a shooter, rebounder, and interior defender this past season, and he also passed the ball well.  Though he’s not really a scorer, he’s added a new dimension to his game offensively, and Dieng can now make threes at a decent rate.  His newfound versatility could help him considerably, and this could allow the Grizzlies to pick up some extra wins, as Dieng could be an integral role player for them in 2021.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Rotation player
Projected 2021 rating: 2 stars

F Anthony Tolliver – D (D with Portland, F+ with Sacramento, C with Memphis)

2020 (TOT): 55 GP, 3.6 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 36 FG%, 34 3PT%, 72 FT%, 15.9 MPG, 7 PER, 0.5 WS
2020 (POR): 33 GP, 3.9 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 37 FG%, 34 3PT%, 68 FT%, 16.8 MPG, 7.5 PER, 0.4 WS
2020 (SAC): 9 GP, 1.0 PPG, 1.2 RPG, 18 FG%, 13 3PT%, 50 FT%, 9.1 MPG, 0.2 PER, -0.2 WS
2020 (MEM): 13 GP, 4.8 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 40 FG%, 41 3PT%, 88 FT%, 18.2 MPG, 8 PER, 0.3 WS

He is a high-motor combo forward that can space the floor to help his team on offense, but Tolliver struggled to make shots consistently this season.  He did do a good job of knocking down outside shots when he was with the Grizzlies, but he struggled to be an effective contributor in 2020. 

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Fringe rotation player, backend roster player

Projected 2021 rating: 1.5 stars

Side note: Tolliver will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2019-20 season.

F Yuta Watanabe (Two-Way) – C

2020 (MEM): 18 GP, 2 PPG, 1.1 RPG, 44 FG%, 38 3PT%, 38 FT%, 5.8 MPG, 11.2 PER, 0.1 WS

Watanabe is a skilled swingman that has not played much in his two seasons with the Grizzlies, and he has spent his second year on a two-way contract with them.  He plays the game with a point forward mentality, and he can rebound the basketball.   He will need to improve his shooting and defense, but he is a prospect that could potentially be a decent role player in the NBA if he can get some more playing time in this league.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Depth forward, fringe roster player
Projected 2021 rating: 1.5 stars (2 star potential)

F-C Jontay Porter – Incomplete

2020 (MEM): DNP – missed the season due to a knee injury

He is a skilled big man that has not played in the past two seasons due to having had multiple knee injuries.  When healthy, Porter is a versatile scorer that can pass the basketball, but he will need to stay healthy.  He’s not the most athletic big man, but he has a solid basketball IQ, and he has the potential to be a reliable role player if he can get some playing time in the NBA.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Depth big man, fringe roster player
Projected 2021 rating: 1 stars (2 star potential)

Side note: Has a team option at the end of the 2019-20 season.

Memphis Grizzlies’ head coach, Taylor Jenkins (pictured on the right) had a very good rookie season as a first-time NBA head coach, and he led his team to a riveting play-in game against the Portland Trail Blazers.
(Photo: Daniel Shirey/Getty Images, via Forbes)

Head Coach:
Taylor Jenkins – B

2020 (MEM): 34-39, lost to Portland in the play-in game, missed the playoffs
Career: 34-39, 0-0 in his playoff career

He did a good job of coaching the Memphis Grizzlies this year, even if they did falter in the Orlando bubble down the stretch.  Jenkins got solid seasons from a lot of his players, and Ja Morant was terrific for him this past season, as his star point guard won the 2019-20 NBA Rookie of the Year award.  He will be facing heightened expectations next season, and they will be making a heavy playoff push in 2021, though they will likely be without Jaren Jackson Jr. for most of the next season.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies
Projected 2021 rating: 2.5 stars

The Memphis Grizzlies’ 2019-20 season grade: B-

The Memphis Grizzlies had a solid season, even if they lost in the play-in game in a bid for the 2020 postseason.  Ja Morant had an excellent rookie season, and he looks to be their franchise player for both now and in the foreseeable future.  They did suffer a setback when Jaren Jackson Jr. went down a torn meniscus, and that may have factored significantly into their struggles in the Orlando bubble. 

The 2020 Memphis Grizzlies did a very good job of passing and rebounding the basketball, and they excelled at making two-point shots.  They will need to improve their defense, as well as their ability to take care of the basketball and make three-pointers, but exciting things may lie ahead for the 2021 Grizzlies, and they could be well-positioned to snag down a spot in the playoffs out in the West next season.

The Memphis Grizzlies’ Projected 2020-21 NBA Rotation

Projected Starters:
C Jonas Valanciunas
F Jaren Jackson Jr.* (will be injured for most of the 2020-21 season due to a knee injury)
F Kyle Anderson
G Dillon Brooks
G Ja Morant

Key Reserves:
F Brandon Clarke
G De’Anthony Melton* (RFA)
G Tyus Jones
C Gorgui Dieng

Others competing for a spot in the rotation next season:
F Justise Winslow
G Grayson Allen
F Josh Jackson* (UFA)
G John Konchar (Two-Way Contract)
G Marko Guduric

Other players that are currently projected to be on their next season’s roster:
F Yuta Watanabe (Two-Way Contract)
The 40th Overall Pick of the 2020 NBA Draft
F-C Jontay Porter

Players that will be Restricted Free Agents:
De’Anthony Melton

Players that will be Unrestricted Free Agents:
John Konchar
Anthony Tolliver

Projected Players Cut from Next Season’s Roster:
None

2020 NBA Draft Picks:
#40

Projected Offseason Plan for the Grizzlies:

The Grizzlies surpassed expectations in 2020, and they were able to get to the play-in game to face off against the Blazers, but they lost in a one-game playoff to get to the playoffs.  Still, they had a terrific season from rookie point guard Ja Morant, and they will be building around him and Jaren Jackson Jr. for the foreseeable future.  In addition, Jonas Valanciunas also played very well, and others such as Brandon Clarke played very well in his role this past season.

Unfortunately, Jaren Jackson Jr. got injured due to a knee injury in the Orlando bubble, and so he may miss a lot of games next season.  For the time being, it seems that the Grizzlies will look to draft shooters that can play off of Ja Morant, and as their team struggled defensively last year, they will likely look to select a 3 and D type of role player in the draft.  The Grizzlies are pretty capped out, so they will likely try to keep the players they have on their team, and then they will probably look to find undervalued players on minimum contracts elsewhere.

Expected Regular-Season Record in 2021*: 36-36, 10th seed in the Western Conference

In this scenario, the 2021 Grizzlies would play the 7th seeded Houston Rockets, and the winner would then play the 2nd seeded Denver Nuggets in the first round of the 2021 NBA playoffs. Although on the other hand, the Houston Rockets could be slated to be projected lower because there are rumors flying around that Russell Westbrook wants out of Houston, and there may be a prospect that the Rockets might end up taking a serious lowball offer in return. Therefore, the above scenario could end up becoming very unlikely if the Rockets do trade Westbrook and don’t get much back.

Expected 2021 Season Outcome: They will compete for the 8th seed in the West, but it will be a tough challenge for the 2021 Memphis Grizzlies to make it to the playoffs.  Still, they are talented enough to end up in the play-in game for the upcoming season.

(* – The asterisk denotes that the expected regular season win total is adjusted for the 72-game schedule that the NBA will play for the 2020-21 season.  The initial projection for the Grizzlies was for them to get 40-45 wins in an 82-game season. Also, the projected record does not take into account for the NBA draft or free agency, as those events have not happened yet.)

In case if you need the rubric for my player rating system of projecting NBA players for the 2020-21 season, here is the link. In addition, Basketball-Reference, RealGM, and Spotrac were vital information sites that I used to look at player and team statistics, as well as contract information.

Side note: Also, the letter grades attached to the player name was my grade for their 2019-20 season, as it is my judgment of their performance and whether or not they met or exceeded my expectations, and didn’t have much bearing on my projection of how they will perform for the 2020-21 NBA season.

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