- The Grizzlies were handed a massive blow on Monday when Ja Morant sprained his ankle against the Nets
- The former second overall pick will miss 3-5 weeks because of the injury, which could seriously hurt Memphis
- Do they have enough talent that can step up in his absence as they look to compete in the Southwest Division? Get the odds and preview below
Just a week into the NBA season, there’s been a lot of excitement throughout the league. But for the Memphis Grizzlies, they will be very concerned about how their team will fare over the next month.
Although the Grizz captured an OT win over the Brooklyn Nets on Monday, franchise star Ja Morant landed awkwardly on his left ankle after contesting a shot, proceeding to hobble off the court in pain. Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the former Murray State standout has a Grade 2 sprain, which is set to keep him out for 3-5 weeks.
After his injury, the Grizzlies’ odds in the Southwest Division lengthened from +950 to +1200.
2020-21 NBA Southwest Division Odds
|New Orleans Pelicans||+500|
|San Antonio Spurs||+2000|
Odds taken Dec 29 at DraftKings
Who’s Going to Step Up for Memphis?
It’s no secret that all expectations for this franchise are based on Morant. The second-year guard led the team in scoring last season en route to Rookie of the Year, averaging 17.8 points while dishing out 7.3 assists.
He was off to a hot start in 2020-21, putting up 44 points in an opening night loss to division rivals San Antonio.
In the Grizzlies’ win over Brooklyn on Monday, there were several players who stepped up and put together some impressive performances. Kyle Anderson led the way with 28 points, while Dillon Brooks and Jonas Valanciunas dropped 24, and 14 points, respectively.
But after all, the Nets were resting both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, while also missing Spencer Dinwiddie who partially tore his ACL the night before.
For Memphis, they still have enough talent to string together some victories – I’m just not sure how many. Brooks is off to a promising start, while Valanciunas is also a reliable figure around the rim. Brandon Clarke is also a force to be reckoned with, always providing stability off the bench.
However, it’s at the point guard position where they may struggle. Tyus Jones is set to fill in for Morant, who averaged just 7.4 points per night last season. He’s not an electric scorer by any means, but Jones is able to serve as a respectable playmaker, dishing out 4.4 dimes last season. Points simply won’t be coming from the Grizzlies backcourt as often, especially with an average Grayson Allen usually starting at the shooting guard position.
Can the Grizzlies Stay in Contention?
In our Southwest Division preview, I predicted that Taylor Jenkins’ team will finish in fourth place while fighting for a play-in spot. That was with Morant in the lineup as well. With the high-flying sophomore out for a few weeks at the very least, it’s going to be a grind for this team. But even with Brooklyn missing some key players, Memphis proved they have the ability to step up even without Morant.
There are definitely some tough games ahead for the Grizzlies. They play the Lakers twice over the next month, while also facing off against Boston, the Nets, and Portland on two separate occasions. Nestled in between there are certainly some games where they can collect victories against teams like Cleveland, Charlotte, and San Antonio.
It may not be pretty and they will probably play under .500 basketball until Ja returns, but I do think there’s still value in betting on Memphis to grab a play-in spot by the season’s end. There’s enough talent on this roster in other areas who are more than capable of stepping up on both ends of the court.