The Memphis Grizzlies are the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference with a 35-22 record at the 2023 All-Star break. The Grizzlies were 31-13 at one point, but they lost eight of nine games before rallying with three wins out of four entering the break. Some key injuries have hurt Memphis at times, and this team has some question marks to address in order to be a legitimate NBA title contender as this season comes down the home stretch.

It was reported that the Grizzlies offered four first-round picks for Brooklyn Nets forward Mikal Bridges after the Kevin Durant trade, but nothing came to fruition. Memphis did add an ancillary piece in Luke Kennard from the Los Angeles Clippers to help boost the offense, which is where a concern of this team lies. While the Grizzlies are one of the best defensive teams in the NBA, led by Defensive Player of the Year candidate Jaren Jackson Jr., the offense is not nearly as strong. 

Even with the explosive Ja Morant leading the way, Memphis’ offense is in the middle of the pack in terms of efficiency. The Grizzlies’ 34.5% shooting from 3-point range is just 24th, so they clearly need more offensive juice to win a title.

Grizzlies flaw: Subpar half-court offensive execution

With Morant as the star, the Grizzlies inevitably thrive in a fast-paced, run-and-gun style. Morant is arguably the fastest player in the NBA, and he creates many opportunities through his sheer acceleration and quickness. Memphis is third in fast-break points this year, with an average of 17.6 points per night.

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The problem with relying heavily on transition baskets is adjusting to a slower-paced and physical game in the postseason. In the Grizzlies’ second-round matchup against the Golden State Warriors last year, there were a couple of contests in the six-game series in which Golden State scratched and clawed for the win. Memphis could have stolen Game 1 or Game 4, but the lackluster execution when defenses are set remains a massive question mark with this squad.

Since the Grizzlies’ defense is so stellar, their approach is to force their opponents to commit mistakes and pounce on them instantly. They are second in blocks and fourth in steals in the Association, but the problem is that other teams will commit lesser lapses in the postseason. Thus, their execution will lie solely on themselves, specifically their point guards, Ja Morant and Tyus Jones.

Morant is usually the initiator in the half court, and everyone else reacts based on his decision-making. There are some instances where Desmond Bane comes off pin-downs or Dillon Brooks chucks up a couple of 3-pointers, but other than that, their offensive schemes can be stagnant. Memphis ranks just 22nd in offensive efficiency in the half court, per Cleaning The Glass. 

The addition of Kennard will help the shooting problems and open up the floor a bit more in these half-court situations, but playing him means the defense suffers a bit. Moreover, the Grizzlies’ free-throw percentage is dead last in the NBA at 71.8%, which is two percentage points worse than the 29th-ranked franchise. That is a massive cause for concern in the playoffs because the pressure intensifies and the pace gets slower compared to the regular season, making those easy points so much more important. 

The Grizzlies have done a lot of talking and are clearly a good team, but they still need to walk the walk and prove they can really win when it matters. These playoffs will be a prime test for them in a Western Conference that got stronger ahead of the trade deadline.