The Memphis Grizzlies are so good (#2 seed in the West for the second straight year) and so young (fourth lowest average age in the league) that it seems somewhat inevitable that they'll win the NBA Finals at some point. In fact, if you ask them, they'll tell you that the only thing holding them back from being a dynasty is the slow crawl of time—the Grizzlies are “fine in the west,” having already mentally stormed through the NBA Playoffs. Who needs to wait until June when you can have a parade in your city every night?
As such, the Grizzlies have become the most divisive team in the league as they toe the line between rational and irrational confidence. And, somehow, they've also become the most overlooked—Ja Morant's gun-toting, strip-clubbing, child-fighting antics have obscured the fact that the Grizzlies are as good as any team in the league. Here are the three reasons why the Grizzlies dynasty begins this year.
Small ball may have been the catalyst of the Golden State Warriors' dynasty, but the Grizzlies will win the 2023 NBA Finals because they're tall kings. In particular, Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis' star power forward and should-be Defensive Player of the Year, empowers the Grizzlies to play lineups of all different shapes and sizes. Despite being the size of a center (6'10 with a 7'4 wingspan), Jackson carries himself with the grace and ease of a wing. He flies around the court on defense, blocking everyone and everything. On offense, he's a capable shooter who drains 34 percent of his 4.4 three-point attempts per game and create his own shot off the dribble. Accordingly, he most often plays as a power forward alongside a more paint-bound center like Steven Adams or Xavier Tillman.
With Jackson and another big up front, the Grizzlies are a truly dominant team. Although the Grizzlies big man rotation has been thinned by injuries to Brandon Clarke and Steven Adams, Adams should return during the NBA playoffs. By having so many different bigs with such varied skillsets, the Grizzlies are able to matchup with their opponent without sacrificing their central ethos. Jackson is a do-everything destroyer; Adams is an unstoppable offensive rebounder; Santi Aldama is a skilled stretch big; Xavier Tillman is a canny short-roll playmaker; David Roddy is short and round, but in a good PJ Tucker-ish way.
2. Ja Morant and Desmond Bane
If the Grizzlies frontcourt provides an identity, their backcourt provides their offensive production. Combining for 48.3 points per game, Ja Morant and Desmond Bane are the second highest-scoring guard duo in the NBA, trailing only Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland in Cleveland. Since the Grizzlies sacrifice a degree of spacing for physicality and size, the Grizzlies offense can get stagnant and stilted; Morant and Bane are the antidote.
The spiritual successor to Allen Iverson, Morant is piecing together another All-NBA caliber season because he can knife into the paint at will. While his three-point shooting has somewhat evaporated, Morant is such a dangerous driver that he still contributes 26.9 points and 8.0 assists per game. In this sense, Morant has as much gravity as any guard in the league, it's just that he sucks defenders towards the rim instead of pulling them out on the perimeter. In turn, his shot-creation has a compounding effect on the rest of Memphis' offense—since Morant forces defenders to converge on the paint to stop him, his teammates enjoy the benefits of open threes and drives against harried closeouts.
Grit, spunk, moxie, attitude: whatever you want to call it, the Grizz have it in spades. Led by all-galaxy jerk Dillon Brooks, the Grizzlies have a unique ability to annoy the living daylights out of other teams. Their rivalry with the Warriors is already the league's spiciest and it's only a matter of time until the rest of the NBA comes to hate the Grizzlies too through repeat exposure in the playoffs.
Petty spats are obviously a major part of the NBA, but the Grizzlies inspire an unparalleled level of antipathy. Draymond Green devotes podcast segments to why Dillon Brooks is a bum; Donovan Mitchell airs out Brooks' bumminess during press conferences. Even a player as mild-mannered as Klay Thompson can't help but be irked by Memphis, calling them out literally minutes after winning the NBA Finals. It's not just that the Grizzlies live rent free in people's heads; they've established homesteads on the frontal lobes of seemingly half the NBA.
Fittingly, opponents are called for more technical fouls against the Memphis Grizzlies than against any other team. When teams play in Memphis, they're whistled for 0.8 techs per game, which is 33 percent more often than anywhere else in the league. In other words, they've turned trolling into a legitimate advantage, banking an extra points by being totally unbearable.