The Grizzlies face an uphill climb as they await the return of Za Morant

Za Morant received a 25-game suspension from the NBA for causing harm to the league.

NBA basketball returns on October 24. We’re counting down the days like seconds on a shot clock — I mean, that’s what we do. Starting Oct. 1, our writers will list 24 storylines for the 2023-24 NBA season.

A new storyline drops every day. Here is the number. 21:

Without Za Morant for the first 25 games of the season, the Grizzlies will be on the upswing.

If you watch the Grizzlies on the right night, they seem to have an endless supply of young players who can contribute to big runs. They’ve lost quality depth over the past two summers, trading De’Anthony Melton and Deuce Jones, seeing Kyle Anderson and Dillon Brooks leave via free agency.

After Anderson and Melton left, the Grizzlies took a step back last season, winning five fewer games and outscoring opponents by 1.3 fewer points per 100 possessions. Despite Morant and Steven Adams missing 21 and 40 games, respectively, they continued to finish second in the Western Conference for the second straight season.

Last season was also the West’s worst in 24 years, with the East winning 52% of its inter-conference games. West looks strong this year and Morant will be out At the very least 25 games (handing a league suspension), and big Brandon Clark (who tore his Achilles in March) will miss a significant portion of the season.

Marcus Smart arrived in the trade that sent Jones to Washington and may be just what the Grizzlies need in terms of leadership. But at least for these first 25 games, the Grizzlies need to get something out of Derrick Rose. He’ll be 35 years old on opening night and has played in just 53 games over the past two seasons. In the long run, they’ll need more from at least one young forward.

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The Grizzlies always seem to find a way to stay competitive. But with Morant out for the first 25 games and lost depth, it will be a little more difficult for them this season.

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John Schuhman is a senior statistical analyst for You can email him here, find his archive here and Follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Warner Bros. Discovery.

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