The Memphis Grizzlies haven’t always been on the benefited side when it comes to league changes and major decisions. The front-office is not vocal, and the impact of a small market team is significantly less than those from bog markets.
Ever since the coronavirus outbreak putting an abrupt stop to the NBA season, new plans to resuming gameplay haven’t stopped coming out. As time elapses, the chance of finishing the full schedule is scarce, and reports tend to incline towards going straight to the playoffs or adding a play-in or 8th seed contenders.
Knowing the league’s love for Zion Williamson, many Grizzlies fans worried that their previous 3.5 games advantage may be neglected.
The league settled on a 22-game resuming format, and if you haven’t understood the details of it, check out our article explaining that.
Luckily the new format is rather fair and Grizzlies may even benefit from it
- Retained Advantage
The grizzlies had a 3.5 game advantage against 3 teams sitting around the 9th seed, the Blazers, Pelicans, and Kings. As only 8 extra regular-season games will be played, the other teams will have much fewer games to catch up compared to 17 games.
The Grizzlies will only have to win 5 out of 8 games to secure the 8th spot, and that is assuming one of the other teams will win all their games.
For the Grizzlies, mirroring the record of a 9th spot team will be more than enough, and if things go well and the team is able to stretch the lead into 4 games, there won’t even be play-ins required.
- Schedule Toughness
If the season hadn’t be stopped, here is the schedule all 4 teams would’ve played for their upcoming 8 games.
Grizzlies: Blazers, Jazz, Spurs, Thunder, Bucks, Pelicans, Pelicans, Boston
All of the teams will be in Orlando
Pelicans: Kings, Jazz, Clippers, Hawks, Spurs, Grizzlies, Kings, Grizzlies
One of those team will be replaced by a better team in Orlando
Blazers: Grizzlies, Rockets, Timberwolves, Mavericks, Timberwolves, Hornets, Pistons, Celtics
4 of those games will now be more difficult for the Blazers
Kings: Pelicans, Nets, Mavericks, Rockets, Magic, Pelicans, Cavs, Hawks
2 of those teams will be replaced by a better team in Orlando
Simply on an 8-game scale, the overall difficulty for the Grizzlies remains the same while the other 3 teams will have to play tougher opponents than before.
In the 9 games after that, the Grizzlies will have the toughest schedule in the league based on records, playing only one opponent that has a record below 0.50, while the Pelicans enjoy the easiest remaining schedule. Either way, Memphis has successfully dodged the gap in-game difficulty as added pressure goes to all other teams.
- Return of Key Players
As I explained before the coronavirus outbreak, Memphis was facing tremendous difficulty heading into the end of the regular season, and they would’ve had to win without 3 key players they lost to injury: Jaren Jackson, Justice Winslow and Brandon Clarke.
There’s no doubt that their presence is paramount to Grizzlies’ team success. Jackson, the sophomore out of Michigan State, has developed into a defensive beast while having a comprehensive toolbox on offense. He can make a day difficult for any big in the league and his versatility allows him to switch to much smaller players when required.
Winslow, acquired via trade, hasn’t yet played a game for Memphis, but his return can boost wing defense and provides another offensive choice. He would be more than capable to fill the gap Jae Crowder left.
Clarke is essential to the Grizzlies’ bench. The dynamite rookie is one of the main reasons the Grizzlies secondary outplay the opponents every night.
According to a recent report by Mike Wallace of Grind City Media, all three players are ready for gameplay, and the only injured player in the team is Grayson Allen, whose season had likely came to an end.
The return of the NBA is ecstatic for all basketball fans, and Grizzlies fan should particularly happy about how things turned out and expect the team to make the playoffs in the first year of the Ja Morant era.