Memphis Grizzlies fantasy basketball season recap

Previous team recapsDETWASPORCHASAS, TOR

At a glance:

Record: 27-55 (13th, West) 

Offensive Rating: 106.8 (30th)

Defensive Rating: 113.7 (12th) 

Net Rating: -6.9 (26th) 

Pace: 98.68 (17) 

2024 Draft Picks: 9, 39, 57

When Ja Morant was given a 25-game suspension to open the season, the Grizzlies were expecting a slow start. However, they weren’t planning on the entire year being tumultuous. An NBA record 31 players suited up for Memphis this season, with Jaren Jackson Jr. leading the team in games played at 66. Morant suffered a season-ending shoulder injury just nine games after returning from his suspension, and the injuries didn’t stop there. Desmond Bane played 42 games, while Marcus Smart only suited up 20 times. Memphis has plenty of talent, but it is difficult to win games when your best players aren’t available. As they say, availability is the best ability.

They were still a good defensive team, but they were one of the worst offensive teams in the league. The Grizzlies started to slowly pull the plug on their season in February, and they were fully tanking by the end of the season. Still, there were moments that breed hope. Young players like Vince Williams Jr., GG Jackson and Jake LaRavia were given extra minutes that they wouldn’t have gotten if the team was healthy and competing. They also landed the No. 9 pick in the draft, which could be used to add a lottery talent or as a trade piece.

This was a frustrating season for Memphis and their fans, but they should get back on track for the 2024-25 season. The West was incredibly competitive this season, and it will only be tougher next year. Due to the lack of continuity in the rotation for the final few months of the season, Memphis players were difficult to roster in fantasy. That won’t be the case next season.

Fantasy Standout: Desmond Bane

There wasn’t much fantasy success in Memphis this season, but Bane was impressive in his 42 games. He was expected to get off to a hot start to the year with Morant out of the lineup, and he did just that. Before Ja returned to the lineup, Bane averaged 24.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.3 steals and 3.4 triples per game. He did all that, and his field goal percentage barely dipped, despite the opposing defenses focusing in on him more than ever. He ended up averaging career-highs in points, assists and 3-pointers as he provided third round value in 9-cat leagues for the third straight season.

Unfortunately, Bane’s run was cut short. He missed two months with a left ankle sprain, and then he missed the final few games of the season due to a lumbar disc bulge. It was in the team’s best interest for Bane to sit out as much as possible late in the year, but he did suit up for five games in March. He may have been disappointing as a pick by the team the fantasy playoffs rolled around, but he was a stud for the first two and a half months of the year. The season was frustrating for the team, but seeing Bane have success without Morant was encouraging. That should benefit the team moving forward and make them even more dangerous in the postseason next year.

Fantasy Revelation: Vince Williams Jr.

Williams Jr. didn’t suit up for the final month of the season, but his run from December to the beginning of March was incredibly impressive. He went from an unknown player on the end of the rotation to an important piece of their future. When everything else seemed bleak for the team, Williams was a temporary bright spot and finished in the top-150 in 9-cat value. In 33 starts, he averaged 12.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.6 blocks and 1.8 triples per game. It is unclear if he will retain his spot in the starting unit next season, but he shined in an expanded role on a tanking team.

Memphis will have moves to make this summer, but there is certainly a chance that Williams ends up as the team’s starting small forward, and he should at least play a significant role off the bench next year. When the team is fully healthy, the points and assists will likely dip, though that will allow him to focus his energy on the defensive end. He’ll be 24 by the time next season starts, though he’s only heading into his third season. The former second round pick is yet another late round success story for the Grizzlies, which has been a major factor in their recent success.

Fantasy Disappointment: Jaren Jackson Jr.

The easy answer here would be to say Morant or Smart, since they barely played. However, JJJ’s season was pretty disappointing even though he was the most available player on the team. With Morant out for most of the season, JJJ’s role changed. He had to be more careful on the defensive end to avoid foul trouble because they needed him to lead the team. He had to be more of a threat on the offensive end, which resulted in his block numbers being cut in half. He was drafted at the end of the second round in most leagues, but he was barely a top-50 asset in 9-cat leagues.

Jackson Jr. had the highest usage rate of his career, which resulted in career-highs in both points (22.5) and assists (2.3). However, his field goal percentage took a dip from 50.6% during the 2022-23 season to 44.4% last year. His blocks were nearly cut in half, as he went from 3.0 per game to just 1.6. The hope is that he can return to the production level that he provided two years ago, when he was a first rounder in 9-cat leagues. With the rest of the team healthy, JJJ should be able to go back to being a defensive menace, which should result in his 9-cat value skyrocketing.

Fantasy Recaps/Look-Aheads 

Ja Morant:

As previously stated, Morant only played nine games this season. He was suspended for 25 games due to issues off the court, and he only played nine games before he tore his labrum, which ended his season. It was basically a lost season for Ja, and the small sample size makes the stats hard to analyze. However, he did shoot 81.3% from the free throw line on 7.1 attempts per game, which is a massive improvement over his previous best mark of 77.5%, which came on 4.6 attempts during his rookie season. Morant finished just outside the top-50 in 9-cat value (again, tiny sample size), but it was encouraging to see him be more productive than he was the year before despite a lower usage rate. He should be elite in fantasy once again next year, though don’t expect major categorical improvements. Managers will rely on dominant points and assists and hope for him to be above average elsewhere.

Marcus Smart:

Smart was shipped to Memphis after spending the first nine seasons of his career in Boston, and he hardly suited up for his new franchise due to two separate injuries: a left ankle sprain and a right ring finger issue. He only played 20 games, which makes it difficult to gauge exactly what level of production to expect from him moving forward. Only six of his games were alongside Ja Morant, but he still posted his lowest assist average since the 2018-19 season. However, he did finish with career-highs in points (14.5) and steals (2.1). The sample size is too small to really draw conclusions from that, but it is clear that he will be less of a playmaker with this team than he was the final few years of his tenure in Boston. Assuming he doesn’t get traded, Smart should once again be a reliable source of steals next season, with some points, threes and assists sprinkled in.

GG Jackson:

Once heralded as one of the top players in the 2023 high school class, Jackson reclassified to the 2022 class and enrolled at South Carolina a year early. That season tanked his status, which resulted in him being drafted in the middle of the second round last summer. He was initially expected to be a project that spent most of this season in the G-League in the hopes that he could eventually pan out. However, injuries forced him into the rotation in the middle of January, and he was a fantastic source of offense for them for the rest of the season. He closed the year out by dropping a career-high 44 points in the final game of the year. In 18 starts, he averaged 20.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 3.0 triples per game. He won’t be a starter next year, but he should be part of the team’s rotation off the bench. He’ll still be 19 years old when the season tips off, which makes him an intriguing stash in dynasty leagues, even if he won’t be able to repeat this production next season.

Brandon Clarke:

After tearing his Achilles in March of 2023, Clarke missed over a year before making his season debut late in March of 2024. He only played in six games, but it was encouraging to see him back on the floor. In 22.4 minutes per game, he averaged 11.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.8 steals and 1.0 block, which is right on par with his production in previous seasons. He should play a decent-sized role off the bench next season, and he has consistently provided solid value throughout his career in limited minutes due to a sky-high field goal percentage. He’ll be an important rotation piece, but he isn’t a player to target in fantasy drafts.

Santi Aldama:

All of the injuries in Memphis opened the door for Aldama to see more minutes, which resulted in the best season of his career. He set career-highs across the board with averages of 10.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.9 blocks and 1.7 triples, and those numbers went up even more in his 35 starts. He won’t be a full-time starter with the team fully healthy, but he will compete with Jackson, Clarke and Jake LaRavia for the backup forward minutes.

Unrestricted Free Agents: Lamar Stevens

Restricted Free Agents: Jordan Goodwin

Team Option: Luke Kennard

Player Option: Yuta Watanabe