Let’s be honest. When the 2021-NBA season began, the Memphis Grizzlies weren’t at the top of the list of championship contenders. After all, the Milwaukee Bucks are the defending champions and are one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference.
Memphis Grizzlies being overlooked early on
Another team that is playing well is the Phoenix Suns. The Suns are showing resiliency following their disappointing 4-2 series loss to the Bucks in last year’s NBA Finals. They have the best record in the association. Additionally, the Golden State Warriors are looking formidable as they have the second-best record in the league. Considering all these storylines, it’s easy to understand why the Grizzlies were not at the top of the list of championship contenders when the season began.
Grizzlies are one of the hottest teams in the NBA as of late
However, the Grizzlies are opening some eyes as of late. For example, they began the new year with a seven-game winning streak (11 straight wins overall dating back to late December). Sure, the Grizzlies lost to the Dallas Mavericks 112-85 on Jan. 14, but they bounced back with a 119-106 win over the short-handed Chicago Bulls. One of the barometers of a good team is being able to bounce back after disappointing performances.
“It was big time for us, especially after coming off a loss. We had to turn the page and get back in the column we want to be in, which is the winning column,” Morant told CBS Sports. “We got to take this momentum and energy on the road. A big road trip for us, so we definitely needed this one.”
But the story doesn’t end there.
Memphis Grizzlies excelling at both ends of the floor
From an offensive standpoint, the Grizzlies are ranked fourth in scoring (111.8 points per contest) and eighth in offensive efficiency (111.9 points per 100 possessions). Last season Memphis was ranked 15th in both of these categories. Memphis is also ranked seventh in defensive efficiency, proving they are equally capable at both ends of the floor.
Third-year point guard Ja Morant fuels the Grizzlies scoring attack. He’s averaging a career-best 24.4 points per contest to go along with 5.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists per contest. Morant is also posting career-highs in shooting (48.7 percent) and 3-point shooting as well (35.5 percent). As impressive as Morant’s numbers are, Memphis is not a one-man show by any means. In fact, they have four players who are double-digit scorers. The other players include Dillon Brooks (18.4 PPG), Desmond Bane (17.7 PPG), and Jaren Jackson Jr. (16.1 PPG).
The Grizzlies’ recent stretch of success has catapulted them into the No. 3 spot in the Western Conference at 31-15. To fully appreciate the significance of the team’s win total, it should be mentioned that Memphis hasn’t won more than 38 games in the past four seasons.
Not only that, but their title odds have also improved as well. During the preseason, the Grizzlies’ title odds were +10,000. The Grizzlies odds have now shortened to +4200. In other words, the Grizzlies are now in the title race conversation. And barring any major setbacks, the Grizzlies should advance to the playoffs for the second straight season. And if that comes to fruition, don’t expect them to get bounced out of the first round, as was the case last year.