The Memphis Grizzlies have quickly moved from future contender to pleasant surprise to legitimate championship challenger in a matter of weeks. Emerging superstar and MVP candidate Ja Morant is leading the way.
But the Grizz don’t have a second “superstar” next to Ja. At the moment, what they do have is a deep roster full of genuinely good NBA players like Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, and Jaren Jackson Jr.
So far, that’s been enough to vault Memphis toward the top of the Western Conference standings.
But the franchise is now on the cusp of making a real push at a 2021-22 title. Are those players around Ja good enough to beat the likes of Golden State, Phoenix, or the reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks?
The Grizzlies have plenty of assets to make a win-now move and put a second star next to Morant. The organization may have been planning for the future coming into this season — but that future is now.
Here are three trade ideas for the Memphis Grizzlies to go all-in on a run to the NBA Finals:
Buddy Hield is not a star, but he fills the Grizzlies’ biggest need
Sacramento Kings guard Buddy Hield isn’t a star, but he would be an immediate fix for the most significant issue plaguing Memphis.
The Grizzlies are now third in the NBA in winning percentage, behind only the Suns and Warriors. Their offense — led by Morant — is a big reason why.
Memphis is fourth in the league in scoring. It’s also ninth in the NBA in assist percentage and leads the league in rebounding.
The Grizz are also solid defensively, sitting top 10 in defensive rating, steals (first), blocks (first), and second-chance points allowed.
Sounds like a complete team, right? But there’s one area in which Memphis struggles — shooting.
The Grizzlies are 16th in the NBA in shooting percentage, 21st in 3-point percentage (despite taking only the 24th most threes per game), and 26th in free-throw percentage.
The Kings guard is shooting 38.5% from deep this year on 9.3 attempts per game. But digging deeper, his fit beside Ja is ideal.
Morant is averaging 6.7 assists per game this year and 7.2 for his career.
Hield, meanwhile, is 10th in the NBA in catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts. He’s hitting better than 41% of those opportunities.
Let one of the league’s best shooters stand behind the line, space the floor, and be available for kick-out passes when Ja uses his incredible athleticism to drive to the basket.
It’s a perfect fit for Buddy and the Grizzlies. And it would cost a lot less to land Hield than it would the following two players on this list.
A big-man swap to land Atlanta’s John Collins would further unlock Morant
Jackson Jr. has come on as of late. But there’s a player who simply fits better next to Morant who’s been deemed available by Atlanta and believes he’s deserving of a more prominent role on a contending team in John Collins.
Once again, advanced stats show how snugly the current Hawks forward would fit with Ja.
Collins is in the 97th percentile as a pick-and-roll man. He scores the sixth-most points per possession in that area in the league (1.5) and shoots nearly 70%. He finds a way to score 67.9% of the time as a screen setter.
Running a pick-and-roll with Morant is different than running it with Trae Young. But Collins could have more opportunities to catch lobs from the Memphis playmaker than Young as Ja draws more attention driving to the rim.
The 24-year-old is also shooting a career-high 43.5% this year from deep, making him a pick-and-pop threat as well as pick-and-roll. And Collins is a solid rebounder as well, pulling down almost eight a night this season.
On the flip side, Jackson Jr is shooting 31.1% from three and averaging fewer than six rebounds per game at the same position in Memphis.
Collins is an upgrade at the power forward spot, and the fit between him, Morant, and bruising center Steven Adams is better than it is with JJJ.
Go Vito Corleone on the Boston Celtics to get Jaylen Brown
However, the Grizzlies’ best option at this year’s deadline is to make the Celtics an offer they can’t refuse and acquire Jaylen Brown.
Bane, Jackson Jr., Brooks, Brandon Clarke, De’Anthony Melton, Zaire Williams, and Kyle Anderson’s expiring contract are all legitimate trade chips.
Memphis also has three first-round picks this year and two in 2024 it could include, according to Fanspo.com.
Boston is understandably hesitant to trade away one of the league’s best two-way wings and split up the pairing of Brown and Jayson Tatum.
But at the same time, if the Grizzlies throw a handful of first-round picks and/or pick swaps, an expiring contract, and multiple young, proven players at the Celtics, how difficult would it be for Brad Stevens to say no?
Brown would give Morant a legitimate second star who could also space the floor and, when engaged, is one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA. It might take a haul, but landing the 25-year-old Celtics star would be a blockbuster move that would immediately set the Grizzlies on a surer path to the NBA Finals.
All statistics courtesy of NBA.com.