The Grizzlies Lack Maturity And It Will Cost Them This Playoffs And In The Future If Changes Aren’t Made

The #2 seed Memphis Grizzlies find themselves trailing 3-1 and on the brink of elimination in their best-of-seven first-round playoff series against the #7 seed Los Angeles Lakers. Whether they lose this round or the next the Grizzlies have shown their lack of maturity in important moments, and if changes aren’t made this will be another story of a young NBA team that could have been.

Let’s be clear about something. The Grizzlies are a very good basketball team led by two-time All-Star Ja Morant and the Defensive Player of the Year and 2023 All-Star Jaren Jackson Jr. Add in Desmond Bane, a borderline All-Star who ranks in the 94th percentile in EPM, and you have the core of a team that can contend if the right pieces are around them.

They are also playing this series without Steven Adams (the best offensive rebounder and screen setter in the league) and Brandon Clarke, their first big off the bench.

The Grizzlies Are Young And Full Of Hubris

Morant and Jackson are both 23 and Bane is 24. They are young.

But with youth comes hubris and immaturity. The Grizzlies are the talkiest team in the league by far. They carry themselves like a lot of young talented humans do. They believe they are invincible and they have no problem telling others how they feel.

Morant is famous for saying the Grizzlies “don’t duck no smoke” and “climb up the chimney.” His play is just as brash as he leaps defenders in a single bound with the sole purpose of trying to embarrass and posterize.

That’s all well and good and when it works it’s an awesome sight to behold. But head coach Taylor Jenkins always cautions his team that confidence is important and so is swag, but you have to back it up.

“What I tell our guys all the time, what’s got us here is our confidence and our swag,” Jenkins said. “But then we also gotta be able to go out and back it up and do it on business terms.”

Brashness, talent and audacity get you in the door. But if you want to remain and win at the highest levels you have to be able to get the job done on both ends of the floor. You’ve got to have discipline and a maturity that values each and every possession.

Maturity And Valuing Possessions Is What Matters In The Playoffs

You need to know when to talk and when to put your head down and let your play do all the talking.

“We’re far from where we need to be from a maturity standpoint,” Jenkins said prior to game four. “This is all experience that you can only gain from. So, nothing’s gonna change overnight, but when we wear it, and we understand the struggles we’re going through individually, collectively, on, off the court and all that stuff, and we sit down and we honestly talk about it, and we face it, you’re hopefully gonna turn the corner for sure.”

This is the hard lesson the Grizzlies are learning in this series. They are a better team than the Lakers and have proven it all season long. But Lakers superstar LeBron James has been through almost more playoff games than these young Grizzlies have total games in their entire careers.

James understands and values each possession: where to spend his energy and where not, how to let his immense knowledge and experience overcome his age and his team’s relative lack of playoff experience. He’s a mature, steadying force and his team feeds off that.

The Grizzlies feed off of Morant’s brashness and Dillon Brooks’ villainous persona. Both are valuable to a point, but not when they cost you games and possessions.

Brooks was kicked out of game three for a flagrant foul on LeBron, a Lakers win. Morant repeatedly tried to climb the mountain that is LeBron and was called for an offensive foul twice — wasting critical possessions in a game-four overtime loss.

In his postgame comments, James said of Morant’s aerial assaults that he knows he can’t meet the Grizzlies point guard at the summit. He’d be a fool for trying. Instead he establishes legal guarding position and lets Morant’s youth and hubris do the work.

Whenever this Grizzlies season ends, Jenkins and general manager Zach Kleiman need to make some choices and have some honest conversations with their young stars.

Brooks will have to go, as his value on the floor is not worth the problems he creates in the most critical games. The Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green is someone people point to as an antagonist that goes over the line and plays the villain role. The difference is Green has the hardware to back up his antics.

Morant will have to develop the ability to stop on a dime and hit in the midrange and continue to refine his float game. Attacking the rim is his superpower. Developing a consistent three-point shot and knowing when and where to attack that rim will make him unstoppable.

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