Not too often does losing two of your longest-tenured players lead to a good offseason, but somehow that’s the case for the Memphis Grizzlies.
Maybe it’s hard for the Grizzlies to say goodbye to Dillon Brooks and Tyus Jones, but there wasn’t any Boyz II Men music playing when Jones was traded or Brooks ended up in Houston. Instead, the Grizzlies acquired Marcus Smart,Derrick Rose and Josh Christopher with the expectation to compete for a championship.
Much of the offseason has been focused on what the new acquisitions, especially Smart, will bring to Memphis, but Jones and Brooks were long-tenured Grizzlies for a reason. Brooks helped shape the current Grizzliesculture as we have come to know it. Memphis is a team that has become known for its flashy style of play and displaying a level of trash talk that many believe isn’t matched around the league. Brooks was a major reason for that.
Jones was steady. He led the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio in each of his four seasons in Memphis, but he was also a calming presence in a youthful locker room. During the team’s most frustrating moments, Jones nevershied away from speaking up for his teammates and taking accountability when he wasn’t playing up to par.
What Brooks and Jones brought to Memphis won’t be easy to replace. Here are some of the biggest obstacles Memphis will face, and how the team can succeed going forward.
A new answer for key opponents
The Western Conference is loaded. That’s not a secret. Two of the teams Memphis will likely see a lot of are the Golden State Warriors and New Orleans Pelicans. Without Brooks, Memphis’ defensive gameplan will lookmuch different. Brooks had some of the best success in the NBA last season when guarding Pelicans forward Zion Williamson and Warriors star Steph Curry.
Williamson had two of his worst games scoring last season when matched up against Brooks. Against Curry, Brooks’ physicality shined when he fought through screens, and his ability to slide his feet and contest shots bothered Curry. The Warriors star is one of the most skilled offensive players of all time, so he had numerous wins against Brooks, but in their most recent meeting, Brooks held Curry to 16 points on 5-for-15 shooting.
In the playoff series from two seasons ago, Curry averaged 26 points, but he shot 41.3% from the field and 32.9% on 3-pointers. Smart is the natural replacement for Brooks here, but Curry had more success against the current Grizzlies guard in the NBA Finals two seasons ago. Curry averaged 31.2 points on 48.2% shooting and 43.7%on 3-pointers against Smart in six playoff games.
A new insurance policy
What made Jones so good for the Grizzlies wasn’t his play as a backup. When he filled in for Morant as a starter, the Grizzlies hardly ever missed a beat. Jones gave the Grizzlies incredible depth, and the offense alsohad its own identity when he stepped into the lineup.
Memphis moved the ball better with Jones and as a result, 3-point shooting numbers and assists went up. Desmond Bane gained a bigger playmaking roles and his game developed smoothly. Jaren Jackson Jr. also became more of a focal point. With Morant out the first 25 games, Memphis is hoping Smart and Rose can help generate similar ball movement and create efficient shots for players like Bane and Luke Kennard.
GIANNOTTO: The NBA is still in on Ja Morant. Just look at the Memphis Grizzlies’ schedule | Giannotto
When it counts
As good as Brooks and Jones were in certain areas, the moves for Smart and Rose were clear signals of prioritizing more of a veteran presence in the locker room. Where that could come into play the most on the flooris in the playoffs.
The last time Grizzlies fans saw Jones and Brooks in a playoff series, both looked close to unplayable. Jones struggled to make shots as his minutes dwindled over the last three games of the series, and the Los Angeles Lakers ignored Brooks as a shooter.
This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: What Memphis Grizzlies lose in replacing Tyus Jones and Dillon Brooks