MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE - APRIL 26: Ja Morant #12 of the Memphis Grizzlies looks on against the Los Angeles Lakers during Game Five of the Western Conference First Round Playoffs at FedExForum on April 26, 2023 in Memphis, Tennessee. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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Ja Morant's Return Won't Be Enough to Fix the Grizzlies

We are officially a month into the NBA regular season, and while some things are still unclear — such as, are the Orlando Magic for real? — it's very clear that the once-up-and-coming next-big-thing Memphis Grizzlies are in serious trouble, as they sit at a rough 3-13 to begin the season.  

Of course, it might seem too early to say this with the Grizzlies still missing their young star, Ja Morant, who is still serving a 25-game suspension for "conduct detrimental to the league." But it seems more than fair to ask whether can he do anything to fix what's happening with this team on his return. Is it even fair to ask him to? Yes, being a superstar means these types of questions are fair to an extent. Yet this hole they've dug may be too much for him to pull them out of once he does get back. 

Morant's suspension was always going to sting, obviously. But the additional of Marcus Smart — now out three to four weeks with a left foot sprain — was supposed to ease that a little bit.

Another thing that also didn't help was Steven Adams deciding to rehab his knee in the summer as opposed to surgery, which ultimately led to him getting surgery this month after his knee remained unstable and is causing him to miss the entire season. Adams' work on the offensive and defensive boards has been very missed for a team that currently ranks 23rd in team rebounding. 

Losing Dillon Brooks turned out to be another big hole to fill, especially defensively. And despite having the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Jaren Jackson Jr., it hasn't been enough to help a team that ranked fifth in defense last season but currently sits at 19th. On top of the defensive drop, the Grizzlies simply can't get a bucket, ranking barely — and I mean barely — above the Trailblazers at 29th in offense. 

During this brutal first month, Jackson and Desmond Bane have been doing their best to hold down the fort until Morant's return. But can anyone comfortably say this is a team that's a Ja Morant away from being back on top? I hope they are, because the league is really fun when the Grizzlies are good. But it's just starting not to feel too early in the season to say this steak might be cooked already. 

MORE: Ja Morant's Sister Is Taking Her Own Basketball Journey