The Memphis Grizzlies haven’t been fully healthy all season. Despite missing several key players for various stretches, they’ve managed to hang around in the Western Conference playoff race and currently occupy the No. 8 seed. On Wednesday, though, they finally got their last major piece back.
Jaren Jackson Jr. tore his meniscus last August in the Orlando bubble and had not played since. That hard forced the Grizzlies to rely on Brandon Clarke, Xavier Tillman and Kyle Anderson to take on bigger roles in the frontcourt. But on Wednesday, Jackson suited up for the first time this season, and the third-year Grizzlies forward actually acquitted himself fairly well all things considered. He scored 15 points, pulled in eight rebounds and blocked four shots in 18 minutes of action in a 117-105 loss to the Clippers.
Memphis is holding onto a slim lead over the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs for a top-eight slot in the Western Conference. The highest finisher among them would only need to win one play-in game to reach the playoffs as opposed to the two that the others would have to win.
But for the Grizzlies to be in this position at all given their injuries is somewhat astounding. Jackson is arguably their second-best player, yet he didn’t appear in any of Memphis’ first 56 games. If the Grizzlies have been able to play at a playoff level without him, they should only get better with him, and next season, if they can keep their entire roster healthy, should be able to take the next step towards true contention.