NBA

2018-19 NBA Season Preview: What to expect from the Memphis Grizzlies

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Mike Conley Jr., Marc Gasol [NBA Getty Images]

With the 2018-19 NBA season quickly approaching, we're rolling out 30 Teams in 30 Days. Between now and opening night, we're dedicating one day to each team in the league.

After looking at the five teams in the Northwest Division, we shift to the Southwest Division. Following Saturday's look at the New Orleans Pelicans. we're taking a look at the Memphis Grizzlies.

2017-18 season record

22-60 (14th in the Western Conference)

Projected 2018-19 season record

34.5 wins (13th in the Western Conference)

Notable additions

• Kyle Anderson (signed)

• Jevon Carter (No. 32 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft)

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• Jaren Jackson Jr. (No. 4 overall pick in 2018 NBA Draft)

• Garrett Temple (trade)

Notable departures

• James Ennis (Free Agency)

• Tyreke Evans (Free Agency)

3 key storylines

The Return of Mike Conley Jr.

Following the 2016 offseason, Conley signed what at the time was the richest contract in NBA history (five years, $153 million). He responded by posting a career-high 20.5 points per game, leading the Grizzlies to the playoffs with a team-high 10.0 win shares in 2016-17.

Last season, Conley only appeared in 12 games, undergoing season-ending heel surgery. The Grizzlies suffered mightily due to this injury, only winning 22 games. With their starting point guard returning to play with young talent, Memphis looks to increase its win total from a season ago.

JJJ's promising Summer League

The Grizzlies fourth overall pick put together a solid performance in his first Summer League. While it was a small sample size, Jackson showcased his elite shooting and shot blocking abilities that made him a consensus top-five talent in his draft class.

In five Summer League games, he shot 40 percent from three, connecting on four of his 10 attempts. The Michigan State product averaged 11.2 points and 8.2 rebounds while blocking a total of 19 shots (3.8 per game). Memphis is hoping JJJ can increase the team's offensive production, as it was bottom five in the league for offensive rating last year.

Chandler Parsons' Health

In the same offseason that the Grizzlies signed Conley, the team also signed Chandler Parsons to a large contract. The deal, which is worth $94.8 million over four years, made Parsons the Grizzlies third highest-paid player. Since signing that contract, Parsons has appeared in just 70 games over two seasons. He has only started in 42 of those contests and has yet to average more than 20 minutes per game in a season.

Parsons' lingering knee injuries have kept him sidelined for the majority of the past two years and restricted his ability to reach his full potential. Per Parsons' Instagram account, he's back with 'no restrictions' - a good sign for Memphis.

5 games to watch

October 27 vs. Phoenix Suns

This will be Jaren Jackson Jr.'s first opportunity to prove himself against No. 1 overall pick DeAndre Ayton. They did not face one another in their lone season of college nor in the Summer League, so you can imagine Jackson Jr. has had this game circled to show he can compete with his draft class' number one selection.

November 5 vs. Golden State Warriors

The Grizzlies have defeated the Warriors two out of the last three times they have met at the FedExForum. Golden State is also the league's barometer for close or far your team is from winning an NBA championship. The city of Memphis will be ready to host the league's reigning champs.

November 21 at San Antonio Spurs

With Pau Gasol entering his 18th season in the NBA, the number of matchups between the Gasol brothers is waning. This game is the first of four divisional battles between the two and the Grizzlies first look at the DeMar DeRozan-era Spurs.

January 25 vs. Sacramento Kings

This is a historic game for the franchise as it could be the last time Zach Randolph plays a game in Memphis. It will be a big night honouring one of the greatest players to ever put on a Grizzlies uniform.

February 7 at Oklahoma City Thunder

Mike Conley Jr.'s defensive presence is one of the main reasons he earned the contract he received. Expecting to be fully healthy this season, this is a big matchup for the Grizzlies' star guard as he'll be tasked with locking down one of the most explosive players in basketball, Russell Westbrook.

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