On Sunday, the NBA world was hit with the unfortunate news that Memphis Grizzlies big man Steven Adams would be missing the entirety of the 2023-24 NBA season with a right knee injury.
This is the same injury that caused him to miss the final 36 games of the regular season and the entirety of the playoffs last year. Adams appeared in two preseason contests, but it seems like the “nonoperative rehabilitation” he’s been participating in during his recovery didn’t do the trick. So, he will have to undergo a surgery, which will force him to miss the entirety of the year.
As we said in our opening, this is terrible news – regardless of your fandom. Adams is a great player and (by all accounts) a great teammate. You never want to see anyone (especially someone like that) miss that much time with an injury.
With that said, the show must go on. And for the Grizzlies, their show begins on Wednesday, October 25th, when they host our New Orleans Pelicans. So…
What does this news mean for the Pelicans season opener?
Until the Pelicans can prove that they are a better spacing/shooting team (which they might be with their recent additions), their biggest stylistic weakness when Zion Williamson is healthy are teams that have the size to pack the paint and muck up Williamson’s driving lanes.
Last year, the Grizzlies were one of those teams. Thanks to their combination of Adams, Jaren Jackson Jr., Xavier Tillman Sr., and Brandon Clarke, the Grizzlies were able to hold Williamson to 17 PPG on 51.1% True Shooting during his two games against them in 2022-23.
With Adams now down and Clarke still recovering from a torn achilles, Memphis’ fearsome foursome is missing two prongs of their attack. This will make the team a less devastating counter for New Orleans, which should greatly improve our chances of victory.
What does this news mean for the Pelicans season?
Again, in the perfect world, you want every team to be fully healthy. But this isn’t the perfect world, and injuries change the landscape of conferences all the time.
Coming into this year, the Grizzlies seemed poised to land a top seed in the conference thanks to their burgeoning young core and the addition of the venerable Marcus Smart. However, between the injuries to Adams and Clarke and the Ja Morant 25-game suspension, the Grizzlies don’t seem as mighty as they once did.
Yes, they still have that young talent, and Smart is still being added to the mix. But with how strong the Western Conference projects to be this year, the injuries/suspensions they are dealing with could lead to them going from a top-3 seed to a potential play-in team.
For the Pelicans, this could end up being one less conference giant we need to slay in order to clinch a top-6 playoff seed this year. That doesn’t make it a sure thing (we still have plenty of competition and our own injury concerns to overcome), but this news does greatly improve our chances of doing so.
And if Williamson/Ingram are reasonably healthy all year, a top-6 seed is (probably) what it is going to take to validate keeping this team together moving forward.