The Memphis Grizzlies received devastating news on Tuesday, losing versatile forward Jaren Jackson Jr. for the remainder of the season.
After three defeats in their first three games since entering the Orlando bubble, the organization was already in danger of losing the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference. Now without Jackson in the mix, will the Grizzlies be able to recover?
The first place to look is at how star rookie Ja Morant has played with and without his teammate.
The two-man lineup of Morant and Jackson played 1,034 minutes together this season. Their offensive rating (107.5) and defensive rating (108.2) were actually both a touch below what the team has averaged as a whole this year. per NBA.com.
Morant, however, has also played 854 minutes without Jackson on the court. According to NBAWowy, the Grizzlies had a nearly identical offensive rating (107.07) and defensive rating (107.40) during those 1,837 possessions. They were outscored by a mere 0.32 points per 100 when featuring Morant without Jackson.
When the two players have appeared on the court at the same time, Morant has averaged 21.2 points with 8.6 assists per 36 minutes. Those figures drop to 20.7 points and 8.1 assists per 36 without Jackson, which makes sense as Morant has assisted Jackson on 73 occasions this season.
Generally speaking, however, the numbers for Morant and the Grizzlies have been surprisingly consistent with or without Jackson on the floor.
While not ideal, Memphis also likely brags the depth to survive such an injury. First and foremost, they can move Brandon Clarke into the starting lineup. The rookie forward has started just three games thus but has averaged 20.2 points and 9.1 rebounds per 36 when he has played alongside Morant but not Jackson.
Clarke recorded 21 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks in 34 minutes of action during his first game back for the Grizzlies on July 31. He has been one of the more essential players in the rotation for Memphis and will need to be a consistent force for the team to make a playoff push.
For such a young team, the biggest problem suffered is that injury will hurt the momentum and chemistry that the core will gain from playing together in the trenches during the bubble as well as a potential postseason run. Those are teachable moments that will be irreplaceable as the team gains experience and grows as a unit.