Ja Morant Suspension: Grizzlies’ NBA Title Odds Dip With Star Out for 25 Games

Ja Morant Suspension: Grizzlies’ NBA Title Odds Dip With Star Out for 25 Games article feature image

Nic Antaya/Getty Images. Pictured: Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies.

Ja Morant has been suspended for 25 games after another transgression involving guns and social media, ESPN reported on Friday.

An imminent suspension had already been slightly baked into next season's title odds. While the Grizzlies had opened as +1500 underdogs in the market, before the suspension news, that mark had dropped to 19-1 on account of Morant's foibles. Now, the line is even longer at +2200.

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Morant had already been suspended for eight games earlier this year after a similar incident in which he was shown on Instagram live flashing a gun.

The two-time NBA All-Star was again seen on a friend's Instagram live flashing a gun after the Grizzlies were eliminated by the Lakers in May.

Morant had provided lip service after the loss, partially pinning the Grizzlies' difficult finish on his off-the-court troubles.

"I've just got to be better with my decision making," Morant told reporters after the series loss. "That’s pretty much it. Off-the-court issues affected us as an organization pretty much. Just [need] more discipline."

And in March, Morant was accused in a lawsuit of punching a teenager in the face before flashing a gun toward him during a dispute over a pickup basketball game.

Morant countersued the teen in April alleging slander, battery and assault against the now 18-year-old.

Betting Impact of Morant's Suspension

Brandon Anderson: The Grizzlies are an entirely different team without Ja Morant. But that hasn’t always been a bad thing.

Memphis went 6-3 during Morant’s (retroactive) suspension late this season. They were 20-5 in the regular season without him last year. That included a 10-2 stretch early in the year and another 7-2 stretch late. They’re 31-15 combined the last two regular seasons when Morant sits — and also 2-2 in the playoffs without him, not bad considering the stage.

Morant is an absolute superstar, no question about that. Any advanced metric worth its salt shows how valuable he is to this team’s offense. Memphis needs the offensive rebounds, Jaren Jackson Jr. adds needed spacing, and Desmond Bane and Luke Kennard have been excellent shooters, but Morant is the engine of the offense. He’s what makes it go.

The identity of this team changes without Morant — but not in all bad ways.

In that early 10-2 stretch last season, Memphis racked up a +16.5 Net Rating with outlier great No. 1 Defensive EFG and turnover rate. Without their high-flying star, Memphis cranked up the physicality and dominated the interior on both ends. The numbers were similar in the late season stretch. Memphis has proven it has more than one way to win games, and both Bane and Jackson have shown the ability to step up into bigger roles when needed.

It won’t be easy. The Grizzlies won’t walk to a 2-seed without their superstar. Memphis will also be without Brandon Clarke, a key part of that outstanding interior, for most or all of the season.

But it would be a mistake to bury this versatile, deep, well-coached squad. They’ll take a step back without Morant but have shown they can stay afloat, and they could be a surprise over and end up a dangerous playoff underdog when all is said and done.

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