Adams’ Selfless Style Thriving with GrizzNextGen


The Memphis Grizzlies were coming off their first playoff appearance since 2017 when the news broke that they were trading their most productive player to the New Orleans Pelicans for Steven Adams, Eric Bledsoe, and the rights to the tenth pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. Other picks were included as well.

Jonas Valanciunas did it all for Grizzlies that year and had become a staple in Memphis following the departure of the beloved Marc Gasol via trade. He even re-signed with Memphis on a three year, 45 million dollar extension to show his commitment to staying with the team long term.

However, the Memphis front office saw other areas of opportunity for Grizz Next Gen to grow.

With Jaren Jackson Jr. being Memphis’ big of the future and undoubtedly a franchise cornerstone, it was imperative to find more touches for him on the offensive end of the floor as well as finding ways to increase his overall impact. That was going to be difficult to accomplish with the high-usage Valanciunas in Memphis.


Insert Steven Adams.

Steven Adams had an iffy history with the Grizzlies due to his interactions with Zach Randolph in previous playoff matchups, but he still became a fan favorite very quickly. Fans even dubbed him “Aqua Mane”, a play on the city’s lingo.

In what some thought was a down year for Adams in the 2020-2021 season, he posted quite similar numbers in his first season with the Grizzlies – averaging 6.9 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 0.8 blocks per game. However, Adams did see a 10% jump in his free throw percentage and nearly doubled his assists per game from 1.9 to 3.4 – a career high.


If someone looked at the stat sheet to determine whether the Grizzlies made the right move or not, they would most likely believe that the Grizzlies downgraded at the center position.

Luckily, basketball is played on the court, and on the court Adams was a perfect fit for this Memphis team.

Outside of bringing a veteran presence and playoff experience, Adams allowed the young Grizzlies to flourish in their ideal roles. He didn’t take away shots on the offensive end and was a good enough rim protector to allow 1st Team All Defensive forward Jaren Jackson Jr. to roam freely. Jackson ultimately led the league in total blocks.

He also was crucial in helping All Star Ja Morant in getting to the rim at will. Through both hard screens and subtle screen assists that won’t show up on the stat sheet, Adams was able to make the game easier for Morant.

All of this is a credit to Aqua Mane’s basketball IQ. His ability to be a playmaker out of the post opened up the game for others in a way that Valancunias simply couldn’t. His top-of-the-key back door passes allowed for easier buckets for his teammates under the rim or led to home run passes for threes.

Simply put, Adams was a major contributor to the Memphis Grizzlies historic 2021-2022 season.


In the playoffs, the Grizzlies were able to uncover some key strengths and weaknesses in Adams’ game.

In the first round series against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins found it hard to play Adams due to his matchup with Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns was a much more agile big than Adams and had a perimeter game that took Adams out of his ideal court position. This negated Adams’ best qualities which were rim protection and rebounding.

What was a weakness for him in the first round became a strength for Adams in the second round against the Golden State Warriors. After missing the first two games due to Covid Protocols and only playing garbage minutes in Game Three, Adams was a dominant rebounder in Games Four, Five, and Six with totals of 15, 13, and 10, respectively. Golden State simply did not have anyone to compete on the boards with him individually.

Unfortunately, the Grizzlies as a collective unit lost the rebounding battle by a substantial margin in the crucial Game Six matchup – only grabbing 44 rebounds to Golden State’s 70 rebounds. Granted, most of the rebounds the Warriors were able to come away with were long rebounds from three point shots. This took Adams out of the position to grab those boards, and ultimately that is what cost Memphis the series.

It is all but guaranteed that the Grizzlies will continually study film from both of their postseason matchups this past year to find ways to improve their overall style of play. Team rebounding will most definitely be a focus this off-season for them as well as finding ways to assist Adams in making the most impact possible towards winning.


With Jaren Jackson Jr. out to begin next season, the Grizzlies will be leaning on Adams to protect the rim at a higher rate than he was asked to for the majority of last season.

He likely will also be used more offensively to obtain easier buckets – whether it’s through dribble-drive hand offs at the rim from Morant, pick and roll drives towards the rim, or post ups on smaller defenders.There are not too many guys in the NBA that physically can matchup with Adams, so it is entirely up to him to make a play once he is put in these scenarios.

These expectations shouldn’t be far-fetched for Adams. He may or may not be the player he once was, but on a team that doesn’t necessarily need him to be that, Adams has shown flashes of the ability to both score and protect the rim as he did in his prime.

Fortunately for the Grizzlies, once Jaren Jackson Jr. comes back from injury Adams will be able to settle back in his ideal role as an enforcer and rebounding machine down low.

Going forward, if the Grizzlies have championship aspirations they will continually need to have a player of Adams’ caliber to maximize the talents of Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr.

Him being on the court has resulted in the other team’s best rim protector being out of position to contest shots. His physicality will continue to break down defenders throughout the game with his solid, imposing screens.

And most importantly, Adams is a master at creating second chance opportunities, which is where both Morant and Jackson are highly successful.

With a year left on his contract, Adams will certainly be motivated this coming season to show not only the Grizzlies, but the entire league, that he is worthy of a respectable new deal. And with the center position being one of the hardest to fill in today’s NBA, the Memphis Grizzlies will likely do whatever is necessary to keep Adams in Beale Street Blue for years to come.

About Chris Ingram

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