The Grizzlies have had a rough go since the All-Star break.
After losing to the Kings, Memphis had to face the Lakers, then the Clippers — both in Los Angeles. The Grizzlies lost both of those games, too.
Furthermore, Memphis will be without Jaren Jackson for some time. He sprained his left knee against the Lakers and will be re-evaluated in two weeks.
Throughout all of this, the Western Conferences teams right behind the eighth-seeded Grizzlies are the Blazers (2.5 games back), Pelicans (3) and Spurs (3.5).
The Blazers were trending in the right direction for a while, but Damian Lillard has been out with a groin strain. The Spurs could still sneak in, but the team that’s looking good right now is the one sandwiched between Portland and San Antonio.
The difference for the Pelicans: Zion Williamson.
Since the forward made his NBA debut on January 22, New Orleans has gone 8-5. And that record could be a little different if the Pelicans had handled Williamson’s initial minutes restriction in a manner that was more conducive to winning games.
Either way, Williamson has only just started his NBA career and he’s already making a significant impact. With the Grizzlies in striking distance, New Orleans could sneak its way into the postseason — as long as Williamson stays healthy for the rest of 2019-20 — thus making Memphis a lottery team again.