The Memphis Grizzlies received an unfortunate bit of news on Sunday. Steven Adams will require season-ending surgery on his knee after last season's rehab failed to solve "ongoing knee instability," per the team press release.
He is expected to make a full recovery by next season.
Adams appeared in 42 games for the Grizzlies last season, averaging 8.6 points, 11.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.1 blocks in 27.0 minutes per game. Famed for his offensive rebounding acumen and perhaps underappreciated for his nifty passes and strong-armed rim protection, Adams is a critical piece of the Grizzlies' competitive puzzle.
Memphis took a noticeable step back when Adams went down last season. Jaren Jackson Jr. is the defensive anchor, but the Grizzlies' ability to rebound and combat physicality in the paint nosedives without Adams. The offense will miss his ability to set monster screens, work DHOs with the guards, and clean up misses at the rim.
There are internal replacements on the roster — expect a much larger dose of Xavier Tillman and Santi Aldama — but it wouldn't be surprising to see the Grizzlies seek a replacement via trade, especially with Brandon Clarke's own ongoing injury woes.
Here are some of the realistic options available to the Grizzlies, who should prioritize physicality on the boards and, perhaps, another source of rim protection to complement Jackson's roaming presence at power forward.
3. Robert Williams III
This feels like a natural jumping-off point. The Portland Trail Blazers acquired Robert Williams III, affectionately known as Time Lord, from the Celtics in the Jrue Holiday swap. Williams is one year removed from All-Defense honors, but injuries tanked his 2022-23 season. He only managed 35 regular season appearances and his role was greatly diminished.
Portland appears confident in Williams' ability to occasionally share the court with Deandre Ayton, but I'm hesitant to endorse such a pairing on offense. If anything, there's a better-than-most-think chance Williams ends up being the better option at center. Ayton, of course, is the one on the max contract. Williams should be available for the right price.
Williams is one of the league's truly unbelievable athletes. Next to Victor Wembanyama and Chet Holmgren, he's one of the best in the business at blocking 3-point attempts. Those are the nutty plays one should expect. Williams moves his feet well on the perimeter and he can touch the clouds with his leaping ability. He averaged 2.2 blocks in 29.6 minutes during his All-Defense season.
The combined athleticism, mobility, and rim erasure between Williams and Jackson would be fearsome. He doesn't fully address the rebounding and physicality concerns, but Williams and Jackson would eliminate so many scoring avenues and passing lanes as to make it very much worth Memphis' efforts. The injury concern is real, but Williams could pay massive short and long-term dividends for the Grizz.