Another NBA season has come and it’s another chance for the Memphis Grizzlies to show us all there’s more than one way to win an NBA game in 2018.
Many of those assumptions you make about the Grizzlies may be true, whether its 2008 or 2018.
They play the slowest pace in the league, with a collection of defense-first try-hards surrounding old standbys Mike Conley Jr. and Marc Gasol, the last of a Grit and Grind past. Coming through the bluffs, though, arises a shockingly young and potent rookie star: Jaren Jackson Jr.
Triple J is a first-year man from Michigan State. His time in college, like with many, was not representative of what his time as a pro has been like — hell, in his first NBA Summer League game, JJJ made eight three-pointers after having made 38 in 35 collegiate contests. Jackson has already dropped games of 36, 27 and 24 points, posted a seven-block game as well as a couple of five-block beauties, and made at least one three-pointer in 12 games. Jackson is already an essential piece to the Grizzlies early season success; it’s noticeable when a team is winning and one of the guys on the floor is a 19-year old rookie. He’s one of very few rookies in recent years who has actually aided winning; Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell did this last year.
Through 23 games (21 starts), the Grizzlies play at a +8 points per 100 possessions rate with Jackson on the floor. His impact has been immediate, a tremendous development for a team looking for a young star to play next to big man Gasol, now 33 and chucking 3s at a quickening pace.
Gasol is one of the most notable players of this generation for this striking shift in style. The big Spanish attempted 268 thre-pointers in his 9th season after attempting a total of 66 in his first 8 years. Gasol is still an accomplished passer and screener, while averaging 18 points, nine rebounds and three assists, plus a combined three steals + blocks.
Conley is having another stellar year, and if he can avoid injuries, produce wins and fills up his PR calendar in just the right way, he may be headed to his first ever All-Star game. So far, so good: 21 points, six assists and three rebounds is a good place to start. He’s one of very few players to ever lead their franchise in games played, made threes, assists and steals (LeBron (CLE), Reggie Miller (IND(, John Stockton (UTA)).
Every team, no matter their star power, needs good “others,” though. So what does Memphis offer up this year?
How about, you know, guys like Garrett Temple, JaMychal Green, MarShon Brooks, Shelvin Mack and Kyle Anderson? You know, real household names. Looking for a guy you recognize, scope out seven-footer and former All-Defensive First Teamer Joakim Noah, signed just December 4th.
After their 96-86 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers, the Memphis Grizzlies are now 14-9. Which #GrindCity players have done the most (or least) with their minutes during the 2018-19 season? pic.twitter.com/V0mC9zjZoF— NBA Math (@NBA_Math) December 6, 2018
All of these guys will get major burn against the Pelicans, and each offers something a little different. Temple is a willing shooter and defender, Green plays a modified version of the Draymond-style-big, Brooks is always looking for a bucket, Mack can run the team and is shooting over 40% from three and plays a conservative, low-turnover style of point guard, and Kyle Anderson is maybe the slowest player in the league while still defending 1s through 5s. He’s also a creator on offense, so look out for his EuroSlowStep.
Noah, meanwhile, has been on the outskirts of the NBA ever since his 2016 contract with the New York Knicks. Will he find time behind Gasol and Jackson? We’ll see.
The Pelicans, meanwhile, are one of the league’s fastest and most potent offenses, having just scored 132 against the upstart Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night. Part of the pace and high-wattage nights, though, is a lack of consistency: the Pels have been very good or very bad most of the year. They started with a four-game winning streak followed by six L’s, then 6-of-7 wins, then four more losses. Right now, the Pels are trading wins with losses, and in the end, we’re left with a team right at .500. Meanwhile, outside of a short losing streak last week, the Grizzlies are winning most of their games, even against good opponents, sporting wins over Denver, Philly, Milwaukee and the Clippers.
It might actually be fun to see Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday play in a gritty, grindy 89-86 type of game, as long as it results in a W!
Where To Watch
What: New Orleans Pelicans vs Memphis Grizzlies
Where: Smoothie King Center
When: Friday, December 7, 2018, 7:00 p.m. Central
How: FSNO, 99.5 FM WRNO