The New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies will face off tonight in a matchup for teams looking for respect in a loaded Western Conference. For more on the matchup in total, check out our preview here.
With this Outsider’s Perspective series, we aim to go deeper into the Pelicans’ nightly opponents by gathering various contributors and editors from around the basketball community.
This edition brings us the site manager of SB Nation’s Grizzly Bear Blues, Joe Mullinax. Joe gives us a look into the Grizzlies resurgence, Grit and Grind, and attempts to put me in my place as we debate Jrue Holiday versus Mike Conley Jr.. Hope you all enjoy our latest installment of Outsider’s Perspective!
- The Memphis Grizzlies are healthy, and once again, find themselves in playoff contention. Before the start of the season however, it appeared that many national observers couldn’t envision health alone bringing Memphis back into the playoff conversation.
When you look how the Grizzlies have started the season, it almost feels as if last year never happened. Is their success more around the additional pieces added to the fold, a philosophy switch of sorts, or simply about having a healthy roster once again? Can they keep this up?
As always, the success of this team starts and ends with Marc Gasol and Mike Conley Jr. When they’re both healthy, they’re going to be competitive. What has made Memphis good this year is the pieces that have been added — high basketball IQ players who are also neutral to plus defenders that have bought in to the Bickerstaff school of thought: We will zig where the rest of the NBA zags.
Jaren Jackson Jr. has been a revelation. Kyle Anderson is a very, very good defender. On and on I could go about how these guys fit well together, but it starts and ends with Marc and Mike. As long as they’re out there, Memphis will be in the mix for the playoffs. They may cool off and miss out, but they’ll compete.
2. When most basketball loyalists think about the Grizzlies, “Grit and Grind” is normally the first element that comes to mind. Some have called this team the 2.0 version, which is fair due to the new faces that are along this journey. I’ve always respected Memphis’ style because they knew who they were, and went against the grain. Instead of trying to replicate an impossible core and style played by Golden State and others, Memphis attacked in an entirely different manner.
It’s probably one reason they’ve had such success over time against the Warriors as well. In fact, once the Pelicans added DeMarcus Cousins almost two years ago, and even this summer in Julius Randle, it’s a style I wanted to see more of. Do you think more teams should model themselves after Memphis to attack smaller, faster paced teams versus chasing a ghost like the Warriors?
I do think that teams should not always try to copy success, whether it’s basketball or elsewhere. 198 teams passed on Tom Brady before he was taken by the Patriots. Steph Curry has glass ankles and was signed to what became the best bargain contract in NBA history and allowed a dynasty to be built. Those are just two examples, but the point is it takes talent and hard work, but also dumb luck to be that good.
The key should always be trying to build around the personnel you have. Mike and Marc aren’t run and gun players and the coaches cater especially to Marc. The slowed down style fits their skill sets, and the skill sets of the guys they’ve brought in. Credit to J.B. and his staff for seeing that, and the Grizzlies front office for supporting it.
3. Mike Conley is back and has re-established himself as one of everyone’s favorite underrated player. In that group, however, is the Pelicans’ two-way stud Jrue Holiday. Holiday has seemingly been on a mission to lockdown every guard or forward he’s battled against this season. Luka Doncic was the latest victim on Wednesday.
We all respect Conley, but from my perspective when the two are matched up it’s hard to see an edge Conley can gain with the level Holiday is playing, especially defensively. Tell me why Conley won’t be held to under 13 points?
Because Mike Conley will be the only guy shooting in the 4th quarter? Jokes aside, Holiday and Conley is a fun matchup. Jrue is damn good, and as you mentioned Mike is pretty much back.
The main reason Mike will succeed where others have failed is that Conley is better than Holiday. Mike has a better net rating, better win shares per 48 minutes, PER, turnover percentage, and three point percentage than Jrue. That’s not meant to be disrespectful — Holiday is a big reason NOLA is a good team beyond AD. But I’ll take Conley, a veteran and not a rookie, in this matchup.
4. What’s the biggest misconception about the Memphis Grizzlies?
That they can’t shoot threes. They are actually currently 7th in the NBA in three point percentage at 36.3%. They don’t shoot many from beyond the arc (25th in the NBA), but when they have shot them so far this season they’ve been effective.
5. Give us an outsider’s perspective on these Pelicans.
They have talent, but they’re lacking on the wing. No offense to Wesley Johnson and E’Twaun Moore, but neither of those players strike fear in the heart of a Grizzlies fan (although Moore has been a bit of a Grizz killer in the past).
Julius Randle is a stud, and JaMychal Green will have his hands full with him in a battle of reserve bigs, and Jaren Jackson Jr. vs Anthony Davis is going to be fun to watch. But Memphis needs their underwhelming wings to outplay those of the Pelicans to have a shot, assuming the two teams are a wash at the point and with the bigs.
Memphis wins a close one, 101-99. The Grizzlies need this because of their 2nd night of a back to back showdown with the Lakers coming Saturday. Nola winning would not surprise at all, but I’ll bet on Marc and Mike against AD and Jrue by a hair and on Jaren Jackson Jr. and Kyle Anderson slowing down Mirotic and company.
That was our time with Joe Mullinax and hope you all enjoyed it. You can find Joe on Twitter @JoeMullinax and be sure to check out his Grizzly Bear Blues Podcast on BlogTalkRadio. Enjoy the game tonight and as always Geaux Pels!