Site Manager’s Note - Welcome to the inaugural Grizzly Bear Blues NBA Preview Over/Under Challenge! Think you are smarter than twelve of our staff members? Take the challenge by posting your over/unders in the comments section every day with the corresponding teams. We will keep track over the course of the season, and the commenter(s) who beats our overall over/under projections at the end of the season will win a Fan Essentials box!
The GBB Staff taking part in this challenge are-
- Joe Mullinax - Site Manager
- Matt Hrdlicka - Senior Features Writer
- Kevin Yeung - Senior Features Writer
- Chase Lucas - Features Writer
- Mac Trammel - Features Writer
- Brandon Conner - Features Writer
- Jonathan Concool - Game Coverage Writer
- Colin Huguley - Game Coverage Writer
- Austin Reynolds - Game Coverage Writer
- Corban Ford - Game Coverage Writer
- Jonah Jordan - GBB Boots on the Ground Editor
- Adam Rubrum - GBB Boots on the Ground Editor
We begin the fun with Chase Lucas and his look at the Atlanta Hawks and our own Memphis Grizzlies.
Atlanta Hawks: Vegas Projection - 43.5 wins
OVERALL GBB STAFF PROJECTION:
- 12 taking over, 0 taking under.
- Average projected record: 46-36
Players to Watch
The Hawks made a big bet on Schröder when they traded away Jeff Teague. The bet makes complete sense in the long term, but it’s a good bit dicier in the short term.
The Hawks decided that running it back simply wasn't good enough. Time will tell if this was folly. Dwight no longer runs like a cheetah and jumps out of the gym, but it’s also possible that some of his issues last season were fueled by disinterest. My bet is that he bounces back and has a solid year in his home city even if he doesn't reclaim the glory of his Magic days. Dwight expressed concerns about returning home in the past. He claims he’s mature enough to handle it now but we shall see. His contract might be a bargain if he is able to fulfill his promise to be a gentleman on his new club.
Chase’s Prediction - 44 Wins. Over.
I’m going with the slight over but I’m far from confident. I’m betting on Mike Budenholzer being an awesome coach and on Dwight having a solid season now that he’s free from the walking bummer that is James Harden. This could also go the other way if the team doesn't come together the way they hope it will. A bad start could lead to trading players for assets and land the Hawks firmly under their posted win total. Bet with caution.
MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES: VEGAS PROJECTION - 43.5 WINS
OVERALL GBB STAFF PROJECTION:
- 7 taking over (Mullinax/Yeung/Huguley/Trammel/Conner/Concool/Rubrum), 5 taking under (Corban Ford/Hrdlicka/Jordan/Lucas/Reynolds)
- Average projected record: 45-37
Players to Watch
For many fans, the excitement of free agency ranks above the majority of regular season games. No one does free agency quite like the the NBA. This year the Grizzlies got their prize and I think that acquisition led to excitement that may have artificially boosted expectations. I was certainly guilty of this. Few regular season wins will thrill me the way the Woj tweet announcing that Parsons picked the Grizz over the Trailblazers did. The Parsons signing and subsequent injury situation are swing points for this season. Parsons is the missing wing the Grizzlies were never able to find.
He’s also part of the reason the team has a bench that is questionable at best. If his injury lingers into the season, it will slow his integration into the offense and put pressure on the old, unproven players that will be filling his minutes until he takes the floor. It also reduces the number of games the healthy core will be able to play together given that it’s a safe bet other core players will be missing games due to rest or injury
The recovery Marc has made from a devastating injury is remarkable. The question is whether or not the foot will hold up over the course of 82 games. If everyone is healthy, Gasol is still this team’s best player and it’s not particularly close.
Wade Baldwin, Andrew Harrison, Tony Wroten, Mario Chalmers????
This team has a non-young, small point guard with a recent history of injuries and no legitimate backup. Baldwin is an unknown but the little we have seen doesn't suggest he’s ready to be the primary backup point guard on a team with top four seed aspirations. There's little evidence that Harrison and Wroten belong on an NBA roster. If Mario Chalmers is cleared and capable (a big if) then he would drastically change the bench look. It would give the Grizz a vet and a rookie (Baldwin) capable of playing the one and the two.
Chase’s Prediction - 41 Wins. Under.
Here’s what’s scary about Grizzlies analysis so far this preseason: the skeptics seem to be relying on objective data and proven trends. The optimists seem to be relying on narratives that sound comforting but are based on surface level ideas that I fear may not prove to be of much worth.
The injury question is everything and everyone knows it. It’s impossible to know what the answer to that question will be, but that doesn't mean it can be ignored. All members of the Grizz core are past their prime, coming off of an injury, or both. Gasol, Conley, and Parsons are the three best players on this team, and not one was able to finish last season. The Grizzlies are simply not on equal footing when it comes to injury concerns.
The other popular argument for why the Grizz will easily outperform their total has a fundamental problem. Over and over it’s pointed out that statistical models, such as Kevin Pelton’s, have frequently underestimated the Grizzlies. Pelton’s formula has the Grizz slated for 39 wins. The problem is that both pessimists and optimists agree that this team is set to undergo a degree of change unprecedented in the current Grizz era.
The Grizzlies have a new member of the core, a revamped bench, a new coach, and a new offensive philosophy. Yes, we’ve heard promises of a modernized offense before, but it’s likely to be true this time. It has to be.
So if all those things are different, who’s to say the Grizzlies will retain the qualities that made them difficult to peg? In the end, I’m more inclined to buy the skepticism from objective analysts than lazy arguments such as the ever popular “yeah, but they won 42 last year and everyone got hurt.”
The good news is that the Grizzlies could still eke out 44 wins, even if several of the outlined concerns prove valid. The top line talent is that good. As many have pointed out, the Grizzlies have perhaps the widest range of believable season win totals in the league. I simply see the low end as more likely than the high end.
The harsh reality is that this team’s biggest questions marks have the potential to feed off each other in a ruthless manner. Lack of depth and health/age concerns are a tough combo to simultaneously overcome.
P.S. The author of this post has been known to frequently attempt reverse jinxes on behalf of the Grizzlies. This is not an example of that. Unless it is. It’s not…
Or is it? No. Maybe? Tell you later.