WHERE: FedexForum in Memphis, TN
WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: NBA TV/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
ATLANTA: Justin Anderson (OUT), Dewayne Dedmon (OUT), Daniel Hamilton (OUT), Taurean Prince (flu-like symptoms, OUT)
MEMPHIS: Kyle Anderson (left heel soreness, DOUBTFUL)
The time has come.
It is time to watch the rise of a basketball legend. It is time to watch a top-five pick in this summer’s NBA draft cement himself as an unstoppable force for many years to come.
It is time to watch my large adult son Trae Young, fresh out of Memphis Madness, play basketball.
Wait, you thought I was talking about Jaren Jackson Jr.? Oh yeah, he’s pretty good as well.
Earlier in the week, the Memphis Grizzlies played their first preseason game against one of the league’s few title contenders in the Houston Rockets. Now, they will perhaps be able to settle in more against what is expected to be a very bad Atlanta Hawks team.
Even though the Grizzlies will play the Hawks in their home opener on October 19th, this game will likely be meaningless in preparing for that game. After all, the opponent is generally meaningless at this time of the year. Instead, here are some things to watch for specifically with the Grizzlies tonight.
Jackson v. Young (I)
Although it was just his first real NBA game, it would not be hyperbolic to say that Jaren Jackson Jr. was baptized in fire by two of the greatest isolation players in NBA history in Chris Paul and James Harden. As expected for a rookie in his first game, the NBA game looked a tad fast for him, However, he still managed to have a stellar stat line, posting 15 points on 6-6 shooting (and an on-brand 6 fouls).
Fortunately, Jackson will have a chance to really find a rhythm against a far inferior Atlanta Hawks team. Since the Grizzlies are almost always switching defensively against the pick-and-roll, he will also have plenty of chances to match up against Trae Young, the player who was picked before him this year.
This will hopefully be the opening salvo for many exciting battles in the years to come between these two players.
Although he missed the first preseason game with a shoulder injury, the many (dozens?) members of Japanese media in Memphis will be overjoyed to know that Yuta Watanabe will make his first appearance in a Grizzlies game tonight.
Even though he went undrafted this past summer, Watanabe was still an elite college basketball player at George Washington. He emerged as a true two-way star in the A-10, averaging 16.3 PPG and winning the Atlantic 10 Conference Defensive Player of the Year award his senior season. His success continued into the NBA summer league, as he had a solid five-game stint with the Brooklyn Nets before earning a two-way contract with the Grizzlies.
Watanabe was an absolute sensation at Grizzlies media day and has already become a fan favorite even as just a two-way player. It will certainly be interesting to see how the former Atlantic 10 Conference Defensive Player of the Year adjusts to the speed of a real NBA game.
The Odd Men Out?
Wayne Selden Jr. may have started in the playoffs for the Memphis Grizzlies two years ago, but now his future seems uncertain. Although it’s just preseason, he had a terrible game against the Rockets, finishing with just 2 points and 5 fouls and generally just looking disinterested in 15 minutes of work. Since the Grizzlies’ wing rotation is fairly watered-down, Selden will struggle to find consistent minutes this year. It will be interesting to see if he bounces back after such a poor showing.
More interestingly, Andrew Harrison seems to have fallen farther in the rotation than many expected. He surprisingly only played 13 minutes against the Rockets, although he did show signs of life when he played. A good game tonight will only help his case to be the backup point guard once the season begins.