For the eighth straight year, Memphis has a .500 or better record six games into the season, currently sitting at 4-2. Their success has come in familiar fashion, winning games with an elite defense and finding just enough success with an inconsistent offense. They have a signature win over the Utah Jazz. The other three wins have come against three of the five worst teams in the league.
Without a doubt, the overall record is better than expected. It is encouraging that Memphis clearly has a roster that is currently achieving above the bottom of the league. However, the offensive inconsistencies make the true talent level of this team remain a mystery. As a result, the early November schedule could not come at a better time.
The month of November has been one to remember for the Memphis Grizzlies. Over the past 6 years, the team’s performance during November has been a clear indicator of how the overall season would turn out. In the five seasons between 2012 and 2017, the Grizzlies were a combined 50—24. The Novembers of 2012 and 2014 were two of the best months in franchise history, as Memphis went 13-1 and 13-2, respectively. The Grizzlies would achieve their highest win totals in franchise history those same years.
The other three seasons would find the Grizzlies to go a combined 24-21 in November. However, the team would finish with a winning record for the month each season. Furthermore, the Grizzlies made the playoffs each year.
Unfortunately, that success did not carry over to last season. A season ending injury to Mike Conley, the dismissal of David Fizdale, and an overall 2-11 record derailed the season quickly. The end result was one of the worst years in franchise history.
Memphis’ performance in recent Novembers has a strong correlation with their season as a whole. Furthermore, the overall results have been a wide range of outcomes. This November appears to be no different. The beginning of the month should provide a clear understanding of how good this roster is.
The first half of November will be one of the toughest parts of the 2018-2019 schedule. Beginning Friday, the Grizzlies will begin a stretch of 7 games in 12 days. The only team with a losing record in that stretch is the Phoenix Suns. The other six games include a home and away set with the Jazz, home games with the 76ers and Nuggets, and away games against the Warriors and Bucks.
The overall record of those five teams is currently 27-7. The Nuggets were the only one of those five to miss the playoffs last year, but had a 46-36 overall record. Milwaukee, Golden State, and Denver are currently 3 of the best 4 teams in the league. The Warriors game is the second night of a road back to back. Each of these opponents are likely postseason locks, and a few of them are emerging as title contenders.
As mentioned before, the good thing about this stretch is Grizzlies fans should gain a clear understanding of the team’s true talent level. The bad thing is there is a good chance the results could be disappointing. As a whole, the team will have to have a short memory and make quick adjustments to avoid several losses over the next two weeks.
While not as treacherous, the second half of the month will still be a big challenge. Between November 12th and 21st, the Grizzlies will have a six game stretch were they will be home, away, home, away, home, away. This unique schedule quirk includes playing in Minnesota on November 18th, and then coming home to play Dallas on November 19th.
Along with the Timberwolves and the Mavericks, the Grizzlies will finish up the month with games against the Kings, Spurs, Clippers, Knicks, Raptors, and Nets. The overall record of this group currently stands at 28-26. While there are several winnable games in that stretch, the difficulty of the first part of November and the travel schedule will likely take a toll.
Beyond the actual games, November should provide some exciting moments for fans. Home games this month provide the chance to see stars such as Joel Embid, Ben Simmons, Donovan Mitchell, Kawai Leonard, and Nikola Jokic. It also will allow fans their first chance to see rookies Kevin Knox, Marvin Bagley, and Luka Doncic. The matchup against the Mavericks and the Spurs will be the first two division games of the season for Memphis.
Overall, the month of November is going to be a tremendous test for the Grizzlies. After a relatively easy October, the Grizzlies’ November opponents are currently a combined 56-38. Memphis will play the best team in the West and the best team in the East on the road. They will also face the second best team in each conference at home.
Health will hopefully be a positive boost for the Grizzlies as the month progresses. As Kyle Anderson gets more minutes after an early season illness, he should become more productive on offense. Jamychal Green will hopefully make his return toward the last few weeks of November. Always a wild card, Chandler Parsons could be back in a limited role toward the middle of the month as well.
Even more important is consistency. Both Mike Conley and Marc Gasol have experienced early season shooting struggles. While Shelvin Mack and Garret Temple have been surprisingly effective so far, they could level off to career norms against better competition. As a result, Gasol and Conley will have to become more reliable.
The Grizzlies reserves will also have to play an important role. Early season foul trouble for Jaren Jackson Jr. has required the Grizzlies to go to the bench more often. So far, they have been up to the challenge. The positive production will have to continue. Forty minutes a night for Gasol and Conley will eventually impact their effectiveness. The productivity of the bench could be a critical factor to the Grizzlies success in November.
The best outcome for this month is likely a .500 record. It is very realistic that the Grizzlies could end up with a losing record as well. In keeping up with recent history, this November could be an accurate predictor for the rest of the season. That includes further confirmation the playoffs were always a long shot.
However, the level of competition should provide the roster a better idea of their true identity. This will help them play more effective as a team. As a result, the goal for this month should be becoming a team that is competitive against any opponent. Achieving that goal this early in the season would clearly indicate the franchise has significantly improved. As a result, this November could be one to remember for this season and the beyond.