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Week-side Help: Week 9 - The Brooks Brothers Fiasco

Grizzlies and Suns couldn’t decide whether MarShon Brooks or Dillon Brooks would be in a trade. Other stuff happened too, last week.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Week 9 Results

Memphis Grizzlies (15-11) 99 @ Denver Nuggets 105 Recap | Box Score

Portland Trail Blazers 83 @ Memphis Grizzlies 92 (16-11) Recap | Box Score

Miami Heat 100 @ Memphis Grizzlies 97 (16-12) Recap | Box Score

Houston Rockets 105 @ Memphis Grizzlies 97 (16-13) Recap | Box Score

Week 9 Storylines

-There was a trade...until there wasn’t. A three-team deal between Memphis, Phoenix, and Washington, where the Grizzlies would reportedly get Kelly Oubre Jr, fell apart after Phoenix and Memphis misunderstood which Brooks brother would be included. I can’t make this up.

-There was basketball this week, too? Interesting. Well, the Grizzlies went 1-3 in basketball games this week, if that matters anymore. They are 4-8 in their last 12 games.

Required Reading: GBB’s Site Manager Joe Mullinax with a mighty fine and compact primer on the failed trade, in case you missed out on the drama. | Before we even reach Christmas, judgments are being made on J.B. Bickerstaff’s performance as head coach. GBB’s Brandon Abraham cautions that fans need to be patient with Bickerstaff so early into his first year as official head coach.

Week 9 Thoughts

-I’m ready to say that this team’s defense is incredible. Hovering around the top-5 and top-3 in defensive efficiency would usually be enough to convince me, but it’s the absolute roadblock they use to stop generally good offensive teams right in their tracks. There are bad shooting nights, then there is playing this Grizzlies team. Portland couldn’t do a dang thing offensively without CJ McCollum having to drag that bunch to almost half (40 of their 83 points) of their production.

-This deserves its own space: Damian Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic combined for 5-33 from the field. *inhales* LMAOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

-The biggest problem with this Memphis defense is probably its consistency, though. For every couple of games where they stifle the Trail Blazers and look like a defensive machine, there’s a game where the Lakers come into Memphis and run roughshod all over our Grit-N-Grind. The Nuggets “only” scored 105 points, but the game was at turtle’s pace. They were a lot more efficient and effective on the offensive end than 105 points may indicate in today’s NBA.

-While the defense gave up key shots in the fourth, the offense refused to keep up, making for a losing combo. Memphis shot a sickening 5-19 from the field and 1-9 from downtown in the final frame and lost what was quite frankly a winnable game. Denver was short-handed, reeling from injuries to core players. And in the final quarter where those problems usually show themselves, Memphis shot themselves in the foot time and time again, to the point where Denver wasn’t really missing Gary Harris or Paul Millsap at all. Former Iowa State great Monte Morris got 20 points off the bench on 8-12 shooting. Denver kept up their production and found ample substitutes, Memphis did not. That was the key difference Monday night.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Denver Nuggets Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

-Another thing that popped to me (and everyone watching) during the Nuggets game: what in the world are some of these rotations, Bickerstaff? Maybe someone smarter at basketball than me can explain the point of playing an almost-end-of-rotation player like MarShon Brooks in the first quarter if you aren’t going back to him later in the game, especially after his hot play?

-Brooks logged 6:33 of play, but was 4-4 from the field and scored 8 points. And then J.B. was just done with him? Why? He’s on this team to get streaky buckets. When he’s on a hot streak, why stop it before he even plays his way out of it? MarShon couldn’t have been used in a 16-point quarter where Memphis hit five shots in 12 minutes?

-J.B. Bickerstaff has already surpassed my expectations and I think he’s done a pretty good job this year! Maybe I should stop holding the hiring process over his head, because after all, why would he reject the job? It’s not his fault, so that was definitely an unfair criticism for me to attach to him. BUT...

-He isn’t going to be immune from regular-old-criticism, though. Complaints about rotations and lineups from me, a random guy on the internet, are still on the table. JJJ needs to close out more games, too.

-This tweet sums up perfectly the impact of the loss to the Miami Heat in the aftermath of the failed trade:

-The story of the Miami game was bench versus bench. Memphis’ bench was lacking in production and any kind of rhythm or effectiveness. The bench combined for 23 points on 9-31 shooting while Kelly Olynyk scored 18 points on his own for Miami. Miami also had two other double-digit efforts off the bench, Tyler Johnson notched 17 and Derrick Jones put up 13.

-The game was close, and even though Miami’s bench did well, the production was compensating for some poor play from the starters. But it’s the fact that Memphis starters couldn’t get a mental break from carrying this team. All Memphis bench players had a negative plus-minus and no Memphis starter had one. Single game numbers like that aren’t the best to rely on, but it is telling for how they played as units.

-Memphis’ loss to the Houston Rockets was a lot closer in score than in reality. Houston was leading by double digits for most of the game and grew that lead by constantly feasting on open looks. If you want an indication of how truly close this game was, there wasn’t a single lead change the whole 48 minutes. Despite the losing effort, there were still a couple of positive takeaways, most notably the debut and emergence of rookie G Jevon Carter.

-His on-ball defense was almost exactly as advertised. Pesky, annoying, and most importantly effective. The scouting report on him predicted he’d be NBA-ready and a solid contributor from day one. Maybe he doesn’t have JJJ’s ceiling, but who does? Jevon is his own person and his own player, and a good one at that. There’s a lot of helpful, if not exiting ways he can be used on the court this year. If he can play all season at even 80% of his playing level against the Rockets, he’ll be a key piece to this playoff run and in the future. Memphis might have a new shining example of Grit-N-Grind in Carter.

The Trade

Okay, I needed to carve out a specific segment in this edition of Week-side Help just to talk about this failed trade. I just have two questions.

1. What the hell, man?

2. Seriously, what the hell, man?

If you aren’t caught up by now, news broke near the end of the Grizzlies-Heat game that a three-way deal between Phoenix, Washington, and Memphis was agreed upon. Phoenix would get Austin Rivers, Washington would get Trevor Ariza, and Memphis would get Kelly Oubre Jr, plus some role players and 2nd-round picks would be swapped. Those role players ended up being one of the more dramatic inclusions in recent NBA trade history.

Phoenix, reportedly, thought they were getting Wayne Selden Jr and Dillon Brooks, while Memphis thought they were sending Selden and MarShon Brooks. The difference in asset value between Dillon and MarShon is tangible, so the confusion understandably nixed the deal.

How that confusion even came up, is beyond me. According to Memphis GM Chris Wallace, the Suns and Grizzlies never communicated directly and negotiated through Washington who was the only party sending pieces to everyone else involved. WHY WOULD YOU ONLY TALK THROUGH A SINGLE TEAM?

Do GM’s not have three-way call capabilities on Skype? Apple introduced group FaceTime lately, each team couldn’t find someone in the front office with an iPhone? If teams just negotiate through a third-party for multi-team deals, how does this not happen more often? Sorry, it turned out I have way more than two questions.

The trade itself probably wouldn’t have been a game-changer. Would losing Dillon Brooks for Kelly Oubre Jr. on an expiring deal be bad? Probably, but it wouldn’t have sunk the franchise. On the other hand, would even getting Oubre for MarShon instead of Dillon change this team’s playoff chances this year? Maybe just slightly for the better.

It’s not the trade, its how it got messed up. It stinks of incompetence. Maybe Memphis didn’t mess up directly, but they messed up by trusting Washington to negotiate for them. They messed up by not talking to Phoenix directly. They messed up by just being involved in this nonsense. If the other two parties weren’t teams with notoriously bad front offices, Memphis would be getting shellacked by the national media, and deservedly so.

Alright, let’s calm down now.

Okay, so that segment got me riled up and mad again. To calm ourselves down, let’s enjoy this short video breakdown of Jaren Jackson Jr.’s shot-blocking against the Houston Rockets.

I feel better now. Onto next week.

Week 10 Schedule and Preview

Memphis Grizzlies @ Golden State Warriors, Mon. Dec. 17, 10:30 PM ET/9:30 PM CT

Memphis Grizzlies @ Portland Trail Blazers, Weds. Dec. 19, 10:00 PM ET/9:00 PM CT

Memphis Grizzlies @ Sacramento Kings, Fri. Dec. 21, 10:00 PM ET/9:00 PM CT

Memphis Grizzlies @ Los Angeles Lakers, Sun. Dec. 23, 9:30 PM ET/8:30 PM CT

Ahh, a west coast road trip right before Christmas, which sounds like a gift in this cold weather. Hope you like staying up late.

Golden State looks #back to being #back. Steph Curry has returned from his injury and still looks great. Draymond Green has returned to the lineup. All that’s missing is the looming kill shot the Warriors have in their back pocket: DeMarcus Cousins. Their fifth All-Star. He may not play against Memphis, or soon, but he’s coming. And we all should be terrified.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Memphis got played off the floor the last time these two teams met.

Portland wants smoke again so quickly? Memphis should be happy to oblige. If Damian Lillard actually provides some offense this go-round (14 points, 4-18 shooting on Wednesday night), then this might be a contest. Trash-talk aside, this probably WILL be more of a contest, considering Memphis is the visitor this time and Portland just doesn’t have those type of stinker games very often. They’ve been held to less than 100 points in a game just three times this season: against Memphis last week, against Golden State, and against Minnesota, the latter two a month ago.

As much as I’d love it, I find it hard to believe Damian Lillard will have another game quite so bad. And CJ McCollum can still play well even if he doesn’t score 40 points.

Meanwhile, Sacramento has maintained their level of play from their good start to the season. They’re hovering above .500 and are in contention for a playoff spot in a West that is absolutely loaded. Dave Joerger has put away some of the Grit-N-Grind principles he’s relied on so much and has let this De’Aaron Fox led team run wild. They play at the second-fastest pace in the league and are second in the league in three-point shooting percentage.

The good news is that Sacramento shoots a relatively low amount of three-pointers. They are 24th (31.7%) in three-point shooting rate, compared to the ancient playing style of Memphis which is actually 22nd (33.1%) in the league. These two teams have already played twice this season, splitting the series 1-1 thus far. The home team won each game, and with two teams generally this even, home-court may be the biggest advantage. But when Memphis won, they did a good job at that whole shooting the basketball thing. They shot over 50% from the field in that win and it would be a good idea to do that again, in my expert analysis.

Finally, Memphis’ last game before Christmas is in Los Angeles, facing LeBron and the Lakers just two weeks after getting shelled in Memphis. The Grizzlies got destroyed in almost every facet of the game. The Lakers out-rebounded the Grizzlies 57-36(!) and made 10 more three-pointers than Memphis which just kept growing and growing and growing the lead. When Wayne Selden is the team’s leading scorer with 17 points, we’re probably not going to win.

Good thing the trade didn’t go through, because now hopefully Laker Killer Wayne Selden Jr. can lead us to another victory.

Have a good week, Memphis.

Follow @sbnGrizzlies