WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
WHERE: Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: FOX Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS- MarShon Brooks (Questionable, ankle), Mike Conley (Out, heel), Chandler Parsons (Out, knees), JaMychal Green (Out, knees), Andrew Harrison (Out, shoulder/wrist), Wayne Selden Jr. (Out, knee), Tyreke Evans (Out, personal)
NEW ORLEANS- DeMarcus Cousins (Out, Achilles), Frank Jackson (Out, foot), Alexis Ajinca (Out, knee)
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS- Kobi Simmons, Ben McLemore, Dillon Brooks, Jarell Martin, Marc Gasol
NEW ORLEANS- Rajon Rondo, Jrue Holiday, E’Twaun Moore, Anthony Davis, Emeka Okafor
We are officially one week away from our long regional nightmare being over.
The Memphis Grizzlies are seven days out from the end of their failed 2017-2018 season. They are blatantly “tanking” at this stage of the game, with seven - COUNT EM’ SEVEN - players on the injury report for one reason or another. How many are legitimate? Conley perhaps... but beyond that, if Memphis was in the playoff hunt, or fighting for postseason seeding, would so many names be on that list?
Most likely not.
Yet between that and the fact that Marc Gasol did not reenter a game in which he scored 28 points in three quarters last week, it is safe to say that the tank is fully engaged. That is the right decision, and the NBA won’t say anything about it because that would involve the NBA acknowledging the Memphis Grizzlies. So, these last five games, starting tonight in New Orleans, will be lots of “inexperienced” basketball, followed by lots of losses...aside from the Kings game this coming Friday night.
The Grizzlies want to lose. The Pelicans, currently the eight seed in the Western Conference, want to win. So with us assuming that both sides get what they want, let’s adjust the preview a bit, shall we? Instead of “keys to victory”, lets go with “things to watch”.
Victory probably isn’t coming. But remember, that’s good for now! This season is confusing and exhausting.
Dillon Brooks’ evolution
We know Dillon Brooks can score.
Since the beginning of March, Dillon has scored in double digits 13 times. In 16 March games, Brooks scored more than nine points 12 times. That is 75% of his games where the Grizzlies can depend on him to put the ball in the basket at a decent rate, especially considering he was a 2nd round pick in last year’s draft. It has been a part of some pretty poor basketball on the whole as a team, but Brooks has shown he is a very good NBA rookie.
How can he be a consistently good NBA player, who will stick in the Association and specifically with the Grizzlies? Evolve.
To his credit, he is working on this. Dillon is indeed attempting to pass more and facilitate/create for his teammates (two games with four assists in his last five outings) as well as attack the glass, with 17 rebounds collected over his last three games. It took him nine games before that stretch to grab 18 total boards.
He remains a work in progress, and needs to improve his defensive understanding and awareness. In these times, though, you look to the youth. There is no better prospect, for better or worse, on this Grizzlies team right now than Dillon Brooks.
Watching how he grows the next five games will be fun.
Who is Deyonta Davis?
The number love this guy.
Among Grizzlies who have played at least 800 minutes this season, Deyonta leads the team in net rating (+14) as well as offensive rating (123) while being 2nd behind Marc Gasol in defensive rating (109). He is first on the squad among that group in win shares per 48 minutes, and third in PER behind the likes of Tyreke Evans and Gasol. If you go strictly by the numbers, you would say that Davis is having a better season than JaMychal Green.
That would be a mistake, and Davis is an example of where the numbers do not tell the whole story.
He often looks lost on the floor, to the point of not being interested in what is going on. He struggles with scheme and execution of it, and thrives when things are off-schedule for whatever reason. That is a good ability to have, but an inability to show development in basketball skill that isn’t so athleticism-dependent is concerning. Perhaps this is the reason he fell to the second round of the 2016 NBA Draft - he is gifted physically, but is so raw that his development would be multiple seasons in the making.
This offseason will be telling with regard to Deyonta’s future with Memphis. For now, though, how he plays with this group of Grizzlies in terms of effort and execution is very worth watching.
Stats provided by basketball-reference.com
As stated above, aside from maybe Friday night against Sacramento every game from here on out “should” be a loss. The short-term pain is worth the long-term gain of a possibly elite talent. Enjoy the youth movement, and even with this being a pretty rough season to watch try to enjoy these Grizzlies as much as you can.
Eight days from now, they’ll be gone for the summer sooner than they have been in eight years.
New Orleans 111, Memphis 97