Last week, the NBA released the schedules for the 2018-2019 season. Now begins the speculation of the Grizzlies upcoming season. The process of going game by game seeing how the season plays out for the Grizzlies only brings more questions and concerns. We here at GBB will try and sort through the schedule with a few basic questions. Joining me in our roundtable are GBB Site Manager Joe Mullinax (@JoeMullinax), GBB Senior Writer Ross Jarrar (@asaprockytop), and GBB Staff Writers Lauren Harvey (@DragicKingdom) and Elbert Hubbard Jr. (@elbertjr_TV).
What game/s are you most excited for and why?
Noonan- I am most excited for the November 25th game against the New York Knicks. It is going to be the return of David Fizdale to Memphis, and I am looking forward to the reception he receives because of how last season played out. On a basketball level, the Grizzlies should win this game because of the Knicks turmoil as of late, but either way, Coach Fizdale coming back to the Forum will be something to watch for.
Mullinax- Aside from selfishly looking forward to the Grizzlies visiting my neck of the woods against the Washington Wizards in March, I am excited to watch Jaren Jackson Jr. compete against the best power forwards/bigs in the NBA to see how he measures up early. Showdowns with Anthony Davis (Pelicans), Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves), and others will be cool to see. LeBron in Lakers colors will be fun, and I am curious to see how the Spurs look in a post-Kawhi world as well.
Jarrar- I’m genuinely excited to play the Spurs this year. Memphis has been competitive with them in the past, and for the first time in a long time, they’ll look drastically different. Swapping Kawhi Leonard for DeMar DeRozan is a huge leap that brings up questions, but who better than Gregg Popovich. I’ll get plenty of options to watch them play this year as a division opponent (Nov. 21 at SA, Jan. 5 at SA, Jan. 9 vs. SA, Feb 12. vs. SA), too.
Harvey- Taking the optimistic approach, I will say the early March portion of the schedule where they play Oklahoma City, Portland and Utah. Those are all playoff caliber teams that match up well with the Grizzlies. If the Grizzlies are miraculously in the playoff hunt that late in the season, we will learn a lot about the team from how they approach those games. Those games are also not back to backs, so there should be no excuses.
Hubbard- There are multiple teams trying to make noise this year in the race to the playoffs. I would love to see how the Grizzlies matchup against teams like the new look Toronto Raptors, LABron and the Los Angeles Lakers, and the overpowering Houston Rockets with James Harden, Chris Paul, and now Carmelo Anthony.
What is the toughest stretch for the Grizzlies this coming season?
Noonan- There is a stretch during January that is going to be rough. However, I am going to be most curious about the tough month of November. The Grizzlies will play nine teams who made the playoffs last season. Fingers crossed, but most of the team will be healthy through this stretch, and it is really going to be the first test as what to expect from this team this season.
Mullinax- Give me January 5th-21st. Nine games in sixteen nights isn’t awful, but what makes this stretch especially tough is nine straight games against teams that made the postseason last year. Five of those nine are against divisional opponents (San Antonio and New Orleans twice, Houston once.) Sprinkle in some Boston and Toronto in a back to back, plus the Greek Freak and the Heat? The Grizzlies will be lucky to come out of that run 3-6.
Jarrar- January 5th-21st is absolutely brutal. The stretch includes 9 games and starts at San Antonio, includes a home-and-home with the Pelicans, hosting the Spurs and Bucks, and a road trip to the Heat, Rockets, Celtics, and Raptors with Memphis visiting Boston and Toronto on a back-to-back. If Memphis goes 0-9, I would not be surprised or even disappointed.
Harvey- The entire month of January. I think the only teams they play that month in which I can say for certain won’t make the playoffs are the Nets and Kings. I think if the season goes off the rails due to non-injury related reasons, we will probably point back to January.
Hubbard- Based on the schedule alone, their toughest stretch of games has to be between the MLK game and the All Star Break. They face four tough Western Conference opponents in New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Minnesota and Denver.
Were the Grizzlies disrespected by only getting one game on national TV?
Noonan- No, I believe the Memphis fans and the team should not feel disrespected by only getting one nationally televised game this season. The reaction on Twitter surprised me with how many people were upset about the news. My response to that is why did the Grizzlies deserve it? The team last season was not nearly good enough to get the ratings to be shown on the primetime schedule. Get better, and the networks will want to broadcast you. Simple as that.
Mullinax- This happens every year. The Grizzlies, even when they were at their Grit and Grind peak, were not must see TV. They made a commercial about it during the Western Conference Final run. Memphis is one of, if not the, smallest NBA market. Couple that with the fact they had the second-worst record in the NBA last season, and what did you expect?
Jarrar- No. It stinks for out-of-market fans like myself, but Memphis doesn’t have the success from a year ago or the star power to be a draw. Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are great players, but I don’t think they’re moving the needle on national TV games. Also, Memphis’ playing style has never been fun. It’s a lose-lose for a league trying to showcase their game.
Harvey- No. It should not shock anyone that a small market team that was the second-worst team in the league last season got one national TV game. It is what it is. Plus Pete and Brevin always kill it, so the more often they are on the call the better.
Hubbard- Honestly, they should have more than one national game but I would not say the NBA was disrespectful to the team. The Grizzlies had a horrible season last year, and this year needs a turnaround, not national attention.
Million Dollar Question: How many games do the Grizzlies win next season?
Noonan- As mentioned in my article on the NBA’s over/unders, I believe the Grizzlies will win anywhere from 35-40 games this season. This is all of course dependent on the injury bug that has cost the Grizzlies in the past. If they can avoid injuries, they could even look to go above .500. However, their lack of depth would not support the team succeeding with any of their starters going down for a substantial amount of time.
Mullinax- I am going to do a more detailed breakdown of the schedule over the next couple weeks, but I truly believe they can get off to a fast start. If they can win five or six of their first eight, they have potential to hover around .500 most of the season and maybe get a little beyond that. If they struggle out of the gate, or lose their health? It’ll be 2017-2018 all over again. Right now, I have them at 38 wins, which obviously would not be enough to make the playoffs. That would be, however, a pretty big improvement over last season and would mean they were at least competitive. There is value in that, considering where we’ve been recently.
Jarrar- I’m going to say 35. Memphis’ talent level is not much higher than a year ago. Mike Conley is back, but Tyreke Evans is gone. Kyle Anderson essentially took his place, but he looks to be a high-floor, low-ceiling option night-to-night. He’ll help win ball games, but he won’t outright carry a team like Reke did a year ago when we needed it most. The rookies, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Jevon Carter, both appear promising, but it’s hard to pencil in any rookie to account for winning in a given season. Memphis gets a big increase over a year ago, but the West is going to be too stacked for them to compete.
Harvey- I am going to go with 38. Just enough to slightly outperform their Vegas projection and convey their first round pick to Boston, but not enough to make the playoffs. I am optimistic the offseason moves will help the team, but I am much less optimistic the team will stay healthy.
Hubbard- 45-37 and possibly middle of the playoff race. With the talent and some Grizzlies coming off injuries, there are no more excuses. The rookies have the pass, but the veterans need to step up. Conley and Gasol need to step up in a major way this year. Jaren Jackson Jr. also may have a chance to impact the team with his inside-out game.