It’s finally September, which means we officially have one more month until real basketball starts. Boy, it couldn’t come at a better time.
The days of worthless debates and unnecessary hyperboles are diminishing, as we’re so close to seeing the reality of our offseason clamor. A lot of this clamor has to do with how these next rookies will fare in the league next season and beyond.
The 2018 draft has infused a great wealth of talent into an exciting, evolving league. For the first time in years, the Memphis Grizzlies have a player in this wave of refreshing, promising young talent. When will Jaren Jackson face off against certain members of his draft class? How will these rookies fare against the incumbent Grizzlies players?
Jaren Jackson Jr. vs. Deandre Ayton
This matchup will be one of the most fun rookie battles of the season. Jaren Jackson represents the new age of NBA big men. He’s a quick, athletic big that can protect the rim at an elite level, guard perimeter players and shoot the three at a high clip. On the other hand, Ayton embodies more of an old-school center game — a dominant offensive talent in the post.
Their matchups this year will be one of many fantastic battles for the next decade-plus. Will Ayton prove himself as the best player in the draft class? Or will Jackson surge past him?
Dates: October 27, November 4, March 30
Jaren Jackson Jr. vs. Marvin Bagley
The “Jackson vs. Bagley” battle will be intriguing for many reasons. Like Ayton, Bagley flashes upside on the offensive end, as his defensive potential remains suspect. Prior to the draft, some blog boys leaned more with Bagley based off his college stats, which dubbed him the unofficial pre-draft favorite in Grizz Nation. Then, you had the Jackson crowd that favored him, because they did a deep dive into the analytics and potential.
This matchup gives everyone an early perception of who’s the better prospect, despite the college stats.
Dates: October 24, December 21, January 25
Jaren Jackson Jr. vs. Wendell Carter Jr.
The Summer League performances alone make this matchup a fascinating one. Jackson was obviously a Summer League standout, but Wendell Carter might have been the only center that looked better. Ironically enough, rumors were floating around about the Grizzlies being interested in Carter.
This contest here will be the only real test to see if the Grizzlies picked the right guy, as Carter is the most notable name they passed on.
Dates: February 13, 27
Dillon Brooks vs. Luka Doncic
All eyes are going to be on Luka Doncic this year, as he was one of the most hyped prospects in the past decade. If the draft was a week earlier, the Grizzlies probably would’ve landed Doncic — which would’ve made several bloggers, including myself, overjoyed.
However, he’s now a division rival, and it’ll be up to Dillon Brooks to shut him down. Last season, Brooks flashed a great all-around skill set and emerged as a potential cornerstone for the Grizzlies’ future. It’ll be fascinating to see how he fares against Doncic, as these two wings will have many encounters with each other over the next decade.
If you’re in the Dallas area and go to a Grizz-Mavs game, you’ll probably see me in a Luka Doncic jersey, since I lost a bet on last year’s season series.
Dates: November 19, March 2, April 5, April 7
Mike Conley vs. Trae Young
This matchup is exciting for plenty of reasons. For starters, they’ll have their first encounter in Conley’s regular-season return to the Grindhouse. In addition, Trae Young was college basketball and GBB’er Nathan Chester’s darling last year, captivating the nation with his Curry range and his dazzling playmaking.
It’ll surely be a test for both players. How will Conley look in his return? How does Young do against one of the most steady starting point guards of the past decade?
Dates: October 19, March 13
Mark those down in your calendar, folks! Those are going to be some hot matchups. What are some exciting rookie matchups you’re looking forward to? Comment your thoughts below.