The Memphis Grizzlies finally played a real NBA team, and it was abysmal.
The game was close for the first three quarters, but the Hornets destroyed them in the final period, outscoring them by 16 points. The Grizzlies ultimately went cold throughout the game, and in the final quarter, you could sense the frustration for this young team.
It’s all about the growing pains though. It’s also a meaningless preseason game. The Grizzlies are adjusting to playing together for the first time — reminder: the only active players from last night’s game on last season’s roster were Jaren Jackson Jr., Dillon Brooks, and Kyle Anderson, who played a grand total of 18 games together. Rookie head coach Taylor Jenkins is still figuring out what lineup combinations work best for his system. They also have a plethora of young players that are obviously going to go through growing pains.
It’s all good, no need to overreact. I’ll try not to do the same here.
Brandon Clarke is Everywhere
Brandon Clarke’s play was probably the only positive this game ... literally. Clarke was the only Grizzly that registered a positive +/- this game (garbage-time excluded), as he finished with a +10 +/- in 20 minutes of action.
Clarke’s performance in this one was an inspiring one.
His activity around the glass was encouraging, especially as they’re looking for rebounding help aside from Jonas Valanciunas. In addition, he finished around the rim well, connecting on 6 of his 10 shots.
Offensively, I love his body control and elevation when finishing around the rim. Defensively, he maintains good position, even if he bites on pump-fake’s. He also does a great job of contesting without fouling and defending on the perimeter as well
Clarke should be able to make a huge impact off the bench as a rim-running, small-ball 5.
The Grizzlies guards have ELITE vision
For the first time in quite some time, the Memphis Grizzlies have two point guards with excellent floor vision.
At 20 years old, Morant is making advanced passes for someone that’s three preseason games into his preseason game. His ability to make a quick pass mid-air is dreamy. He adds a bit of pizzazz to it as well, and it’s something we haven’t quite seen in Memphis. Yes, there will be a lot of turnovers with these passes tonight, but Morant’s vision for a rookie point guard is elite.
Tyus Jones can quickly become the best backup point guard in Grizzlies history. He’s done a great job pushing the tempo and manning the scoring-deprived second unit. He’s also made some nice kick-out’s as well, which is a huge staple of Jenkins’ offense.
As the Grizzlies transition into a pace-and-space system, it’s such a luxury to have two point guards that know how to get the ball and defense moving within the offense.
The Needle Wasn’t Really Moved in the Starting Shooting Guard Battle
Grayson Allen made the start at the shooting guard spot tonight, after Dillon Brooks held it for the first two games of the preseason. In addition, Brooks was the 2nd wing off the bench behind Marko Guduric.
The starting 2-guard battle is between these three, but I don’t know if the needle really moved in favor of anyone.
Grayson Allen didn’t play up to the expectations set in the first two games. Though the performance was rather lackluster, Allen did a good job of attacking the basket and finishing around the paint.
Marko Guduric didn’t do anything inspiring, finishing with a team low +/- of -24. Meanwhile, Dillon Brooks finished with 11 points and connected on 3 of his 5 triples.
My big complaint with Brooks last game was his unwillingness to contribute to the game in other ways when his shot was going. However, last night, he made more of a concerted effort to move the ball and let the offense come to him instead of forcing anything.
It’s hard to say who would make the start right now, you could make an argument with really Dillon Brooks or Grayson Allen, as both players fit alongside Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr.
Likely-Cut Ivan Rabb Makes It Tough
Ivan Rabb will probably be cut before the season starts, as the deadline to guarantee his contract is October 19th. In last night’s game though, Rabb showed that he could still be an NBA player, even if it’s not in Memphis.
Though he has a slender build, Rabb positions himself well in the post for both scoring and rebounding opportunities (8 points and 7 rebounds). Defensively, he came up with 2 blocks and a steal, which is better nice — given his defensive reputation of not being that great of a rim protector.
Unfortunately, Ivan Rabb likely won’t get the opportunity to showcase his skills in Memphis. However, a NBA team would be smart to take a flyer on a 23 year-old big man that’s shown he could be productive.
It Will Take Time
Last night’s game showed that patience will be a virtue with these Memphis Grizzlies.
As easily as Ja Morant has a Westbrook-like drive to the rim, it could be followed with a dumb turnover.
As easily as Jaren Jackson Jr. can effortlessly splash transition 3’s, the unicorn may struggle inside the arc.
As easily as Brandon Clarke could be the ultimate Swiss-army knife, he could make a minimal impact some nights.
As easily as any of these shooters can get hot, they could also all leave their jumpers at home one night.
As easily as Taylor Jenkins may draw up a wonderful ATO (After Time-Out) play, he could completely look like a rookie head coach.
It’s fine, it’s all a part of the road. The Memphis Grizzlies are preparing for the long run, and it’s going to take some time to get used to, as this is the first time the fanbase is experiencing this in over a decade.
There will be some nights like this one. It may get ugly sometimes. However, there will also be nights where it all clicks, and you see the promise of the future.
It’s just going to take some time, don’t overreact too much.