Failure is only final if lessons aren’t learned.
Make no mistake, the Memphis Grizzlies fell short of just about every possible goal they had for themselves last night against the Charlotte Hornets. They gave up more that 115 points and allowed for a team with comparable talent (but more experience in important places) to have their way with them both in the paint and beyond the arc. They were not able to keep up with that offensive pace, shooting a measly 37.6% from the floor and 28.1% from three point land. They were out-rebounded 58-50, shot a little more than 15% worse from the charity stripe than their competition, and all of that added up to a result that will almost certainly happen far more often than victory this season.
Yet, as has been discussed here, there, and everywhere already and will continue to be stated, W’s and L’s are not the standard in this test lab of a season. It’s about who competed, and how well they fit, within the schemes and speed of the NBA. On that front, some thrived more than others against the Hornets.
Let’s hand out some grades.
Jae Crowder- 28 minutes played, 4-12 shooting (3-9 from three), 12 points, 4 rebounds, -23 +/-
Not gonna cut it.
Everyone is entitled to a night off, and in fairness to Crowder his career average from beyond the arc is 33.9%, so that number is right in line with what we should expect from him. But in no world should Crowder be the 2nd leading shot taker on the Grizzlies. The order should be as follows-
- Jaren Jackson Jr.
- Ja Morant
- Jonas Valanciunas
- (Insert young starting shooting guard here)
- Jae Crowder
That, give or take a hot hand on a given night, is the list.
Of course Valanciunas is yet to play this preseason, so there are some shots out there still to be had. But Jae tried to do far too much in last night’s game, and it showed. Preseason shooting splits are probably the least important stat to keep an eye on, but the attempts are the concern here. He took five more shots than Jaren, seven more shots than Grayson Allen, and only had one less attempt than Ja Morant.
Swing the ball. Don’t force it. The young bulls need those shots more than Crowder.
Kyle Anderson- 22 minutes played, 3-9 shooting, 7 points, 6 rebounds, 0 assists, 2 turnovers, -21 +/-
From one combo forward to another.
Kyle Anderson is coming back from injury, and it will take more time than what has been allotted for him to fully return to what he should be. Just because he is cleared to play does not mean he is 100%. With all that being said, his fit on this roster is questionable at best, and lost at worst.
He doesn’t shoot threes.
He doesn’t possess breakneck speed.
A lack of athleticism and perimeter game could spell issues for a Grizzlies roster that needs at least one of those from just about every player in their rotation.
It’s easy to forget what makes Anderson unique - his defensive prowess against wings and forwards regardless of speed because of his length and understanding of scheme and angles. He wasn’t brought to Memphis to be a speedster, or a scorer. He was brought in to be a facilitator, someone that can initiate offense and amplify defense. The defensive side of things can probably still happen - depending on the lineup and matchup, Anderson as a small ball center makes sense.
But offensively? He needs to be surrounded with floor spacers and willing shooters to best utilize his talents. The Grizzlies have some of those, but not many that are capable of both...at least at this moment. The lack of assists is most concerning - he is best as a point forward, but he wasn’t able to successfully do that against the Hornets. It takes two to tango with assists of course - someone has to make the shot. But creation off the dribble is Kyle’s meal ticket. If that doesn’t come to fruition, he may be on the outside looking in minutes wise.
He’s here for the long haul, but Kyle’s role in the rotation may not be as locked in as we think. The good news is he should get every opportunity to get out of his funk and get the rust off his game.
Jaren Jackson Jr. - 20 minutes played, 2-7 shooting (2-5 from three), 6 points, 5 rebounds, 4 turnovers, 6 fouls, -6 +/-
Here’s a hot take - A 20 year old learning his third offense and defense in three seasons is going to have some growing pains.
Jaren Jackson Jr., from Michigan State to Memphis and from Tom Izzo to J.B. Bickerstaff to Taylor Jenkins, is getting far too used to turnover. Here’s to hoping that ends now and the Grizzlies are able to keep a coach through these key formative years for Jaren and his other young teammates. Jackson Jr. has had foul troubles regardless of coach, but the changes in terminology and timing/rotation patterns defensively can’t help. He looked lost on multiple occasions on both ends of the floor, and the numbers back that up - twice as many turnovers than made shots, and two made threes being his only buckets (0-2 inside the arc) are concerning if they become five, ten, or even longer game trends.
He is going to struggle - considering he is probably their second best player (arguably their first, depending on how good you think Jonas Valanciunas is) the entire team will. The key will be to not repeat mistakes - he has to learn how to position his body better, how to get looks in and around the rim, how to use his size and length to control the glass and not allow put backs and easy finishes in the lane while fouling. All of this will come with stability, and reps, but on this night it didn’t look as if it is clicking so far.
Thankfully it doesn’t have to just yet. But growth needs to be shown as the season progresses.
It wasn’t all bad, of course. Ja Morant, while not shooting well (another expected point of growth), showed the signs of brilliant passing and creation that we can expect on a near nightly basis (while getting thoroughly outplayed by Terry Rozier). Brandon Clarke looked the part of sixth man big off the bench, and the two wings most likely competing for shooting guard starter’s minutes (Dillon Brooks and Grayson Allen) both flashed positive attributes and contributions.
But Grizzlies fans should get used to these types of performances - two or three shining stars in a galaxy of basketball darkness on any given night. Memphis is building for a time two or even three years down the road, not in the here and now. They don’t have the horses to, on a consistent basis, compete with and beat most teams. If they don’t execute, as they didn’t against Charlotte, even a squad like the lowly Hornets will blow them out.
One result, or one individual failure, won’t define this group. But the report card is about individual performances within team success, and on this night, beyond Brandon Clarke it just wasn’t there on a consistent enough basis.
On to the next one.
GRIZZLIES GRADE- F