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The Week-side Help: New Beginnings

Grizzly Bear Blue’s weekly recap of all things Memphis Grizzlies kicks off with thoughts on the young guns and the growing pains to come

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Memphis Grizzlies Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Week 1 Results

Memphis Grizzlies 101 (0-1) @ Miami Heat 120 Recap | Box Score

Chicago Bulls 110 @ Memphis Grizzlies 102 (0-2) Recap | Box Score

Brooklyn Nets 133 @ Memphis Grizzlies 134 (OT) (1-2) Recap | Box Score

Week 1 Storylines

-No. 2 overall pick PG Ja Morant and new Head Coach Taylor Jenkins made their Memphis debuts against the Miami Heat.

-Head Coach Taylor Jenkins got his first career NBA coaching victory against the Brooklyn Nets Sunday night. The Grizzlies went 1-2 in their first week of the season.

-F/C Ivan Rabb and C Miles Plumlee were cut before the season began. Rabb has since signed a two-way contract with the New York Knicks.

Week 1 Notes

-This was an extremely emblematic week in terms of the types of performances we can expect to see from this team as it goes through growing pains. Lesser experienced teams and teams with less continuity than their competition can often have problems closing out games. That was on full display this week, in a particularly extreme form against the Miami Heat when the Grizzlies apparently left the arena after the third quarter, and again when they let the Bulls come back to win.

-There were some bright spots in the game against Miami if you want to just chalk up the disastrous 4th quarter (outscored by the Heat 37-17) to youth and chemistry issues. It was actually an impressive game for Taylor Jenkins to debut a completely new style of play to the franchise. 112 possessions against the Heat and 104 against the Bulls fairly easily eclipse the average pace of play, 96.6 possessions per game, under Bickerstaff last season, which was dead last in the league.

-Much like a football team with a bad a red-zone offense, the Grizzlies did well in between the 20, but failed to convert scoring opportunities. In other words, they did a fantastic job this week of establishing themselves as a team that will run in transition off of both makes and misses. However, finishing those transition opportunities have been a problem. After the first two games, Memphis finished 2nd in transition plays per game, but LAST in points per possession.

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Memphis Grizzlies Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

-Its way too early to determine whether or not that will be a continuing problem into the future, but it does a good job of explaining how Memphis gave away two games that were seemingly in their grasp. Memphis also could not, would not, REFUSED to hit a three-pointer against the Heat. 5/32 on three point attempts makes me physically sick.

-Memphis seemed to exercise some of those three-point shooting demons in the first quarter against Brooklyn on Sunday night. They started 4/8 on three pointers when Jonas Valanciunas shot and made two-in-a-row and the rest of the team seemed to take it as a sign that is okay to make shots.

-They were still susceptible to cold shooting streaks against the Nets. Even when the Nets offense was equally as sleepy at times, it gave them a chance to stage a quick comeback in the second quarter after Memphis had a 14-point lead at one point. Ja Morant’s best game in his very young career (30 pts, 13/22 FG, 9 ast) helped get Memphis its first dub when Brooklyn could have easily pulled away. He took over, put the team on his back, ALL of those cliches. He showed how special he can be in this league with that stretch to end regulation. Also:

-WHAT A FUN GAME. Holy mackerel have the Grizzlies ever played in a game as good as this in the regular season (Site Manager note - yes)? Jae Crowder’s only two shots being the last two shots the Grizzlies made is hilarious and perfect and I love it. This season already rocks.

-The lack of shooting on this team has been quite evident through the first three games. It’s a three-game stretch, so I am aware of the sample size. But Memphis does not have many players on the roster with a track record of making a high volume and percentage of three-pointers. A lot of our players are good shooters in theory. Like I said, it’s still early, but there is reason to be concerned here.

-Jaren Jackson Jr. making the leap this year is going to be very, very, very fun. The aggressiveness he showed against Chicago when the game was getting out of hand was admirable and he has shown signs of elevating his game already.

-Fouling is still an issue for Jaren. He had 0 fouls in the first half against Miami and still ended up with five on the night. He fouled out in just 24 minutes against the Nets. Not all fouls are built the same, and not all fouls are really all that costly. But it had been a problem at Michigan State, it was a problem his rookie season, and it’s a problem in the incredibly small sample size that is his sophomore season as well. He’s improving in a lot of ways offensively, but cutting back on fouls just has to happen.

-Brandon Clarke plays the game with such determination with every move and decision he makes. He even bounces through the roof when he does a simple chest pass. As someone who will be asked to play center, he is definitely undersized. But he plays such smart defense and is such a vertical threat that it almost doesn’t matter. He had 3 blocks in the first half against Chicago, but rim protection was still an issue at times with Bulls getting off easy floaters.

-I still think the world of Clarke. He’s a special talent whose athleticism is nearly unmatched. It may take time for him to round into form, but this was still an encouraging first week.

-I worry there’s nothing I can say about Ja that isn’t obvious by his play. He is an incredible athlete and it looks near impossible to stay in front of him when he’s on the break. His court vision is tremendous and he plays with effort 100% of the time. But sometimes he plays too fast and too dependent on his own great talent. When Ja starts to pick and choose his spots and use his explosiveness selectively, he will be really dangerous. His night against Brooklyn showed just how high his ceiling his. And we’re just three games in.

-He’s so much freakin’ fun. I can’t believe he’s a Grizzly.

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Memphis Grizzlies Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Week 2 Schedule and Fun Rankings

Memphis Grizzlies @ Los Angeles Lakers Tues. Oct 29th 9:30 PM CT

Phoenix Suns @ Memphis Grizzlies Sat. Nov 2nd 7:00 PM CT

To spice things up, I decided this year I was going to rank the games in the upcoming week on a variety of factors. Some weeks it would be ranking the likelihood of a win, others it would be ranking the most important for a playoff spot or draft position. This week, we’ll be ranking them by how fun the games should be to watch. As will be most of the rankings this season, they will extremely subjective and yet extremely definitive.

I know what you’re thinking: “there is only two games this week, this isn’t really a ranking you’re kind of just picking one over the other.” And you’re right. But I couldn’t in good faith start an honored tradition in week TWO of the Week-side Help. Without further ado, Week 2’s Fun Rankings:

2. at Los Angeles Lakers (Tues Oct 29th)

Bet you weren’t expecting that. Yes, the Lakers are probably 100x better than the Suns from a basketball standpoint, but hear me out. The Lakers are in a position like the Grizzlies where they are trying to assimilate an almost brand new team with the added challenge of competing for a championship. The Lakers have also played at the slowest pace in the league heading into their Sunday night matchup against the Charlotte Hornets. New coach Frank Vogel will play a lot of bigs (Anthony Davis, Dwight Howard, and Javale McGee) and will post up with AD and LeBron James whenever possible. Despite the brand recognition and star power in this game, I don’t think it’ll be as much fun to watch as the other game this week. It could be style clash that results in a cacophonous display of sloppy, early-season basketball.

Also, this game tips off at 9:30 central time on a weeknight. If you think that isn’t a valid enough reason to knock this down a peg well then that’s on you, dear reader.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Los Angeles Lakers Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

1. vs. Phoenix Suns (Sat Nov 2nd)

Oh yeah now we’re talking. Again, the Lakers are a lot better than the Suns. Phoenix won’t even have Deandre Ayton with them as he faces a 25 game suspension for failing the league’s anti-drug policy by reportedly testing positive for a diuretic. Outside of Devin Booker, there’s not much else to look forward to in this game, talent-wise.

But that just means it provides an opportunity for Memphis to flex what little muscle it has. Memphis will have only played solid teams when they host Phoenix this Saturday. To build some confidence for a bad, young team it would be rather helpful to play another bad, young team. Hey, there’s also a significant possibility that you get to watch Devin Booker score 40 points while the Suns still somehow lose.

This game is going to be fun. It will not be the Spurs-Heat 2014 Finals, if you’re looking for basketball genius or art on hardwood. It will be point-sy and it will be a much fairer benchmark for these Grizzlies to test themselves. Plus, the Suns haven’t even been that bad this year! This could actually border on good!

Have a good week, Memphis.

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