If you’ve followed the Memphis Grizzlies at any point in their franchise history, you know that nothing has come easy for this team. Each win seems like a grind, losses are frustrating, and recently close games have ended as nightmares. But alas, some respite from those negative feelings, the Grizzlies won their first regular season game last night against the Brooklyn Nets. In an overtime thriller, first year head coach Taylor Jenkins secured his first NBA win.
Today’s report card is favorable, I’m in a good mood after the win and optimistic about the potential of this young roster. And frankly, this team is already more exciting than the previous two seasons combined.
I’ll give the role players a favorable grade, consideration for effort and production. To understand where the grade is coming from, I need to define the role players in this game: Jae Crowder, Brandon Clarke, Kyle Anderson, Solomon Hill, and Tyus Jones. Honestly the grade would be an A for this squad if Tyus Jones wasn’t included. He should not be taking 10 shots in any game, especially when he is clearly having an off-night, he went 1-10 from the field (and it wasn’t pretty).
Jae Crowder hit the game winner, which is a bright and shiny stamp on his performance, but he didn’t have an outstanding shooting night aside from that. His defense and leadership were just as necessary as his game winner. Brandon Clarke is exciting as well, he struggled in the paint toward the end of the game, but his motor is nuts and he seems to always be open. Kyle Anderson did euro-step things as usual, I don’t think he does anything wrong. And Solomon Hill snatched a rotation spot for the near future, going 5-5 from the field and making huge plays in the 4th quarter and overtime.
Grade – B-
We love Ja Morant, I think I can safely speak for all people in the world. But this grade also includes Kyrie Irving. I know this is a Grizzlies blog, yet over here we appreciate high quality basketball no matter the source. As electric as Ja Morant is, Kyrie Irving is everything I hope Morant will become. As the close of regulation drew closer, and even more so as overtime reached its end, when Kyrie had the ball I could barely watch. He is a magician always, but even more so in clutch moments. Morant can get to the rim at will, his passing is almost elite, but his jumper (and confidence in that jumper) is lacking right now. Kyrie doesn’t have that problem.
Both PGs put up big numbers, Morant was an efficient 13-22 for 30 points, Kyrie was 11-27 for 37, including 10-11 from the free throw line. They were a fun match-up to watch all night, more please!
Grade – A+
The post players for the Grizzlies will be an point of contention all season. I’m specifically referring to Jaren Jackson Jr. and Jonas Valanciunas, though Brandon Clarke and maybe Kyle Anderson could be included. JJJ consistently struggles with foul trouble. He can’t log large minutes because he fouls out. Along with that, its tough for him to get in a rhythm because his fouling keeps him in and out of the game. Jonas actually had a decent game, going 3-5 from the three point line and logging a double-double. He kept the grade from being a C.
Brandon Clarke will improve, he has potential to be a solid NBAer. There was a point in the game when he got freaked out by his mid-range floater that has worked for 2.5 games. He missed three in a row and just stopped shooting it. This is an issue because that shot is wide open most of the time; if he can knock that down consistently, he becomes a real offensive threat. He has elite bounce and his energy is always great, he just needs the confidence to catch up.
Grade – B-
As our last Report Card grader Site Manager Joe Mullinax mentioned about last game, this season should be graded on a curve. And I’ve exposed myself as being lenient when the game is exciting and turns out to be a win. To grade these young guns against the teams enrolled in honors classes would be unfair and irresponsible. For now, let’s just take a deep breath and enjoy the win against a (KD-less) Brooklyn Nets.