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Analytics for tonight’s match-up with the Nuggets

Denver Nuggets v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

The Memphis Grizzlies (5-7) will play host to the Dallas Mavericks (8-3) on Sunday night. Below, I give an analytical perspective on what Memphis fans should expect tonight.

1.) What is Denver’s go-to lineup?

The combination of Will Barton, Gary Harris, Nikola Jokić, Paul Millsap, and Jamal Murray have dominated the minutes available to the rotation, accounting for more than 40% of the court time in the nine games they’ve played together this season. They’ve also dominated the competition, which explains the heavy use. In those games, they are outscoring their opponents by more than 15 points per 48 minutes. When these five are on the court, opposing teams better bring their A-game.

2.) What is Denver’s most vulnerable lineup so far?

The lineup of Malik Beasley, Torrey Craig, Jerami Grant, Monte Morris, and Mason Plumlee seems very susceptible, and has been the second most utilized Denver lineup on the season. However, that seems to be changing. The minutes played by this lineup has decreased in every game they’ve appeared this season, culminating in less than one minute played together in their last appearance against the Minnesota Timberwolves on November 10th. If that trend continues, then that lineup isn’t really “vulnerable” as they need to be on the court for the Grizzlies to take advantage. If they do see the court though, Grizz fans should be salivating as they have been outscored by more than 11 points per 48 minutes.

Western Conference Semifinals - Denver Nuggets v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

3.) Aside from Nikola Jokić, who else has really shined for the Nuggets?

They have a deep and talented roster, which is why they currently sit at 8-3 and in third place in the Western Conference. There is one player familiar to Memphians, though, that has truly excelled. Former University of Memphis standout Will Barton has played extremely well this season, and is on pace for his best season yet. He’s averaging 15.8 points per game on an effective field-goal percentage of 51.7, as well as 7.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. However, he’s listed as questionable for today’s game.

If he does in fact sit, the Grizzlies might have a better than decent shot to steal this game. In the two previous games this season where Barton has not played, they have substituted Torrey Craig in his place with the Harris, Jokić, Millsap, and Murray. They split the outcomes of those games, losing to the New Orleans Pelicans and winning against the Orlando Magic. With Craig in Barton’s place for those games, the lineup’s per 48 minute point differential changes from +15 to -8.4. While there are many Memphis Grizzlies fans that will enjoy seeing Barton play, they may be even happier if he sits this one out.

4.) Teams competing for championships (as the Nuggets have been) normally don’t have rookies viewed as potential all-stars. The Nuggets, though, have such a first-year player in Michael Porter Jr. Why isn’t he playing more?

The answer to this one appears pretty straightforward - because he doesn’t have to play more right now. The Nuggets already have the luxury of a championship-contending roster, allowing them to bring the rookie along slowly. He’s struggling defensively, as most rookies do, but is showing immense potential on the offensive end. His effective field goal percentage of 56.5% is actually being weighed down by his average three-point shooting (33.3%). If he can show improvement in that area, his per 36 minute scoring average of 18.9 could shoot up even more. Defensive liabilities aside, the Nuggets would be very hard pressed to not give him more minutes at that point.

5.) What is your prediction for the game today?

It sounds like Denver plans on resting Barton today. If that indeed happens, I’m predicting a huge upset for the Grizzlies 114-108.