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Week-side Help: Morant Mania (Week 4)

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Recapping the most successful week of the year and Ja Morant’s showcase

Utah Jazz v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Week 4 Results

Memphis Grizzlies 113 (3-7) @ San Antonio Spurs 109 Recap | Box Score

Memphis Grizzlies 119 (4-7) @ Charlotte Hornets 117 Recap | Box Score

Utah Jazz 106 @ Memphis Grizzlies 107 (5-7) Recap | Box Score

Denver Nuggets 131 @ Memphis Grizzlies 114 (5-8) Recap | Box Score

Week 4 Storylines

-Ja Morant spoils Mike Conley’s return to Memphis Friday night with 25 points and 8 assists leading the Grizzlies to a win.

-Memphis starts their first winning streak of the season, winning three consecutive in a 3-1 week.

Required Reading

-GBB’s Joe Mullinax on Mike Conley’s return to Memphis on Friday and what he meant for the team and the city.

-SB Nation’s Zito Madu on the electrifying start to Ja Morant’s career and why you can’t miss a second of him on the court

Week 4 Theme: Morant Mania

He’s the real deal. When the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery just five months ago looked like the Zion Williamson Sweepstakes, it seemed whatever team that got the number-two selection would be accepting a consolation prize and nothing more. Although this was more a result of the immense hype surrounding the Duke phenom, the stock of every other prospect took a hit for simply not being named Zion Williamson.

Enter Ja Morant, a Murray State point guard who would have been contention for the number-one pick in any other year with his athleticism and court vision. Maybe being from a blue-blood program would have made the competition between he and Zion even more fierce, but he was nonetheless deserving of the number-one selection. Fast forward to his first 12 games in the NBA and Ja Morant looks like the clear-cut front-runner for Rookie of the Year.

The game revolves around him in the most beautiful of ways. You can’t take your eyes off of him when he’s driving towards the rim, controlling his pace and his handle to make defenders look silly. He hit the game-winner against Charlotte. He went toe-to-toe with Mike Conley. Even when he isn’t making shots, he’s the center of everyone’s attention on the floor. He’s going to be a star that crosses over Memphis adulation--he’ll be a national star.

He isn’t perfect (yet). But franchises all over the league are still waiting to figure out if their touted prospects are actually worth their salt in the league. Memphis doesn’t have to worry about that with Morant. He is absolutely the future of this franchise alongside Jaren Jackson Jr. This week helped prove that. He’s no consolation prize. He’s a diamond. And he’s a Grizzly. What a world.

Week 4 Notes

-Memphis’ defensive performance against San Antonio was one of the most encouraging of the year thus far. They were incredibly active cutting off passing and driving lanes and were well-prepared for everything the Spurs threw at them. Incredibly well-done for most of the game.

-Could there be two more opposite players that play the same position than Brandon Clarke and LaMarcus Aldridge?

-When Jaren Jackson Jr. can play aggressive and with purpose, he looks like a menace on the court. He has taken the increased responsibility on offense in stride and it’s been so fun to watch. 24 points including 4-6 on threes was a sight to see.

-Jaren’s increased three-point shooting has done his game wonders too. While he’s shooting at a lower percentage this year compared to last, he’s been taking more and that alone makes a huge difference for how he’s defended. Because he’s so great at attacking the rim and handling the ball at his size, defenders playing up closer to him will open up more lanes for him to attack. This has been a positive development in a year mired by foul trouble.

Memphis Grizzlies v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images

-Three straight wins for Memphis this week although none were dominating. They could have gone either way and ended up being three straight losses, but that’s how the cookie crumbles. Of course, wins are great. And they show pretty rapid improvement for a team that had some horrendous struggles in the fourth quarter to start the season. I would just urge some caution over being excited about winning 3 games by a combined 7 points.

-Kyle Anderson is so underappreciated. He plays basketball like they put fragile, yet priceless Fabergé eggs all over the court. I love him.

-I hope Mike Conley has an amazing rest of the season. Sharing a team with Donovan Mitchell provides a spotlight that he’s always deserved. He had some early-season struggles, but it would be quite a sight to see him in championship contention come May.

-Jonas Valančiūnas has been great this season. He had a good game against Denver (16 pts 6/10 FG, 10 rebs) was averaging 12-and-9 heading into the contest. He’s been great defensively recently and he’s earned the contract he got this summer thus far.

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

-Nuggets vs Grizzlies was a perfect matchup between a team that is full steam ahead towards a title run and a team that’s picked in the top-5 two consecutive years. Usually, this separation happens a lot later in the game, typically in the second half. Instead, it was the second quarter when the wheels came off the wagon. Denver won the frame 44-17 and never looked back. I don’t think they even realized the Grizzlies were on the floor.

-These games have been expected, but they are becoming more rare. Memphis gets an easy bounce-back game against Golden State on Tuesday to shake off this poor performance.

-I never thought in the last five years I would ever type that last sentence.

Week 5 Schedule and Point Spread Rankings

Golden State Warriors @ Memphis Grizzlies Tues 11/19 7 PM CT

Los Angeles Lakers @ Memphis Grizzlies Sat 11/23 7 PM CT

The Week-side Help is going to rank these games by handicapping them with a point spread. For those unfamiliar, a point spread is how close a team must keep the final scoring margin to win a bet. For example, if you see Grizzlies (-6) it means they are a 6-point favorite, and need to win by 6 or more points to cover the spread. Grizzlies (+6) means they are 6-point underdogs and need to win OR lose by 6 or less.

Point spreads are generally best used to determine who should win going into a game. But good luck trying to guess the right side of them enough times to make a profit. Most sportsbooks and casinos have teams of experts crafting these lines, the Week-side Help just has me. Ranked from least to most favorable for the Grizzlies:

vs. Lakers (-7.5)

The Lakers are quietly the best team in the league. Number-one in net rating, number-one in defensive rating, and LeBron James and Anthony Davis as one of the best duos in league history. Anthony Davis is averaging 25-and-10 and LeBron averaging a career-high 11.1 assists-per-game in his SEVENTEENTH NBA season is truly remarkable. LA might need a third scorer to emerge come playoff time, but they are shining now.

Sacramento Kings v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

The last time these two teams played, Memphis was outclassed and allowed Anthony Davis to go off for 40 points and 20 rebounds. This game should be more competitive as Memphis has gotten better, but the Lakers are still the superior team. One factor that may help the Grizzlies Saturday: the Lakers will be playing the second game of a back-to-back, competing in Oklahoma City the night before.

vs. Warriors (+11.5)

The Warriors are baaaaaaad. FiveThirtyEight has the Grizzlies as an 8.5-point favorite, but I’m willing to bump that up quite a bit. After not having Klay Thompson for the year due to his torn ACL, AND after Steph Curry broke his hand to take him out for the season, D’Angelo Russell sprained his thumb and will miss at least two weeks.

This will be a good chance for Memphis to fatten up after a tough recent schedule, even after winning more than they likely should have. The Grizzlies are 27th in net rating, the Warriors are 30th. Clash of the Titans. The Grizzlies are still quite a bit better and are dealing with far less injury misfortune. While Memphis is still trying to figure out who they are, Golden State is completely lost.

Have a good week, Memphis.

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