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Week-side Help: Week 21 - More like Win-side Help

Memphis shows another week of steady improvement behind Jonas and Joakim

NBA: Utah Jazz at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Week 21 Results

Portland Trail Blazers 111 @ Memphis Grizzlies 120 (26-40) Recap | Box Score

Utah Jazz 104 @ Memphis Grizzlies 114 (27-40) Recap | Box Score

Orlando Magic 97 @ Memphis Grizzlies 105 (28-40) Recap | Box Score

Week 21 Storylines

-Again, another straightforward week. Not much news to report outside of the results. Look at how drama-free this team is when they actually win!

-Required Reading: GBB’s Lauren Harvey on Jaren Jackson Jr., the rock that keeps this topsy-turvy team steady in one aspect: its hope for the future. How Jaren gives Memphis the edge over other rebulding teams with the same eye towards the same future. | GBB’s Jack Noonan on Avery Bradley, a player far removed from his glory days in Boston, that seems to be regaining his career’s footing in Memphis.

Week 21 Thoughts

-Memphis was dead in the water from the jump against Portland...until they weren’t. What was a pitiful start to the game somehow ended up in a 9-point win. “Somehow” is also known as Mike Conley Jr.

-In his first EVER 40-point game, Captain Clutch showed off his namesake. Since the trade deadline, Conley has been good, but nothing spectacular even for his standards. Who can blame him for not giving 110% to a lost season? But he still has it in him. Mike had 19 of Memphis’ 38 points in the 4th quarter to cap off a tremendous comeback. How beautiful it is to watch him torch Portland yet again.

-His full stat line: 40 points, 12-18 FG, 6-7 3P, 10-15 FT, 4 asts, 100% of my heart.

-Delon Wright, after his great performance against the Thunder, followed it up with another tremendous one against the Trail Blazers. He’s better than Mario Chalmers, Shelvin Mack, Beno Udrih, Lance Stephenson, etc. I might even go there and say he’s better than Jerryd Bayless. Let’s get crazy.

-I am seriously enthused about the idea of keeping Delon past this season. He’s a restricted free agent after this year, so Memphis can match any offer he receives, but it’s not like he’s going to receive any Parsons-type offer. Something along the lines of Dante Exum’s new contract (3 years, $33 million) is definitely palatable and honestly worth it for a high-level backup/low-level starting PG. I mean, what else are we going to do with that money?

-Side note: Memphis shouldn’t be signing any big deals until Jaren Jackson Jr. is up for his post-rookie deal extension.

-As much as it hurts me to see Memphis go the complete opposite direction from modern basketball, I actually kind of like Joakim Noah and Jonas Valanciunas starting together like they did Friday against Utah. It was Noah’s first start since 2017 and truth be told, he has absolutely deserved it. He leads the team in Gives A Damn and looks miles better than he did during any point of his Knicks contract.

-Donovan Mitchell would be a lot better and have more of my respect if he didn’t wear a bum number like 45. If you wear 45 you are supposed to strictly be a 3-and-D guy or a rim-running big man. There’s no room in this league for shot-creating ball-handlers that wear such an audacious number.

-This core is a lot of fun. It won’t mean much to the grand scheme of the NBA and competing for championships, but I love them, dammit.

-Raise your hand if, in October, you predicted Noah AND Jonas Valanciunas walking off to a standing ovation from the Memphis crowd in March. Jonas went bonkers against the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Rudy Gobert. 27 points on 12-17 shooting. He was hitting all sorts of shots, easy and tough, and feasting near the rim. Very interesting that Rudy Gobert has a reputation as a rim-defender! Interesting indeed! (JK, I know he’s great, please don’t come after me, Jazz fans that are for some reason reading a Grizzlies weekly recap)

-Jonas Valanciunas was very casually averaging 19 points and 9 rebounds a game as a Grizzly heading into Sunday’s tilt against Orlando.

-Is this the first time that the Grizzlies got better at the trade deadline?

NBA: Utah Jazz at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

-*DISCLAIMER* I did not watch the Orlando game. I am out of the country and unfortunately had to miss it. The remaining thoughts are a re-creation of what most likely occurred in those 48 minutes.

-Wow, how about that game! I can’t believe those plays happened, you know? Ugh, especially that 4th quarter that was crazy. I love basketball.

-You really got to hand it to Player X. He really played his butt off for all 48 minutes. Showed a lot of grit and a lot of heart. A real gym rat that guy is. Not like that bum, Player Y, who I don’t even know how he’s still on a roster.

-I can’t believe Memphis came back from being down 15/gave up a 15 point lead. It just goes to show how resilient/faulty this team really is. But just like every Grizzlies game, you can never count them out/count on them based on the halftime score.

Week 22 Schedule and Preview

Memphis Grizzlies @ Atlanta Hawks Weds. Mar. 13th 7:30 PM ET/6:30 PM CT

Memphis Grizzlies @ Washington Wizards Sat. Mar. 16th 7:00 PM ET/6:00 PM CT

A hugely important week in the race to convey the pick to Boston. Memphis plays a team ahead and behind them in the lottery standings and each game can be critical.

The Atlanta Hawks are quickly becoming one of the most fun teams in the league, even if it isn’t resulting in a ton of wins. Trae Young has completely erased any Jimmer Fredette comparisons that were there pre-draft. By the way, remind me to delete the tweet where I wrote “Trae Fredette” when his Oklahoma team got bounced in the first round of last year’s March Madness.

Trae Young is likely going to finish 2nd behind Luka Doncic for Rookie of the Year. He’s been good enough where Atlanta trading Luka away doesn’t even seem like the worst move anymore. John Collins has become a way more complete player than just the bouncy, athletic big man he was projected to be as a rookie just last year. And Kevin Huerter (#HeATerp) has become so good he’s earned a Dwyane Wade jersey swap. This core is fun. First year head coach Lloyd Pierce looks leaps and bounds better than Bickerstaff and the Hawks’ future looks brighter than the Grizzlies. But in this season, Memphis is a lot more seasoned and frankly playing great ball lately. This is a toss-up.

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Atlanta Hawks Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

It’s very fitting that the one time a year the Grizzlies play the Wizards, the only game even remotely close to my home Maryland, I will be in another country entirely. Go Grizz.

Selfish petty reasons aside, this game is huge for the pick-conveying implications. Memphis and Washington are a lot closer together in the standings than Memphis and Atlanta, so this game will be more important in that regard. But between the lines, these are two teams who are nearly completely different from their initial forms in October thanks to injuries and the trade deadline.

Washington has Bradley Beal, who continues to be incredible running the show on his own without John Wall, but not much else. Their defense is horrific. Already 27th in defensive rating at 113.5, they’ve posted even worse numbers since the trade deadline (115.4). Jabari Parker continues to be good in theory, but not in practice. Memphis’ worst fear here is that the Wizards go bonkers on offense, which they are liable to do.

Have a good week, Memphis.

Follow @sbnGrizzlies