The Memphis Grizzlies enter Tuesday’s game against the Denver Nuggets feeling a bit better about themselves than they did before this past weekend. Two blowout losses - one on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day against the New Orleans Pelicans, and another Wednesday night against the Boston Celtics - had Grizzlies fans questioning just how real the seven-game winning streak that was broken by the Pelicans a week ago actually was. Was that the peak of the season? Were the bad times about to roll once again with so much youth on display in Memphis?
Turns out, as with most young teams, it was just a valley in a season that will be full of highs and lows.
The Grizzlies knocked off two opponents they needed to if they hope to be taken seriously in the playoff race in the Western Conference in the Detroit Pistons and the Phoenix Suns. Wins over “inferior” competition are requirements when trying to hold serve with the San Antonio Spurs and New Orleans Pelicans, two teams that have both beaten Memphis soundly already this season and are in prime position to make a run for the eight seed themselves. Victories like those matter for confidence as well, and even beyond the psyche of a squad as inexperienced as the Grizzlies when you hope to make a postseason push you need to rack up W’s whenever possible.
So lofty playoff dreams feel a little more real after the latest run of good play for Memphis. But Tuesday night, against the Denver Nuggets, is an entirely different animal.
Here’s why this Tuesday’s contest in Memphis is a very important game...one that you should buy tickets to, if you haven’t already done so.
To be the man...
No offense to Phoenix and Detroit - Memphis is more similar at this stage to those squads than the Denver Nuggets - but the Grizzlies at this point appear more prepared for runs against the elites of the NBA than the Suns or Pistons. That’s not to say that Memphis should expect the playoffs. On the contrary, for a variety of reasons New Orleans and San Antonio can be seen as squads more likely to take that spot. However, as the Grizzlies continue to grow and develop ahead of schedule if they hope to be taken even more seriously as a postseason contender they must pick up “quality wins”.
Enter the Denver Nuggets.
The Nuggets are the #4 seed currently in the Western Conference, but they’re just about as close to the Lakers and the #1 seed as they are the #5 seeded Dallas Mavericks. Led by Nikola Jokic, Denver is one of the deepest and most consistent teams in the entire NBA. Their core has been together for some time now, and they have grown alongside each other in the Nuggets organization. They’re the best kind of young - experienced at the same time - and have a good mix of talented youth and veteran rotation pieces. No one really wants to see Denver in the playoffs, especially in the first round.
Knocking off the Nuggets would be another feather in the cap of a Grizzlies team no one expected to be playing meaningful basketball this late in the season.
A possible trade partner?
Andre Iguodala - yes, Mr. ESPN/Fox Sports One TV star Andre Iguodala - is still a member of the Memphis Grizzlies, whether he likes it or not. And it is a certainty that he will be traded by the NBA’s trade deadline next week. While the Lakers and L.A. Clippers get the headlines of where Iggy makes sense, as they’re both in California and they’re both NBA title contenders, there are others that would certainly be wise to push to acquire him. Just within the Western Conference, the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks also could be in the mix for Iguodala.
You know who else could be? The Denver Nuggets, who Iggy played for in the 2012-2013 season.
Denver has a ton of youthful skill, but it is very possible they do not have enough “sixteen game” players, like Draymond Green likes to say. Andre Iguodala at this stage of his career is perfect for the situation he finds himself in as he prepares to “leave” Memphis for a true “contender”. He’s a former NBA Finals MVP who can defend at an elite level and create on the wing. Most teams could use that type of player...Denver could REALLY use him.
But what type of deal is Memphis seeking as the deadline approaches? Are they still acquiring assets? If so, a Mason Plumlee and a future Denver 1st for Iggy could be really attractive, especially if Denver anticipates being good for the foreseeable future. Do they want to improve their current young core? Depending on the amount of draft capital Memphis is willing to invest, Gary Harris could possibly be had from the Nuggets considering the current makeup of the Denver roster. It may cost a 1st for the Grizzlies themselves, though...is it worth it?
Beyond Iggy, Jae Crowder could also be a target for the Nuggets if they don’t want to make too seismic of a move on their already very good roster. Crowder’s deal is smaller than Iggy’s, and therefore more easily movable. His services would also not be as costly - yes, he has leadership qualities, but he isn’t as valuable to Denver as Iggy would be in terms of skills provided. Either way, Tuesday night may be a bit of a preview of what soon will be coming to Memphis.
Regardless of eventual target, Denver and Memphis could see themselves connected off the court beyond Tuesday night. Because of that and more, this showdown between the Nuggets and Grizzlies is most certainly a very important game.
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