WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, TN
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/NBA League Pass/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
ATLANTA: Clint Capela (Probable, achilles), Kevin Huerter (Questionable, ankle), Cam Reddish (Questionable, ankle), Rajon Rondo (Doubtful, knee), Kris Dunn (Out, knee), Onyeka Okongwu (Out, foot), Tony Snell (Out, foot)
MEMPHIS: Brandon Clarke (Questionable, groin), Jontay Porter (Doubtful, knee), Jaren Jackson Jr. (Out, knee), Killian Tillie (Out, hamstring), Xavier Tillman Sr. (Out, patellar tendinitis), Justise Winslow (Out, hip)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP:
ATLANTA: Trae Young, Bogdan Bogdanovic, DeAndre Hunter, John Collins, Clint Capela
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, De’Anthony Melton, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Jonas Valanciunas
The Memphis Grizzlies will return to the friendly confines of FedExForum for the first time since March 10th as they face off against the Atlanta Hawks. It will be their first real home game in 282 games, but it will still feel more like the bubble with fans not returning until the regular season begins.
The Grizzlies return to Memphis after a successful 2-0 trip against the Timberwolves in Minneapolis. The Grizzlies made quick work of the Timberwolves in both game, as a late game run is what made the first game interesting. Ja Morant was magnificent for the Grizzlies, while various others played great as well. Was the 2-0 trip in Minneapolis a preview of what is to come for the Grizzlies? Or is it more of a testament to how unready the Timberwolves are for the upcoming season? We’ll find out soon enough. Here’s a few things to look at for tonight’s matchup against the Hawks.
War of the Wings
The Grizzlies starting lineup for opening night is coming closer to being set. Taylor Jenkins admitted yesterday that Kyle Anderson is in the driver's seat to be the starting “4” on opening night. That would leave the “2” guard position as the only position in question prior to the season opener on December 23rd. Fighting for that spot? De’Anthony Melton, Grayson Allen, Desmond Bane and to a lesser extent John Konchar. With the injuries to the Grizzlies big men, minutes have been a plenty for the Grizzlies wings with all playing well in one facet of the game or another. With JJJ out to start the year, and Justise seemingly still a little bit aways from being healthy, it’ll be interesting to see how the wing rotation plays out.
In a meaningless preseason game, it’s easy to give minutes to everyone mentioned above. Things will get trickier for Taylor Jenkins once the regular season starts and he cuts his rotation. With JJJ & Winslow out, Jenkins can even take his wing competition into the regular season. However, things will tighten quickly once those two are healthy. Tonight, and the next game or so will have huge implications on who ultimately earns a spot in the rotation on the wing and who does not.
A Healthy Kyle Anderson
For the greater part of his Grizzlies tenure, Kyle Anderson just hasn’t really fit in. Part of that reason is because of a nagging shoulder injury that has limited him for a majority of his time in a Grizzlies uniform. In a media availability during training camp, Kyle mentioned he never really felt fully healthy until the Orlando bubble. The two games in Minnesota are evidence enough that Kyle is healthy and playing better than he ever has for the Grizzlies. Against the Timberwolves, Kyle averaged 14 points and 7 rebounds while shooting 66% from the field (12-18) and 42% (3-7) from beyond the arc. The two games are admittedly a small sample size, but throw in Kyle’s solid play in the bubble and there are plenty of signs that Kyle may be a bigger factor for the Grizzlies this upcoming season than many expected.
Kyle could barely earn playing time early last season, and was listed as a potential trade candidate for the Grizzlies by GBB and various other sites all off-season. It’s been a pleasant surprise to see Kyle make everyone think twice with the early returns this preseason.
The Grizzlies played great in Minnesota but it will be interesting to see how they fare against an up and coming team like the Hawks. Ja Morant will almost certainly continue his magnificent performances, but how will the others fare? The Hawks certainly aren’t a defensive force to be reckoned with, but it’s a slight notch above whatever Minnesota does on the defensive end.
The beauty of the preseason? It doesn’t really matter a ton. The Grizzlies will probably be happy with whatever outcome doesn’t result in a longer injury report. If all the wings play well? The Grizzlies have a good problem to have. If one or two of them struggle? It may make rotation decisions easier for Taylor Jenkins.