WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/NBA League Pass/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Dillon Brooks (Questionable, knee), Jontay Porter (Doubtful, knee), Jaren Jackson Jr. (Out, knee), Justise Winslow (Out, hip), Xavier Tillman Sr. (Out, patella), Killian Tillie (Out, hamstring)
ATLANTA: Clint Capela (Probable), Cam Reddish (Probable), Kris Dunn (Out), Onyeka Okongwu (Out), Rajon Rondo (Out), Tony Snell (Out)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Grayson Allen, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Jonas Valanciunas
ATLANTA: Trae Young, Bogdan Bogdanovic, De’Andre Hunter, John Collins, Clint Capela
Four spots down. One to go.
For the Memphis Grizzlies, the main goal for tonight’s preseason finale should be to make sure that Ja Morant doesn’t get hurt. He’s that impressive - for three games straight, he’s been the best player on the floor every time he’s stepped foot on the court. Courts that featured the likes of Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell, and most recently Trae Young. All three former All-Stars. All three outshined (yes, in meaningless preseason play) by the young superstar Morant. He is ready for opening night, and should see limited action in tonight’s game.
The same can be said for the other three apparent locks to be starters against the Spurs on Wednesday night - Jonas Valanciunas, Kyle Anderson, and Dillon Brooks. Jonas and Dillon were always in that mix, and have done nothing to take away from that. Kyle’s spot was more in question, but he has looked very good on both ends of the floor and appears in line to fill the void left by Jaren Jackson Jr.’s absence.
Four spots down. One to go. And one more game to try to figure out just who will round out the starting lineup when the curtain goes up on the 2020-2021 season.
Who is the top candidate for the role?
The hottest trend in Memphis right now is...De’Anthony Melton
Grayson Allen has logged two starts for Memphis out of three preseason games. The spacing that Allen can provide to the Grizzlies offense is valued by Taylor Jenkins, as it should be - Kyle Anderson, Ja Morant, and Jonas Valanciunas are not elite shooters. Dillon Brooks is an above average volume threat from beyond the arc. Allen, of the options currently realistically available, checks that box while also having logged minutes at the NBA level (unlike Desmond Bane) and showing the ability at times to not fade or limit the progress of the half court offense, even when his shot is off (unlike De’Anthony Melton).
But in three games, Allen has looked lost even more than the rookie Bane. And Grayson has forced things at times on offense, limiting that progress mentioned a moment ago when his shot isn’t falling. Meanwhile, De’Anthony Melton keeps doing what he does best - fitting alongside most players, amplifying what they do best without needing a ton of shot attempts to impact the game. He’s a lot like Kyle Anderson in that way - when the offense is flowing, he’s an elite role player. When it isn’t? He can still help Memphis win.
Can the same be said for Grayson?
Desmond Bane has the largest amount of upside - he can in theory be a combination of the best of both Allen and Melton. But if you believe that Bane isn’t ready (which is a fair concern, given how the preseason has been so condensed) then Melton should be the man. Allen hasn’t been able to find himself as a starter. Allow for him to get that rhythm against reserves, and reap the benefits of the spacing he provides more often.
Melton best combines preseason play, malleable skill set, and experience. He’s proven that this preseason. And it should be his job to lose with Justise Winslow out...at least until the cowards finally decide to start Desmond Bane.
Just kidding, Coach Jenkins.
OTHERS TRENDING UP
- Gorgui Dieng. Who would’ve thunk it? The big that many, including me, felt would easily be the odd man out among the front court players for Memphis possessed the highest +/- of any Grizzlies reserve against Atlanta in Game One. Yes...even better than De’Anthony Melton! Embracing single game +/- as universal truth is a fool’s errand, but still...Dieng provides a veteran presence and steady hand on both ends that seems to be aiding those he plays alongside. His job is to help space the floor, screen and rebound well, and hold down the fort until Jonas Valanciunas or Brandon Clarke re-enters the contest. Perhaps he is more up to the task than we gave him credit for?
The Not Quite Downward Spiral: Xavier Tillman Sr. and Jontay Porter
Xavier Tillman Sr., as opposed to Desmond Bane, appears early on to need more time finding his NBA footing. He has said as much, to his credit - everyone is big, and everyone is fast. He learned that in limited play in game one in Minnesota...and since that game, he hasn’t reappeared due to injury. He’s out again for this contest, and for someone trying to get up to speed against pro competition reps matter. Here’s to hoping that he will recover soon and get back to work getting up to speed.
The same can be said of Jontay Porter, who has yet to log a single minute for Memphis due to a sore knee...which is a bit concerning given his history. Porter also, in theory, could be an option for the Grizzlies as a reserve big given the skills he displayed while at Missouri. Yet Porter’s impact remains theoretical - and with the preseason ending, the time for experimentation and working through mistakes isn’t ending...but it is about to become more limited as the wins and losses begin to count.
Dieng is a solid plan C, but he isn’t the future. Porter and Tillman are. And while the performance staff should be cautious with these players, it does sting that they cannot close out the preseason slate and get live game minutes. In the long run it will probably work out...but there’s no denying it impacts short-term potential for both.
It’s nice to have limited downward trends as the final preseason game approaches. Memphis has played that well. How much is it Minnesota and Atlanta being bad? Time will tell. But for now, the Grizzlies have to feel pretty good about how they have been able to both respond to adversity and build impressive leads these last two games. The games start to matter in less than a week. Keep the momentum trending in the right direction...
Then get Ja Morant out of the game. The road ahead is a long one, and Memphis will need their star to light the way.