The Memphis Grizzlies look to rebound following a tough loss on Wednesday night at FedExForum in Memphis against the San Antonio Spurs. Tonight, the Grizzlies face a familiar foe in the Atlanta Hawks.
A team that the Grizzlies played twice in the preseason, splitting the two matchups, and are in similar situations in terms of age, and position in their respective conferences. I wanted to get a view of tonight’s matchup from the opponents perspective - so, we chatted with Brad Rowland (@BTRowland) of SB Nation’s “Peach Tree Hoops” for our Five Questions heading into this afternoon’s matchup.
1.) The Atlanta Hawks front office have made it known that this season will be a year that holds playoff expectations. When you look across the court tonight, the Grizzlies have the exact opposite of expectations. What is your take being so close to the club on the expectations that the front office put out there this offseason?
“I think the playoff expectations are more than warranted based on what they did in the offseason. If they had simply run the same group back from last year, it would be too aggressive to project the kind of jump required to make the playoffs, but Atlanta turned the most salary cap space in the league into multiple contributors like Danilo Gallinari and Bogdan Bogdanovic.
Those additions, in concert with the return of Clint Capela, is more than enough to set the table for playoffs as the expectation, rather than a pipe dream.”
2.) Trae Young continues to shine as the Hawks Point Guard - starting the 2021 season against the Chicago Bulls dropping 37 points and seven assists on Thursday night. What is one area of his game that you’ve seem mature, or he get better at, and how will that help this Hawks team this season?
Young was one of the best offensive players in the league last season and, while there were signs of that from his rookie year, he made a leap in several areas. He is a tremendously gifted foul drawer, an elite passer and a dynamic long-range shooter.
He still needs to improve his defense, to be sure, but there were encouraging signs in the opener and, given how good he is on offense, he doesn’t have to be fantastic on the other end to be a tremendous force.”
3.) When you look at roster age and position both Memphis and Atlanta are in fantastic positions. For the Hawks though, they were active in free agency bringing in Rajan Rondo, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Danilo Gallinari - more shooting to surround Young around the perimeter. With four preseason games down and one regular season game, how are these guys looking, and how do you see them helping the Hawks get into the Eastern Conference Playoffs?
The preseason was a mixed bag, with all of the new pieces needing time to come together and some visible struggles. Then, Atlanta exploded offensively in the regular season opener, and that answered a lot of questions. For me, the truth is somewhere in the middle, but the investment in that veteran trio should help the Hawks in a number of ways. Gallinari and Bogdanovic provide shooting and complementary scoring and creation.
Rondo gives the Hawks a veteran leader and someone who can run an offense when Trae Young leaves the floor, which was a glaring weakness previously.
4.) Both teams are projected to be a fringe playoff team in their respective conferences. With that being said, where can you see the Hawks finishing in the East, and from an outsiders perspective where do you see the Grizzlies finishing in the West?
I’ve picked the Hawks 7th in the East, but they are in a tier with the Pacers and Wizards for me. I do think they are a playoff team on paper. I technically had the Grizzlies 11th in my published power rankings from before the opener, but the gap between 9 and 12 in the West is basically non-existent, and I’m a little worried about Memphis until they get the full roster back. This is still a very solid team, though.
5.) Final question: What are some matchups that you’re looking forward to tonight, and who takes how a W in the win column tonight?
Obviously the headliner is Morant against Young. I’m not sure I need to tell anyone that. Elsewhere, the Hawks have had trouble dealing with Jonas Valanciunas in the past, and that is something they’ll need to fix in this matchup. Atlanta also made it a clear emphasis to wall off the paint in the two preseason matchups, and defensively, the Hawks allowed a barrage of three-pointers.
I’ll be interested to see how they attack that in the follow-up here. Memphis is probably favored on paper given home-court and the recent results, but this one feels like a toss-up to me. Should be fun.
A big thank you to Brad for taking time to give up a Hawks perspective of tonight’s matchup! Make sure you tune in to Fox Sports Southeast at 4:00 P.M. CT as the Hawks and Grizzlies battle it out at FedExForum in Memphis.