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Memphis Grizzlies vs. Indiana Pacers Preseason Game Preview

This game could have a big effect on the rotation and roster decisions

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Memphis Grizzlies v Indiana Pacers Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

WHO: Memphis Grizzlies at Indiana Pacers

WHEN: 6:00 PM CT

WHERE: Gainbridge Fieldhouse — Indianapolis, Indiana

HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast/NBA League Pass/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis

The Memphis Grizzlies have been humming through the preseason. Aside for a 4-point loss to Atlanta where they rested most of their rotation players, the Grizzlies have beaten the Milwaukee Bucks, Charlotte Hornets, and Detroit Pistons by 75 total points. The defense looks sharp, and the offense was been extraordinary behind the mastery of Ja Morant and the strong starts from Jaren Jackson Jr., Desmond Bane, and De’Anthony Melton.

You know it is just preseason, but this is surely giving off better vibes than a sluggish slate of exhibition games. It could help generate some good momentum into the regular season.

Indiana is entering this contest at 1-1 for the preseason, and they’re in an interesting situation to start the season. After a disastrous season last year, they brought back Rick Carlisle in hopes of returning to the playoffs. They have a pretty solid term in terms of depth, though they are without wings TJ Warren and Caris LeVert for an indefinite period of time due to injuries. They’re also in the running to acquire disgruntled All-Star Ben Simmons, so that’s something to keep in mind.

For this matchup in particular, the only projected regular starters lined up on either end are Desmond Bane, Domantas Sabonis, and Myles Turner. It’s preseason basketball, bay bay! Though the game may not pack the excitement we’ve seen in preseason, this game places massive implications on decisions needed to be made. Taylor Jenkins says Friday’s game against Chicago will be a “dress rehearsal” game, so this might be a chance for the end-of-the-roster players to make one last impression before the regular season starts.

Detroit Pistons v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Filling out the bench

Now that Dillon Brooks has been ruled out for opening night and a week or so beyond, the starting lineup seems set. It’ll likely be Ja Morant, De’Anthony Melton, Desmond Bane, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Steven Adams — as it should be. Those have been their 5 best players in preseason thus far, and they’ve also destroyed their opposition.

Now it’s on to the bench.

Kyle Anderson and Tyus Jones are presumably put in that rotation with sharpie. There will be 3 open spots to choose from between Ziaire Williams, Brandon Clarke, Xavier Tillman, and John Konchar to round out the bench. Theoretically, they could stagger more with the starters for a 9-man rotation. It’s more likely though that Taylor Jenkins rolls with 10.

There will surely be plenty of factors into the rotation — the largest being whether or not they want to run with Kyle Anderson primarily at the 3 or the 4 off the bench. Nonetheless, Clarke, Tillman, Konchar, and Williams should get extended minutes and touches to make a strong case to Jenkins on getting into the rotation.

2021-22 Memphis Grizzlies Media Day Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

The Sam Merrill Spotlight

As the Grizzlies are resting a platoon of rotation players, plenty of players will get some opportunities to show their value. And there are no bigger implications for anyone in this game than for Sam Merrill.

The Grizzlies have 16 guaranteed contracts, not counting two-way players Killian Tillie and Yves Pons. It’s the consensus that it’s almost certainly going to come down to Merrill and Kris Dunn — who’s only played a few minutes in preseason due to a dental procedure.

Now that Merrill is back, he could show that he’s the guy for the 15th final roster spot.

The Grizzlies clearly have legitimate interest in Merrill. They brought him in on a flex assignment with the Memphis Hustle in last season’s G-League bubble. He was the player acquired in the Bucks trade, and he’s stuck through to this point while others became moved or waived.

And he’s shown on-court value as well. Shooting is always welcomed in this NBA, and Merrill has demonstrated 3-point prowess dating back to his days at Utah State. In the Summer League, he also flashed the ability to put the ball on the floor and make plays for himself or others.

Can Merrill perform to a level where what he provides exceeds the certainty of Kris Dunn?

Tonight will be his first substantial amount of playing time in preseason, and it’s arguably his most pivotal game for his standing with the Grizzlies. So keep eyes on Merrill’s performance in this one.

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