The Memphis Grizzlies finished off their exhibition season with a loss to the undefeated Chicago Bulls. Even though they got the ‘L’, they made it out of preseason healthy for the most part, but there was a brief scare when Ja Morant left the court in the third quarter holding his arm.
It appears we may have gotten some clarity on questions heading into the season – Desmond Bane and Kyle Anderson got the starts at the 2 and the 3. All preseason, Coach Taylor Jenkins had been shuffling the lineups with DeAnthony Melton and John Konchar also starting a game with Ja, Jaren, and Adams. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least bit if the starting lineup we saw tonight is the one we see opening night. Also, the fact that Kyle Anderson did not log any minutes at PF makes me lean that way. I think when Dillon returns from injury Kyle will go to the bench, but for now it makes sense, because as I mentioned in the game preview, you need some consistent scoring from the bench and DeAnthony Melton will provide that.
As far as the game itself, it was mainly a back and forth affair, with the Bulls pulling away at the end when the Grizzlies emptied the bench. Chicago is going to be really good this year, and the Grizzlies looked more than prepared to battle with the best of them this season.
Let the grades begin.
Jaren Jackson Jr.: 29 points (10-18 from field, 7-12 3PT), 7 rebounds, 2 assists (Grade: A+)
If Jaren’s play against Chicago is any indication, this upcoming season is going to be fun.
JJJ got nearly half his points (13) over a 6 minute span in the first quarter. During that stretch he showed he has a good amount of tricks in his bag. He knocked down 3 3’s, hit a nice floater in the lane and also went down on the block before hitting a fadeaway bank shot.
The performance showed exactly why Triple J was voted by NBA GM’s as the most likely to break out this year. It’s also comforting to see that another player besides Ja can take over the game and score when the Grizzlies need a bucket. Sure, Dillon has shown the ability to do it, but too often last season we saw Ja put too much on his shoulders and try to take the game over himself.
Jaren has impressed a lot this preseason, but I think this performance was his best one.
Ja Morant: 17 points (5-9 from field, 0-2 3PT), 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 6 turnovers (Grade: B+)
Saw a lot of good from Ja, but also saw a little bit of bad.
Before I get into his performance, I do want to saw I am glad Ja is alright. I was holding my breath when he exited the game in the third quarter with what looked like an arm injury.
For better or worse, ‘Big 12’ was very aggressive on the offensive end. He was able to get the line often, shooting 12 free throws. But, he also turned the ball over six times. I know it’s preseason, but it’s not really something you want to see with the opener on tap Wednesday. The assists total is somewhat misleading as there were times he drove to the lane and kicked it out to an open shooter, but the shots just weren’t falling.
Ja will be fine, and I’m excited to watch him make the leap to ‘NBA Superstar’ tier this season.
Taylor Jenkins (Grade: A-)
I will touch on the performance of some of the other players in a second, but this game was most about decisions made by Coach Jenkins.
I think he did a good job on getting what he wanted out of the starters, while also getting some of the bench guys some good run. 10 guys played at least 13 minutes. I could see the rotation being 9 to 10 guys every night. The bench player received the most minutes was Ziarie Williams with 21. I don’t see him as being the sixth man – most likely a good amount of those minutes will be filtered down to Melton, Clarke, and Tyus.
The one knock I have is putting Ja back in the game after he left with an injury – it seems as though it was something small, but I was surprised to see him back in.
Final Grade: B+
Again, not upset with the loss. It feels like the team is clicking and the addition of Steven Adams has gone off without a hitch.
Adams is an upgrade on the defensive end, as he is able to keep up with guys and not getting the Grizz killed from the perimeter by dropping down.
Bane did struggle from the field going 2-10, while Melton filled up the stat sheet once again with 11-5-4-4. Despite their performances, I still think Bane gets the starting nod.
The rookie Williams may not be as much of a project as we thought. He seems to be progressing quicker than I expected, but there still needs to be some patience with him.
Finally, a little clarity on the end of the roster. Sam Merrill did make an appearance in some garbage time at the end of the game. Jarrett Culver did not and Kris Dunn was once again out while he recovers from a dental procedure. It looks like Merrill will be on the roster, and either Culver or Dunn will not make the cut.
Next Up: Season Opener vs. Cleveland at FedExForum on Wednesday at 7.