WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH: Bally Sports Southeast/NBA League Pass
No Dillon Brooks? No problem!
This game is, quite literally, without meaning.
The Memphis Grizzlies will be just fine without one of their key starters. For this contest against the reigning, defending Milwaukee Bucks is not actually about winning. It is about getting players in to a rhythm for the season - for finding chemistry, and allowing for experimentation currently occurring on the practice courts of FedExForum to expand to live game reps. Especially in game one, there won’t be extended stays on the floor for stars like Ja Morant anyway. So, if Dillon Brooks is a bit banged up, why risk it?
You don’t. You let Dillon heal up, and look to opportunities elsewhere to help answer key questions facing the roster.
With Brooks missing the contest it’s not quite as easy to address the “who gets the start” question alongside assumed starters Morant/Jaren Jackson Jr./Steven Adams. But there are still other storylines that you can watch for if you tune in, or head down to Beale Street, for this game.
Here are a couple.
Even though Dillon is missing the game, there is still going to be the beginnings of a rotation on display tonight. No, it won’t last long - starters will almost certainly log limited minutes. But who those minutes are spent with beyond the opening few minutes of the game will bear watching. Maybe Ja Morant runs with a small-ball perimeter crew of Desmond Bane and De’Anthony Melton. Perhaps one of Xavier Tillman Sr. and Brandon Clarke is on the outside looking in if Kyle Anderson plays a vast majority of his time at the “power forward” position. Could Melton or Bane force Tyus Jones out of the rotation? Where does Ziaire Williams, the rookie #10 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, fit in all of this?
Yes, Brooks’ absence will cloud that some. But If you’re on the floor at the same time as Morant/Jackson Jr./Adams/even Anderson regardless of starting or reserve role, chances are you’ll be in the mix once the games begin to count.
Getting to know the newbies
Ziaire Williams will get the most eyes, because of the unknown that comes along with what he will bring to Memphis this season. Yet there are of course other new players on this roster. Steven Adams is a known NBA commodity, but his skill set alongside this core group of Grizzlies will be fun to watch develop. Sam Merrill and Kris Dunn are fighting for their NBA lives, and could potentially be competing for one of the final roster spots with the Grizzlies. Santi Aldama comes highly acclaimed by Grizzlies GM Zach Kleiman, and he will have a chance to develop this season without expectation starting with this game.
And then beyond those names, Jarrett Culver perhaps is the most intriguing new face. Culver is a young player that could be in line for a “second Draft” kind of jump with these young Memphis Grizzlies. He has the size, he has potential - but can it be realized? Maybe Culver, for one night only, is the largest beneficiary of Brooks’ absence as he gets extended run to show what he may be able to do with a new franchise.
We start to see the fit for these fresh faces tonight.
The Grizzlies will be generic. There won’t be a ton of surprises. But Memphis does have questions to answer over the next couple of weeks. The journey begins against the Bucks in FedExForum this evening.