Grizzlies basketball is back! And the Taylor Jenkins-led group didn’t miss a beat in their return on Tuesday night. This game started with Ja Morant striking the first blow. It ended with “12” & company being so smoking hot the fire alarm came on in the arena & the game was called after ending the third quarter.
The team overall came out in all out attack “NxtGen” style scoring 35 points in the opening period! Jenkins has emphasized a goal of attempting a lot more three point shots after finishing at the bottom of the NBA in said category. So the Grizzlies did just that, attempting 29 shots with the burner from deep. It would’ve been at least two more threes made if not for minor miscues such as two of the three point shots being waived off with due to the Grizzlies shiny new rookie Ziaire Williams stepping out of bounds twice in the corners.
Memphis only made nine of those attempts from deep, but it certainly felt like double that amount, considering the barrage of fast attack baskets the Grizzlies unleashed on the “Deer Pack.” It was the best 46.7% shooting percentage from the field you will ever see. Despite edging Milwaukee 16-15 in turnovers, Memphis controlled the game virtually the entire 36 minutes of crunk.
TEAM Overall Grade-B+
Based in the momentum & energy of the game, some may feel this grade is conservative to say the least. However, one has to consider the efficiency of the pace at which they played. The team turned the ball over 16 times, although it was in large part due to chemistry building. Ja Morant & Steven Adams were working out the kinks of their Pick and Roll routine.
Despite turning the ball over a few times when attempting to connect on lobs & roll assists, the two looked like a promising duo. Both players are balls to the wall aggressive & seem to have fun doing so. The Grizzlies won the war on the boards tonight 42-35, although one must consider this was essentially against Milwaukee practice team as The Bucks chose to sit almost the entire starting lineup with the exception of veteran presence Brook Lopez.
Ja Morant- 24 minutes 27 points/ 4 assists/ 6 rebounds/ +12
“12” was in post season form first game of the preseason. He came out heartless as Money Bagg Yo’s mixtape series. In his mere 24 minutes of action, the “Ja Rule” was in full affect, SHOW NO MERCY. He scored 27 points, from all three levels.
In fact, he attempted to slam the ball down Brook Lopez’s throat twice & the ball barely bounced off the rim the first attempt. That second one however should be currently under investigation by Memphis Police Department because that was first degree deliberate of Morant. C’mon now, that mane got a family “12!”
He wasn’t just a scorer either, as Ja was all over the court to the tune of six rebounds grabbed & four dimes in the house of Grind. The only thing keeping him from an A++ is the few missed shots & the fact they didn’t blow Milwaukee out even more when he was on the floor because of a few defensive lapses. He had a few turnovers but they were mainly due to working on the two-man chemistry between he & new teammate Steven Adams so I can’t fault him for that in game one omg the preseason.
Simply put, not only did Ja put on a show, he demanded the attention of the nation every single play & likely forced the NBA to reconsider their routinely biased national tv schedule for this season. So what Jrue Holliday & Kris Middleton weren’t there to protect the perimeter. Ja’s Rule certainly made them wish they didn’t play, I’ll bet on that.
Jaren Jackson Jr 32 minutes/ 7 points/ 3-9 FG/ 7 rebounds/ 2 assists
From the jump, one could immediately notice the mobility & activity “Trip” displayed early on. He only scored 7 points on 3-9 from the field. However his defensive performance was aggressive & excellent. “Trip” was a game changer defensively as he swatted & altered shots all night & he was solid on the boards, where he pulled down 7 rebounds. He was able to play 32 minutes, which meant he avoided foul trouble for the most part. Jaren seemed fluid & healthy doing so, which has been the biggest concern of Jackson critics. And as Parker Fleming pointed out in this game’s quick recap, Jaren displayed his unicorn potential blocking a shot on one end & nailing a three point attempt to finish off the same play. “Trip” tied for the game high plus minus. This was despite his limited scoring production, so defensively he was THE standout of the evening.
Jaren only made one of his three point attempts tonight which was a beautiful bomb off of an assist from Desmond Bane. However, efficiency isn’t often a concern for Jaren offensively, we just wanted to see the aggression, health, fluidity & ability to avoid foul trouble to stay on the court. Hopefully he will learn to get himself open a lot more to take advantage of his immense scoring potential.
GRADE- (solid) B +13
Steven Adams- 21 minutes/ 11 points/ 10 rebounds/ 3 assists
The New Zealand OG had a very productive debut on Beale St. He didn’t waste any time getting the party started right as he went beast mode in his time on the court. Considering how productive he was in the 21 minutes he received gave us an idea of just how impactful he can be in even a limited capacity. It wasn’t the double double that impressed me. It was more so intangibles, such as his ability to set brick wall screens, getting the ball with intentions to facilitate, whereas Jonas Valanciunas would’ve certainly turned his back to the basket & looked to score.
Now those buckets go to the guys Memphis is building around long-term. Adams is also better on defense as he seemed to have better defensive position & placement than Jonas normally did last season. “Steve-O” as affectionately referred to by Morant, was better in rim protection, switches & hedging. If nothing else, he stayed true to his reputation of being the guy who boxes out & does the dirty work for others to “pad stats” whereas others of recent would’ve looked to run up the bag themselves.
I Only stopped short of giving Adams an A+ grade because I didn’t see him display any of that space maker he was seen working on this off-season but it’s no biggie.
De’Anthony Melton - 18 minutes/ 14/ 4 rebounds/ 4 assists/ 3 steals +13
“Mr. Do Sumthin” lived up to the name in every sense tonight. He was scorching hot from deep, going 4-6 from three. He had his print all over the game with three steals, four boards, four assists & a ton of points in the limited time he played. He made some noise in his bid for a starting nod but consistency has alluded him thus far in his career. Hopefully this is truly a turn of the page towards the better.
Desmond Bane 30 minutes/ 10 points/ 3 assists/ +12
Bane came out strong, looking nothing like a player coming off of their rookie season, nearly all that of a future star caliber wing. Essentially carrying over his summer league wave, Bane was a shot creating, playmaking fool in his time so don’t let the limited points fool you, it was less of a struggle, & moreso a result of team basketball & Ja Morant having his takeover badge activated all game. Never the less Bane keeps giving me “Upgraded CJ McCollum” vibes & CJ is an All-Star caliber player that I don’t compare loosely.
Rest Of The Crew
Ziaire Williams showed some nice things in his roughly 18 minutes, such as his smooth shooting stroke & immense shot creation potential. He also showed his ability to put the ball on the ground & make plays on his on in limited capacity if needed. However he clearly needs to work on his footwork, especially along the baselines & corners where he missed out on two different three point plays because he stepped out of bounds both times. He also struggled a few plays on defense & also got pushed around a few times.
Clearly he can use that 5,000 calorie diet, to absorb contact better. That said, he showed that if he stays aggressive at ALL times, Williams will be a stud & every bit worth the tenth pick used to select him in this year’s loaded draft.
Kyle Anderson- 34 minutes 7 points/6 rebounds/3 assists/1 steal/1 block
“Slo Mo” looked solid all around in his game high 34 minutes played, giving the team a sample platter of everything. He was another stud on defense for Memphis if nothing else. He did struggle from deep as we saw hesitation in most of his long range shots that resulted in a hitch in his release & thus a 1-5 finish. Definitely needs to shoot with more of a clear mind as it was clearly all mental.
Tyus Jones struggled in his 27 minutes & honestly Kris Dunn looked better, especially defensively. If Tyus is gonna be in the rotation he’s gotta come prepared to ball out every night & tonight he was from from that. Not an ideal debut for a guy fighting for minutes in his contract season.
Kris Dunn was strong defensively. He didn’t touch the ball offensively so one can’t grade him much on that. Grade C
Taylor Jenkins & staff were excellent in making sure their team came prepared to play & capitalize on a weaker rotation roll out from his mentor Mike Budenholzer. Jenkins was passionate throughout the game & that energy resonated throughout the entire team. Jenkins focused on the bigger picture in his game plan from the energy they all possessed for a preseason debut, to building chemistry within the core rotation players. Sometimes coaches choose to distribute minutes according to position battles in the first preseason game, a more short sighted approach. Instead of spreading the minutes thin & nobody truly getting solid auction time,
He used this time to get Ja & Adams in PnR action as well as their lob action amongst other things such as taking more shots from deep. Job well done Coach.