When you play with fire, eventually you’re going to get burned. The Memphis Grizzlies, as they continue a process where every game can contain a lesson (if they allow for it to), learned that last night in their loss to the Charlotte Hornets.
For two teams on similar playing fields in terms of competitive aspirations - although with Gordon Hayward on their team, you can argue the Hornets are trying a little harder to be “contenders” (at least playoff contenders) - experience matters. That’s why the fun play-in/playoff run last season for the Grizzlies was so valuable. It allows for the scar tissue of failure, and the wisdom gained from it, to be earned and become part of a team’s DNA. Charlotte got a similar experience last season via the play-in but was not able to follow through and finish the way Memphis did.
Last night, the shoe was on the proverbial other foot.
The Grizzlies were able to storm back late against the Timberwolves. It did not work against the up-until-last-night-struggling Hornets and the red-hot Kelly Oubre Jr. If you’re better than your opposition, show it. If you let them hang around, they will beat you. At home. When maybe they shouldn’t.
Lesson learned? Time will tell.
On to grades.
De’Anthony Melton: 7 points on 3-11 shooting (1-7 from three), 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, +10 in 32 minutes
De’Anthony Melton struggled offensively, especially from beyond the arc. But he’s about to get a B+ for this game’s report card.
Why? Because of what he did to help the team win when he wasn’t making shots.
He was an absolute defensive menace whenever he was on the floor, chasing around the likes of LaMelo Ball and others on the perimeter and attacking passing lanes. His 2 steals and 2 blocks are impressive, but if you saw the game you know his impact went beyond that. He was in passing lanes almost constantly, getting multiple deflections and forcing the Hornets to get out of their offensive rhythm and have to find second or third options on any given set. His energy helped keep the Grizzlies in the game when offensively they should not have been.
Melton is one of the better rebounding guards in the NBA. His length and activity defensively make him valuable to a Memphis defense that continues to struggle. While he is undersized for the current starting lineup, if he remains a starter once Dillon Brooks returns to that role he will be successful as the 2 guard with a bigger wing next to him. Or he can help revitalize the bench if Head Coach Taylor Jenkins sticks with the currently struggling Desmond Bane (more on him momentarily).
Either way, Melton has proven his worth. He’s an elite NBA role player. And Memphis has him for the long haul.
Desmond Bane: 2 points on 1-10 shooting (0-7 from three), 1 rebound, 1 assist, 0 steals, 0 blocks, -3 in 21 minutes
Desmond Bane struggled offensively, especially from beyond the arc. But he’s about to get an F for this game’s report card.
Why? Because of what he didn’t do to help the team win when he wasn’t making shots.
Bane is a noted three point marksman currently suffering through his worst rut of shooting luck of his NBA career. He hasn’t made a shot from range in two games now, and has missed 15 consecutive attempts. That will not continue - we have far too much evidence that Bane is elite from beyond the arc. The touch will return.
However, Bane needs to also take a lesson from the game last night beyond what his team needs to learn. He has to be better about finding ways to impact winning when the ball isn’t going in to the bucket. So much has been made about his improved passing and ball handling, how he’s been more active as a creator and defender. That was not on display against Charlotte. He looked truly out of sorts, and he lost playing time because of it.
He must not allow slow scoring to throw off the rest of his game. He’s in his second season, and was due for a cool down after a red-hot start. But the next step for Bane is making sure he can help the Grizzlies even when his main strength has left him. Last night he failed in that regard. But, given what we know about Bane, he will almost surely take the experience and grow from it.
- Ja Morant may wind up forcing the Grizzlies to pay the Supermax. That gets paid to guys on their rookie deals that make the All-NBA team. After another casual 32 point, 8 rebound, 7 assist night, 11 games in to the season I wouldn’t bet against him. GRADE: A
- Jaren Jackson Jr. needs to play more. 30 minutes on a night where he only commits 2 fouls is not the way. Steven Adams played 28 - that needs to be closer to 22-24. Give Jaren those and he’s out there for 34-36 minutes. Problem solved. 19 points on 13 shots, 3-6 from three, 6 rebounds, and all the defensive versatility you could ask for from a big. Feed the unicorn. GRADE - B+
- John Konchar is great for this team...but... he should NEVER play in front of Ziaire Williams. Konchar is an NBA player. He is valuable to Memphis on his contract as a bench player that is more than capable of filling in for an injured player for a few games at the end of the rotation. With Dillon Brooks’ return last night, and Ziaire being active, the team was essentially “healthy”. And yet Konchar played 18 minutes and was a team-worst -22. No, that’s not all his fault. But Konchar wasn’t the 10th overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. Develop Williams if he’s healthy. If he’s not, don’t say he’s active. GRADE - D
The Memphis Grizzlies take on the Phoenix Suns Friday night at FedExForum.