The Memphis Grizzlies won a basketball game by 73 points last night. They did this without Ja Morant, their most important player. The team accomplished this with Santi Aldama (more on him momentarily) leading the team in minutes. With no starter playing more than 21 minutes. Dillon Brooks played 15 minutes total.
Nine Grizzlies players were in double figures. The Grizzlies bench scored 14 more points (93) than the Oklahoma City Thunder did as a team (79). Only one player (ironically the usually sure-handed Desmond Bane) shot below 50% for Memphis. The numbers could go on and on - the domination from tip-off to the final horn in this contest was truly remarkable.
It only counts as one win. The Thunder, quite clearly, are not really trying to be a good basketball team right now. But any time history is made, you tip your cap. And the Memphis Grizzlies made history Thursday night.
Not just one player. The entire team.
On to grades.
Jaren Jackson Jr. - 27 points (9-11, 6-7 from three), 3 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 steals, 1 assist, +42 in 20 minutes
Of course Jaren isn’t going to shoot like this all the time. But in this contest you saw exactly what this young man is capable of. The offensive potential is through the roof. He can shoot threes like Klay Thompson and get to the rim off the dribble like a player half his size. It is why I and others here, there, and everywhere have called him the NBA’s true Unicorn - it’s not just the shooting and the block combination. While that is unique, the next layer is his capacity to create for himself with the ball in his hands both on the perimeter and in the paint. His literal growth, alongside the development in his game, is a sight to behold.
He is 22 years old. He is under contract four years beyond this one. He is an unfinished product...and is still even now capable of performances like this one. Without Ja Morant at his side.
Thanks for the stock, those of you that sold early.
GRADE - A+
Santi Aldama - 18 points (8-16, 0-3 from three), 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, +52 in 28 minutes
The emergence of Santi Aldama over the last few games has been a pleasant surprise. With the various wing injuries the club has been dealing with (last night’s main “culprits” were Kyle Anderson and Ziaire Williams) it has been Aldama that has been rewarded by Grizzlies Head Coach Taylor Jenkins with minutes because of his work in practice and film sessions. He has proves Jenkins correct in his faith in him to this point. Regardless of position (Santi Aldama, Small Forward probably shouldn’t be a long-term thing) Aldama has proven he is more than capable of holding his own within the schemes of the team. Before last night he didn’t ever seem out of place - he played his part, picked his spots, and let the game come to him. Then against the Thunder, he played exceedingly well.
Defensively he knows where his is supposed to be more often than not. His offensive game is more refined than perhaps he was originally given credit for. And his ability to rebound makes the idea of him staying in the rotation even when the team is totally healthy (instead of Ziaire Williams even) not totally crazy - or perhaps more realistically, allows for Memphis to be more aggressive as the trade deadline approaches if they believe Aldama can fill a void left by someone currently in front of him in the rotation.
A larger sample size is needed. But Aldama has impressed - far more than expected to this point.
GRADE - A+
- A rough night for Desmond Bane. Bane is usually the guy of late to get the team going offensively. It is pretty convenient that in this game that he struggles finding his shot everyone else catches fire. Desmond will be fine - perhaps more importantly, he showed growth as a player helping win in other ways (4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 block) when his shot wasn’t falling. GRADE - B
- Tyus Jones remains elite. 9 assists, 1 turnover. His impending free agency is fascinating. Will he be outside of the Memphis price range? Will a title contender now (hello, Brooklyn without Kyrie) be interested in Jones’ ability to facilitate for others while protecting possessions and want to make a deal if he isn’t in the Grizzlies long-term plans? He’s extremely valuable in the here and now to Memphis with Ja on the shelf. GRADE - A+
- Good Jarrett Culver minutes! The Thunder were on the second night of a back to back, without arguably their two best players in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey. The amount that Memphis won by is the shocker, but the Grizzlies winning wasn’t. However, the fact that they won by such an amount allowed for Culver to get some needed run. If he hopes to stick in Memphis - or the NBA in general - he must find ways to show what he did in this game (albeit in garbage time) consistently. Otherwise he will be outside of the league this time next year. GRADE - B+
Next up for the suddenly streaking Memphis Grizzlies is a date with the Mavericks in Dallas on Saturday night at 7:30 PM CT.