The Memphis Grizzlies take on the Dallas Mavericks tonight, and it’s one of my favorite matchups for the past 3 seasons as it’s a showcase of the future — defending Luka Doncic. It’s really a treat that we’ll get to experience Ja vs. Luka battles 4 times a year (excluding potential playoff duels!) for the next decade. That doesn’t even factor in Jaren Jackson Jr. and Kristaps Porzingis, who — when healthy — are the league’s two premier unicorns.
So tonight will be a good extension of what lies ahead. For the Grizzlies, it’s how to defend the pairing of Doncic and Kristaps, while capitalizing on a spotty defense. For the Mavericks, it’s containing Ja Morant without a true perimeter stopper, while hoping one of the role players doesn’t snipe the Mavs out of the game.
Before this matchup, I wanted to check in with SB Nation’s Mavs Moneyball Site Manager Kirk Henderson to talk about these two teams.
1) Right now, the Grizzlies fanbase is growing impatient with Jaren Jackson Jr.’s timeline. Could you offer a perspective on how Kristaps is doing after his similar injury and a quicker timeline?
Well, would it surprise you to know I want Dallas to trade Porzingis for whatever they can get? It’s been that bad. He’s a shell of himself defensively and it just has to be related to the meniscus tear recovery. He’s posting career lows in block rate and steal rate while posting a career high in foul rate. Offensively, he looks okay, but there’s something going on with him defensively that’s resulted in the Mavericks and their defense collapsing. He’s not the entire story, but it’s been bad. The Mavericks are tight lipped about things though, so there’s no sure sign that he’s got something wrong with him, but it’s just not great.
2) All 3 of Dallas’ rookies are in the G-League (Josh Green now, Tyler Bey, and Tyrell Terry with our Memphis Hustle). What have you thought of their performance, and could any of them help Dallas right now?
Tyler Bey looks like he could help right this second, but these G-League games...it’s hard to see what translates. The Mavericks could use wing defense and offense and Josh Green seems far away. He’s got energy and size but coach Rick Carlisle doesn’t have patience for rookie mistakes (veteran mistakes... well it seems dependent on the veteran). Tyrell Terry looks really fun but I don’t see where he would fit on the Mavericks at the moment, it’s not like they need offensive help.
3) On a scale of 1-10, how mad are you about passing on TCU’s Desmond Bane?
10. I don’t care what the hopeful Dallas prognosticators think, there’s only a very small chance that Josh Green becomes as useful as Desmond Bane already is. I understand the defensive limitations of a guy with shorter arms. But I also have eyes and can see the ability to just freaking play basketball. The shooting and the passing, it was right there! The Mavericks have the ability to overthink so many things, it’s just incredible how they passed him up. Maybe I’ll change my tune one day. It’s not Green’s fault, after all.
4) Luka and Ja will be the main attraction, but which secondary matchup are you looking at tonight?
Xavier Tillman versus any Dallas big. It’s been no secret that I’ve loved literally all the Memphis Grizzlies draft picks for a couple of years now and though I knew Tillman would never be a Dallas option, people I trust in draft twitter were adamant about his defensive ability despite his size. Granted, it’s not like anyone past Luka Doncic or Porzingis posts up ever, so maybe this is a stupid answer. Maybe Dillon Brooks? My four year old plays basketball just like him by fouling everyone in sight, so maybe him on Hardaway? Heck if I know. Hopefully it will be a fun game.
5) Do you see any similarities building around Ja and building around Luka, stylistically? Do they need the same type of players around them, or are they missing certain archetypes around them?
I think the Grizzlies have the more complete team but that Luka Doncic is a transcendent player. Switch Luka and Ja, for example, and the Grizzlies are flat out horrifying to deal with, and that’s not even considering Jackson Jr.
That said, I think all the Grizzlies need is time, time to grow up really. The Mavericks are missing a fifth starter. And a bench. And talent. The Mavericks are shockingly devoid of blue chip talent past Doncic and Porzingis. That’s not to say I don’t like the team, but it’s second rounders and undrafted guys. The acceleration of their rebuild paired with poor drafting before Luka Doncic results in a team that needs conditions to be just so for them to thrive and they haven’t had those conditions since December of 2019 right after they started 16-6. The West is a ruthless conference and there’s so much outside of a team’s control. If I sound negative about the Mavericks, I am to a point, but they still have Luka Doncic. That counts for a lot.