The Memphis Grizzlies will close out their 4-game home-stand against the Boston Celtics. The Celtics have posed a tough matchup for the Grizzlies over the past two seasons, with their defensive aggression and the star duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. The first matchup wasn’t pretty at all, and I won’t mention the score either. However, hopefully it’s different this time around with Ja Morant and Justise Winslow in the mix for this one.
For this special 5 Questions, I chat with two of our staff members that are also on Celtics Blog — Jack Noonan and Jesse Cinquini.
1) What do you want to see the Celtics do at the deadline?
Noonan: My dream (and also realistic) scenario is them getting Harrison Barnes. The Celtics need a scoring wing who knows where to be on both sides and could bring a locker room presence to the team as well. They have the huge trade exceptions to use, so they better find someone to bring in. The fan base is ready for Danny Ainge to hit a homerun.
Cinquini: While admittedly unrealistic, I would love to see Jerami Grant in green. Grant has evolved into a two-way star with the Detroit Pistons this season. He’s an above-average three-point shooter, can put the ball on the floor, and is an uber-versatile defender capable of switching onto a cornucopia of players. Simply put, he’d fit like a glove in Boston, but I don’t see the Pistons trading Grant anytime soon.
2) What’s stopping Brad Stevens from fully unleashing Robert Williams?
Noonan: Robert Williams’ health has been something that has been a concern his whole NBA career. He has had leg and hip issues in the past which Stevens has been careful with. He was on a minute restriction which is slowly coming down. Just Wednesday night, he played his season high in minutes. He looks very promising this season.
Cinquini: Daniel Theis has been a fixture at the starting center spot for the Celtics over the past two seasons. I believe Williams should and will start in due time, but while Williams has been fantastic over the past few weeks, Theis has quietly put together another solid season in Boston (9.4 points and 5.2 rebounds per game). Brad Stevens has had a longstanding affection for bigs who can shoot the three-pointer, and Theis, at 34.1% from deep, is much more of a threat from distance.
3) Why did Boston take a step back this season?
Noonan: The easy answer is the injuries and COVID-19 absences this team has dealt with through this season. It has taken a toll on them and the Celtics have still not been able to have many games with all fives starters. Outside of that, it is that Jeff Teague and Tristan Thompson are not Gordon Hayward even at 80%. Hayward brought that third/fourth scorer ability while also bringing the passing to keep the offense fluid. The offense has slowed down a lot and become stagnant this season.
Cinquini: I don’t think there’s one guilty party, in particular, to point the finger at. Boston’s bench is paper-thin, which falls on Danny Ainge’s shoulders. The Celtics, this season, have often lacked the defensive fervor that has defined the Brad Stevens era in Boston — that’s on the coach and the players.
4) What’s your favorite Grizz prospect aside Ja and Jaren?
Noonan: My favorite prospect outside of the main two is Brandon Clarke. I have high hopes for him and was very disappointed the Celtics didn’t take him. Clarke is developing into a great big man either out there by himself or alongside Jaren Jackson Jr. when healthy. Clarke’s style of play is a perfect inside style for Ja as well.
Cinquini: Desmond Bane’s long-range brilliance never ceases to amaze me. Sure, he’s cooled down a bit after an otherwordly start to 2020-21, although 44.4% on 3.9 attempts per game is still a remarkable clip. Additionally, Bane has flashed moments of two-way brilliance as well, and I’m excited to see what kind of player he’ll evolve into three to four years down the line.
5) The matchup you’re looking forward to the most
Noonan: The matchup I’m looking forward to is the Ja Morant vs. (hopefully) Marcus Smart. The last few games Smart has just shaded over and guarded the best scorer on the other team. Even though Kemba Walker will be the main point guard, Stevens will most likely have Smart guard Ja which will be fascinating to watch. Ja has the skill and quickness but can Smart use his gritty (dare I say Tony Allen style) to affect Morant. That’ll be a fun one to watch.
Cinquini: Dillon Brooks versus Jaylen Brown. The last time these two teams faced off, Brown dropped a career-high 42 points on the Grizzlies. You better believe Brooks, a hard-nosed defender with a hugely competitive personality, took Brown’s performance personally. He will do all in his power to prevent the California alum from lighting up the stat sheet once more.
Thanks, Jack and Jesse, for taking the time to chat. Follow them on Twitter (@jnoonan1307 and @CinquiniJesse) for the best Celtics and Grizzlies coverage. Also read Celtics Blog and follow @CelticsBlog on Twitter.