WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
WHERE: FedEx Forum — Memphis, TN
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Jaren Jackson Jr. (Out, foot surgery recovery), Danny Green (Out, knee surgery recovery), Maybe Other Key Players (Out, it’s preseason)
Orlando: Jonathan Isaac (Out, hamstring), Gary Harris (Out, knee), Markelle Fultz (Out, toe), Jalen Suggs (Out, ankle)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP:
MEMPHIS: Kennedy Chandler, John Konchar, Ziaire Williams, Santi Aldama, Brandon Clarke
ORLANDO: Cole Anthony, R.J. Hampton, Franz Wagner, Paolo Banchero, Wendell Carter Jr.
And we’re off. One preseason game down. After a gritty come-from-behind victory where Kenneth Lofton Jr. looked like the eventual Rookie of the Year and Coach Taylor Jenkins actually used a challenge in a preseason game, the Memphis Grizzlies face another Eastern Conference foe.
The Memphis Grizzlies and the Orlando Magic are on two ends of the NBA spectrum. One is striving for an NBA Championship. The other is in rebuild mode hoping its top pick can emulate the success of Memphis’s young superstar. Orlando turned heads by drafting Paolo Banchero 1st overall. The 6’10 forward from Duke University will hope to make the same impact as fellow no. 1 picks Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber (traded for Penny Hardaway in 1993), and Dwight Howard.
Though the Grizzlies have never landed the top pick, the lottery gods have gifted Memphis the 2nd pick twice during the franchise’s time in the Bluff City. We know who was drafted: He Who Will Not Be Named and Temetrius Jamel Morant. Mr. Morant is coming off his best season earning 2nd Team All-NBA honors. If Paolo Banchero’s first few seasons in the NBA are as prolific as Ja’s, Orlando’s got something cooking with its young talent.
Memphis has lots of young talent too, which is where I’ll start previewing Game 2 of the preseason.
Consistency is key
Unlike Rae Sremmurd, GM Zach Kleiman and the Grizzlies front office clearly have a type: versatile, multi-positional wings with high basketball IQs and a great feel for the game. Jake LaRavia, David Roddy, Vince Williams, and Kenneth Lofton Jr. were not the players many thought the Grizzlies would draft — or sign in the case of Lofton. But they don Beale Street blue and balled out Saturday night.
Every Grizzlies rookie — with the exception of Vince Williams — finished with double-digit points and a positive plus-minus. Jake LaRavia came to life in the 2nd half. David Roddy showed promise on both ends of the floor. Kennedy Chandler looked like the heir-apparent to Tyus Jones. Kenneth Lofton Jr. displayed a plethora of offensive moves. But showing it in Game 1 of the preseason is different than showing consistency throughout and during the season, whether it be with the Grizzlies or the Hustle.
Yes, the preseason competition is the opposite of stiff. But the rookies showing signs of consistency against the Magic will only help them and the Grizzlies moving forward.
Trust in depth
Jaren Jackson Jr.’s injury aside, De’Anthony Melton and Kyle Anderson departing Memphis leaves valuable playing time available for a new group of players. Along with the rookies, several other bench players will compete for these minutes.
Will John Konchar show strides in the preseason leading to a bigger role? Will Ziaire Williams take over games against lesser competition? Will Santi Aldama continue to out-play Brandon Clarke? Will Xavier Tillman solidify his role? Or will some of the rookies make further claims to the open playing time? Who knows?
But these are the questions we’ll continue to get answers to as the preseason progresses.
I’m ready for regular season basketball. But the preseason is vital in answering the many questions we, and the Grizzlies coaches, have. It just feels good to have basketball back.
Prediction: Grizzlies 112, Magic 102