The Memphis Grizzlies enter the NBA’s “second half” (that ironically is more like a 4th quarter) as the third best team in the league in terms of record. That is quite impressive - especially when considering just how young the roster is (2nd youngest in the NBA) and how many players are having career seasons. Ja Morant is an MVP candidate. Desmond Bane is in the Most Improved Player conversation. Jaren Jackson Jr. may be a dark horse in the Defensive Player of the Year race. Combine that with a top-5 coaching job in the NBA being done by Taylor Jenkins and his staff, and surely the sharks that set betting lines in Las Vegas and elsewhere are all about the Grizzlies as an NBA Finals contender...right?
The Memphis Grizzlies are actually 4th in betting odds on DraftKings when it comes to most likely to come out of the Western Conference. That is not as surprising as perhaps it should be - beyond the two teams currently in front of Memphis (Phoenix Suns are +180, the Golden State Warriors are +185), the Utah Jazz are seen as a superior bet to make the NBA Finals (+650). The Jazz handled the Grizzlies last year in the playoffs and when healthy have both the depth and the experience to give Memphis all sorts of issues in a potential playoff showdown.
Being 4th isn’t the issue. Being +1100 is.
+1100? A $10 bet pays $120? It is THAT long of a shot to DraftKings?
I’ll take that bet. Here’s why.
Low risk, high reward
You can place a $1 bet on this Grizzlies-to-the-Finals idea and make $12. Any bit of hard-earned money going in to a supposed long-shot should make you pause. Yet remember - this is a team that is 3rd best in the NBA currently. They have one of the better records in the league against teams with winning records. Memphis has beaten the Warriors, Suns, and Jazz this season. The Grizzlies possess the best overall mark per game in total rebounds, steals, and blocks in the entire NBA.
The +1100 is what matters with this bet. It seems inflated, and not aligned with the reality of what Memphis has been over these past 60 games.
The Dillon Brooks Effect
The Grizzlies have played to this level without arguably their 4th best player for a majority of the season. Dillon Brooks provides a level of defensive intensity and offensive confidence that will benefit this Memphis team more than most teams can improve internally this time of year. The Jazz are close to full strength (Rudy Gay is a role player at this stage of his career, not the same kind of contributor as Dillon Brooks). The Suns just recently lost Chris Paul and had health on their side more than the Grizzlies. The Warriors are missing Draymond Green - an admittedly important player for Golden State. But Green does not possess the same scoring potential off the dribble that Brooks does, and that half court potential could help the Grizzlies in one of their largest areas of weakness.
Memphis will get better once Brooks is reintegrated - assuming the Grizzlies coaching staff can get that done close to seamlessly by the playoffs. That closes the gap even more in terms of the odds, whether DraftKings realizes it or not.
The hot hand of Ja Morant
All the teams listed have superstar-level talent. Stephen Curry, Devin Booker, Donovan Mitchell...they all have the capacity to take over games. But there is no player in the NBA with the combination of upward ascent in terms of superstardom and numbers that back it up like Ja Morant. Ja is thriving at such a level that the Most Improved Player award (which he is a massive -550 favorite for) almost feels beneath him, as if he skipped a level in the star hierarchy and is a top-5 Most Valuable Player candidate instead (ironically also +1100 there). That statement is both inherently absurd and absolutely understandable if you’ve watched Morant play this season. He has legends saying he will be a member of the NBA 100 team and may be the face of the league sooner rather than later.
All the momentum on the planet is on the side of Ja. He’s the unstoppable force. Is there an immovable object out there ready to slow his energy?
It’s possible, of course. Morant is still only 22-years-old, and perhaps he cools off coming out of the break. But the Grizzlies have overachieved almost constantly since Ja arrived. Are you confident betting against him?
You shouldn’t be.
The Memphis Grizzlies are not suffering from disrespect overall. The NBA has taken notice of the special work being done over at 191 Beale Street, the address of FedExForum. But the drastic drop in odds for Memphis to make it out of the Western Conference should catch your eye, if you’re of the mind to place wagers on such things. It’s not as likely as, say, Phoenix or Golden State returning to the NBA Finals. But it isn’t so outlandish as to say those teams have roughly 10 times a better chance to get there than the Grizzlies.
Memphis has 22 games left until the postseason. That’s 22 chances to prove the oddsmakers wrong.
Get your bets in (if you like to gamble) while you can. Before DraftKings, and others, wise up to the Grizzlies.