Recapping Memphis’ failed comebacks and a look at Trae Young in Week 12’s Week-side Help

Week 12 Results

Memphis Grizzlies 105 (12-26) @ Los Angeles Clippers 113 Recap | Box Score

Washington Wizards 102 @ Memphis Grizzlies 100 (12-27) Recap | Box Score

Week 12 Storylines

Mike Conley said there is no timeline for his return from an Achilles injury, but he is planning on playing this season, via The Commercial Appeal.

Memphis goes 0-2 in a light week, dropping to 7.5 games out of the 8th seed in the Western Conference.

Required Reading: GBB’s Joe Mullinax shopped Marc Gasol (and Tyreke Evans) to gauge their trade value | Grizzly Bear Blues provided a roundtable discussion on where Memphis’ season stands and discuss Tyreke Evans’ future

Week 12 Thoughts

-I liked Wayne Selden getting the start against Washington. It did not work, but nothing else has. What Wayne showed in starting last year was definitely encouraging enough to try this season, but his consistency needs to improve. Small sample size alert, but he was only 1-7 on Friday night. His defensive level over Andrew Harrison is not so high where you’re willing to take those even worse shooting numbers. Given time, I think this experiment can work if Selden can just hit open threes.

-Speaking of Andrew Harrison, boy am I glad he’s improving. Wade Baldwin suffered a shoulder injury soon after being picked up by the Trail Blazers, so we won’t know if releasing him was the right move. But that ship has already sailed. Andrew Harrison’s development is his own, and it looks like he’s becoming capable, especially finishing at the rim. His shots within three feet of the rim (layups and dunks) have gone in increasingly more this season (45.9% to 55.6%) while shooting more in that area as well. Anyone who saw him a year ago would put him and Tony Allen in the same offensive sphere, scared as hell anytime they had an open lane in which to drive. This year, Harrison is doing a great job of creating his own space by the rim.

-Back-to-back losses where the Grizzlies kept the game close and somewhat competitive. That might be the best tank possible if there’s no chance the Grizzlies makes this year’s playoffs. The final margin of victory may be small, but both games were the result of furious comebacks by the Grizzlies. That might also convince Grizzlies brass to hang onto Marc & Mike until their contracts expire in two and three years, respectively. Adding a top-5 talent to this core could make Memphis a really fun team if they come back full strength next year. And when those two inevitably leave, that pick could (theoretically) be ready to take the reins for this franchise.

-I cannot underscore enough how bad it is that this team needs to rally every single game to make it close. Any thought that this team is decent should have died at about the 7th time one sees them rally to lose by 5-or-so points after down 25.

-Save for Marc and Tyreke, this team is full of players that would be excellent as 8th-10th men in a rotation for any other NBA team. It becomes a problem when they’re your starters AND bench.

-The Grizzlies are playing at their fastest pace (possessions per game) in 9 years. They are still last in the league in pace. The times are evolving much faster than this team.

Official Permanent Lottery Watch of the Week

1/7 NBA Lottery Standings via Tankathon.com

The teams 7th and lower are really bunched up, with only 3.5 games separating the #1 Hawks and the #7 Bulls. There’s a lot of season to play out so teams with the lesser talents are reeeeallly gonna bottom out come February and March. So expect the Kings and Suns to come down to Earth once the home stretch of the season draws near.

Meanwhile, Mike Conley, keep resting! Again, from a team perspective, there is zero need to play Mike Conley on a team with no chance to make the playoffs. And this team is not making the playoffs. They need to finish the year with a 29-14 record just to finish .500 on the year, where the current 8th seed New Orleans Pelicans stand. That feels insurmountable given this team’s talent level and coaching deficiency. The Miami Heat a year ago started 11-30 and finished 41-41 after a remarkable turnaround. Memphis has more talent, but J.B. Bickerstaff is not a coach on Erik Spoelstra’s level to replicate such a feat.

So if the Grizzlies were to stay in the top-5, Trae Young from Oklahoma would be an electrifying selection. He’s been drawing Stephen Curry comparisons for his off-the-dribble shots from 25-30 feet and he certainly deserves it. He’s leading the country in points per game (29.4) and assists per game (10.2), with assists being the more impressive stat in my opinion. Being able to score at the college level should be commended, but he’s an NBA talent. Putting his college-level players (no insult considering, well, it’s college basketball) in scoring opportunities is a sign of great playmaking, vision, as well as a cohesive team.

In this match-up against Oklahoma State, Young was as good as can be. He fell a rebound shy of a triple-double and expertly ran OU’s offense. Watching him play is so much fun and he could be a James Harden type of ignition to an offense. He doesn’t have size that executives drool over when drafting point guards, but he’s productive, skilled, and competitive. He’s still 6’2”, so he isn’t Isaiah Thomas anyway.

I’m always skeptical of players who are too good in college because I’ve been burned by Adam Morrison and Jimmer Fredette. But Trae Young can be special, being the first product of the Steph Curry generation.

Week 13 Schedule and Preview

New Orleans Pelicans @ Memphis Grizzlies Wednesday Jan. 10th 8:00 ET/7:00 CT

Memphis Grizzlies @ Denver Nuggets Friday Jan. 12th 9:00 ET/8:00 CT

Another light week! Four games in fourteen days is a hell of a way to get rest for a team. Especially one with a star PG who needs every bit of rest possible. Because every game that passes is another reason not to bring Mike back this year.

The first of the two games this week comes against the New Orleans Pelicans, a team the Grizzlies haven’t faced since each team’s season opener in October. Dillon Brooks scored 19 points that game and got enshrined in the Naismith Hall of Fame overnight. The Pelicans looked listless when Anthony Davis or DeMarcus Cousins weren’t generating the offense, making the defense really easy for Memphis, schematically.

These teams are quite different in January. AD and Boogie have been their usual amazing selves, but Jrue Holiday has played in every game this season and has played well to this point. A far cry from his durability issues in the past. With those three fantastic offensive skill sets in tow, the Pelicans sport a top-10 offensive rating in the league. DeMarcus Cousins is leading the team in three-point attempts while shooting league average (35%) on such shots. Darius Miller and E’twaun Moore are shooting lights out from deep as well, both within thousandths of 45% from deep. The ability to draw double teams on AD and Boogie opens up the entire court for this team, so the Grizzlies are going to have to be disciplined, especially when they try to switch as they love to do. Unfortunately, Tony Allen will likely not be available to play in this game as he recovers from a leg injury.

For the second game of the week, Memphis will take on Denver for the second time this season. They added Paul Millsap over the offseason to pair with young stud Nikola Jokic, but he is currently recovering from a wrist surgery and will be out for at least another month or so. Losing an elite defender has affected their defense for the worse, as Jokic isn’t a rim protector or good defender on his own. Yet, they’re about below-average on the year, 16th in the league in defensive efficiency and 25th in opponent eFG%.

Nikola Jokic gets a lot of Marc Gasol comparisons because of their style of play, but also because they’re two tall white guys who are good passers and people are lazy. Gasol is a much better defender (when motivated, which has been absent this year) than Jokic. Also…actually, that might be it in terms of tangible differences, but I needed to make that point about lazy athlete comparisons because they look alike.

Both of these teams are good offensive squads that will certainly test the Grizzlies’ defense, especially Marc Gasol. He’s going to be guarding Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, or Nikola Jokic the entire time he plays this week. Marc might get a break if Mason Plumlee shares the floor with him, but there’s no rest for the Wendigo.

Have a good week, Memphis.

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