After going 1-1 in their opening week, the Grizzlies will travel out west for two games and finish up the week at home against the Suns. The Jazz will be a tough matchup as they are a solid team seeking to assert their dominance in the West, while the last half of the week features matchups against teams who earned the top two picks in this past summer’s draft lottery.
Monday, October 22nd, @ Utah Jazz 8:00 PM CST
On Monday, Memphis Travels to Utah to face the Jazz, who are currently 1-1 with a win against the Kings and one point defeat against the Warriors. From top to bottom, the Jazz appear to have one of the more complete starting lineups in the NBA. From assist guru Ricky Rubio running the point, to a front court of Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors, the Jazz are solid. Sniper Joe Ingles has picked up right where he left off last season, having made 11 of 17 shots from deep this season. Surprisingly, the Jazz are 24th in the league in rebounds per game, while Memphis is last. The Jazz have 6 total players who are averaging double digit scoring so far this season. Don’t forget that Utah also has the rookie of the year runner up Donovan Mitchell. The Grizzlies struggled against Victor Oladipo in the opener, so I anticipate matchup issues once again at the SG position.
With the injury of JaMychal Green, almost everyone who has watched any Grizzlies basketball this season is hoping that Jaren Jackson Jr. will start at the stretch four/awesome energy guy/unicorn position. As the Chief pointed out to Slim and myself, Jaren showed out the other night against the Hawks, but if he gets significant minutes against this Utah roster, we would get a chance to see what he is truly made of. Alex Len is one thing, but going heads up against Rudy Gobert is a different matter.
Memphis does have the advantage at the starting point guard position, with Mike’s ability to score, pass, and defend, he is a more well rounded player than Rubio. Mike Conley will need to have a 20+ point game in order for Memphis to beat this solid Jazz team.
Wednesday October 24th, @ Sacramento Kings 9:00 PM CST
For the second game of this western mini trip, Memphis stops in Sacramento to take on the Kings midweek. The Kings start the week at 1-2 and will face Memphis on Wednesday on the second game of a back to back, facing the Nuggets in Denver on Tuesday.
So far this season, the Kings have rolled out a starting lineup that consists of De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Nemanja Bjelica, and Willie Cauley-Stein. Iman Shumpert and Yogi Ferrell have both drawn starts as well. Though Zach Randolph is on their roster as their highest paid player, one of Memphis’ favorite sons has yet to see the floor this season. Sharpshooter Buddy Hield has come out guns blazing, scoring 17 per game and shooting 55% from the field with multiple three point baskets each game.
Off the bench, SF Justin Jackson is averaging the most minutes at 26 per game, but has little production to show for it. For now, Sacramento has their number two draft pick from this summer, Marvin Bagley III coming off the bench and earning around 23 minutes per contest. All eyes will be glued on him as we all judge what could have been and hopefully witness him and JJJ go heads up.
Starting center Cauley-Stein has had a hot start to the season compared to his usual underachieving. Through 3 games he is putting up 18-7. Sophomore PG De’Aaron Fox leads the team with 20 ppg while also averaging 5 rebounds and 7 assists.
SG Bogdan Bogdanovic will be out from a knee surgery that he had in late September.
Saturday, October 27th vs Phoenix Suns 7:00 CST
On Saturday the Grizzlies will host the number one pick of the 2018 draft, Deandre Ayton, and the interesting Phoenix Suns. So far Ayton has almost averaged a double double in his first few games in the NBA. SG scoring monster Devin Booker is back from injury and is averaging a cool 30 points per game and will likely contend for a scoring title this season. If you notice the pattern, most teams seem to have excellent shooting guards who will have the opportunity to exploit Memphis’ questionable perimeter defense. New additions Ryan Anderson and Trevor Ariza, formerly with the Rockets are also in the starting lineup for the team from Arizona. Ariza is a well rounded player who adds to the roster, but recently the injury riddled Anderson has been more of a one trick pony, adding value from three, but lacking on defense.
Off the bench, TJ Warren is a major scoring threat. He started in all of his appearances with Phoenix over the past two season, but this year has added his value this season coming off the bench. He is listed as a SF, but so far this season has scooted down to the 4 and 5 slots as Phoenix employs smaller, more nimble lineups.
Memphis has a deeper roster than Phoenix, which will play a major factor in this game. Also, Ayton going heads up against Marc should be entertaining for all of us. The literal rookie and the vet. If Memphis can control Ayton and limit Booker, they should have a good chance at bringing home a W in this one. However, if more Suns than just Booker have big games, we could be looking at trouble. These are matchups that Memphis can’t afford to lose if they are striving to make the playoffs and break their drought.
Feature Image: [Getty Images]