Memphis will host the 76ers on Saturday at the FedEx Forum for the first meeting between the two teams this season. While Memphis is full of grind ’em out players, Philly boasts some of the league’s flashiest young talent. Two contrasting styles will collide and the team who can establish their game early on could very well come out ahead.
I have included a position by position breakdown of each team and which roster has the advantage in my humble opinion.
PG – Advantage Philadelphia
Philly: Ben Simmons (14p/9r/7a)
Mem: Mike Conley (16p/3r/6a)
Simmons is a rare breed of point guard. He is a triple double machine, having logged 14 in only 92 games in his young career. However, the interesting aspect of Simmon’s game is that the 2017-’18 Rookie of the year can do all this without shooting from literally anywhere outside the paint. This season, Simmons has only shot outside of 10 feet fifteen times, with no attempts from beyond the arc.
While he has no range, Simmons creates for others on his team with his 6’ 10” fram and excellent handles. He is 7th in the league in assists currently. On the other side of the ball, Simmons is no slouch either. Though Simmons was a top 10 defensive player in the league last year (102.1 DRTG), Conley is actually playing better defense this season, allowing almost a point less per game than Simmons. This will be an interesting matchup to keep an eye on, but I think that unless Mike catches a shooting stroke, the advantage at PG leans to the 76ers.
SG – Advantage Memphis
Philly: Markelle Fultz (9p/4r/3a)
Mem: Garrett Temple (12p/3r/1a)
Do you fully realize how well Garrett Temple is playing this year? He is literally averaging over twice his career points per game. He has started every game so far in a Grizzlies uniform, often paired up against the opposition’s best player. The Barn is all in on Temple. That is why I have to give Memphis an edge at the 2-slot. Fultz is fifth on the team in usage and likely will have Conley guarding him a fair amount as the larger Temple shifts to cover the (big) Ben. Like his backcourt counterpart, Fultz also has shown an inability to shoot from the outside, only attempting a three point shot in five of his twelve appearances this season.
SF – Advantage Philadelphia
Philly: Robert Covington (11p/5r)
Mem: Kyle Anderson (5p/5r)
Both of these guys are role players for their respective teams. Anderson is last on the Grizzlies in usage rate at only 13.1%, while Covington ranks tenth on his squad with a slightly higher percentage of 14.3%. They are a pretty even matchup defensively and I wouldn’t be surprised if we come out of this game with both guys scoring 10 or less between them. I give the advantage to Philly here because the Covington tends to fill up the stat sheet a little bit more than Mr. Anderson and can get some buckets if there is a stalemate at the other positions.
PF – Advantage Memphis
Philly: Dario Saric (10p/6r)
Mem: Jaren Jackson Jr. (12p/4r)
Saric is a solid player, but if Jaren Jackson can stay on the court – he is averaging 5.8 fould per 36 minutes – then he is the better player. Saric is having the worst year of his career shooting from three, so he might struggle to pull Jackson out of the paint, where his long arms have helped him earn a team high (16) in blocks.
C – Advantage Philadelphia
Philly: Joel Embiid (27p/12r)
Mem: Marc Gasol (14p/8p/4r)
The 34 year old Grizzlies big man has had an excellent defensive year so far, with a defensive rating of 100 flat. He has gone heads up against Nikola Jokic, Deandre Ayton, and Rudy Gobert and held his own against all of them. He is Memphis’ BPM and PER leader – among those above 100 minutes played – and has anchored this Memphis defense that is 6th in the NBA. He is also shooting 44% from three on 3.4 attempts per game, helping to spread the floor on offense. This will help provide his team the opportunity to get into the paint without the ginormous Joel Embiid denying them the easy buckets.
For the 76ers, this will be a good test for their budding star (yeah right man, he’s already a star!) center Joel Embiid. This season, Embiid has played the most minutes on the Philly roster, something that two seasons ago we would not have thought possible. He owns the highest usage rate on the team at 32% and is a dominant force in all areas of the court. Gasol might be able to slow him down, but if Embiid is able to open up by hitting some outside jump shots (of which he is shooting 36%), then Memphis could be in for some trouble. The balance of this game will lie in who asserts their dominance early on between these two big men. It should be an excellent matchup of two contrasting styles and generations.
JJ Redick (17p/3a) is the key man off the bench for the 76ers. Thought he doesn’t take the court to start the game, he is second on the team in points and third in minutes played. To answer your next question, yes. He is hoisting up a team high 8.5 threes per game and hitting 3 of them per contest. On the defensive side, not so much, as he is arguable the worst defender on the roster. But, hey – he’s also the oldest, so give the man a break.
Memphis has had some good run out of their bench players this season, getting career numbers from backup PG Shelvin Mack (11p/3a). Dillon Brooks (7p) has also broken out of his shell recently, averaging 13 points over his last three games.
Memphis averages 4 more points off the bench than Philadelphia and is 7th in the league with 42.6 points from reserves.
With JJ Redick coming off the bench for Brett Brown, Philadelphia has the second most three pointers made per game among subs with almost 6 per game on 16.3 attempts.
The Grizzlies bench is hitting 4.4 three pointer per game on 10.4 attempts. This is actually a much higher efficiency that the starting unit is shooting from range, largely a byproduct of Mike Conley’s poor shooting start. Mike is a career 38% shooter from three on 3.5 attempts per game – he has averaged over 6 attempts the past two seasons, much higher than his first 9 season – but this year is only shooting 28% on 5.7 attempts. His effective FG% is also a career low of 41%. This has been his Achilles heel (pardon the pun) so far this season.
This game will feature two of the worst bench rebounding teams in the league. The 76ers rank 28th and Memphis falls in at dead last, both with twelve and change per game.
Philadelphia’s pace of play is 6th in the NBA. They average 110 points per game and are 8th in defense.
Memphis is slowest team in the league and has 6th best defense but only score 102.2 points per game.
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Feature Image [Mitchell Leff/Getty Images]