I had to get eyes on Ja before the season started, so I made it a point to attend the Grizzlies second pre-season game of 2019. It came as an added bonus that potential lottery pick RJ Hampton faced up for the Breakers across from the new Grizzly point guard.
However, one of these guards is not like the other.
Here are some quick takeaways from my first in-person look at the revamped Grizzlies.
Holy Moley, Ja Morant
In just 20 minutes of play, Morant chalked up 4 points, 10 assists, and 5 rebounds. Let me tell you, Grizzlies fans — his passing is something to marvel at. Not only does he have great court vision, but he legit can pass the ball in ways that few can.
I was discussing Ja with fellow Backdoor Cut Show host Rich, and he pointed out that Memphis hasn’t seen this level of passing acumen in a point guard since the Jason Williams days.
In addition to sky hoop alley-oop lobs, Morant dazzled with his ability to consistently penetrate and find the open man in the corner for a good look for three (Marko Guduric thanks him).
Morant can pass with both hands, which might sound elementary, but his knack for whipping one handed rockets across the court to open shooters will be a key factor in the success of Taylor Jenkins’ offense.
Happy Birthday, Grayson Allen
Here is a guy that is trying his best to earn a roster spot on this young team. While Dillon Brooks drew the start at the two slot, Grayson Allen was really the guy for the Grizzlies who stepped up during the team’s slumping sections of the second half.
He brought intensity to a game with only a few thousand fans in attendance. There was a sequence in the back portion of the 3rd quarter where he stuffed RJ Hampton at the rim, two hand dunked it on the other end of the floor, then sized up a guy and drained a three in his face.
Allen kept the momentum going into the 4th quarter when he nailed another three on his way to earning 18 points, tied in a team high with Jaren Jackson Jr. This pair also had three blocks a piece.
What role will Solomon Hill play?
As is frequently the case, I was at the game with the Barn Chief and we curiously wondered what role Hill is going to play with this team. Hill netted 6 points and 5 rebounds in 21 minutes of run, but never really seemed to impact the game on either side of the ball.
Ivan Rabb and the Plumlee brother did not play. You can surmise if you wish that those two will be the ones axed during the roster crunch.
I’ve been a fan of Crowder for a few years now, with his ability to play multiple positions both on offense and defense. The veteran Crowder has over 500 NBA games under his belt and it appears that this Grizzlies team might lean on him due to that experience.
On the night, Crowder showed good judgment on offense and scored 15 points on a very efficient 5 for 7 shooting, including 3 of 4 from deep.
On many possessions, Crowder was the first pass across half court, especially when he got minutes with the second unit and when Ja wasn’t on the floor.
It will be fun to see him in a uniform this season as he pads his stats and increases his trade value for himself and ultimately the Grizzlies.
Zak (@BarnBurnerBro) is a native Memphian who covers the Memphis Grizzlies, Tigers, and St. Louis Cardinals for The Barn. He spends his free time exploring breweries, restaurants, and leading the Ivan Rabb stan club.