Grizzlies-Cavs Finals Fun to Imagine


If we review the latest odds to win the NBA Finals, somehow the Brooklyn Nets are still the favorites, despite a recent losing skid and dealing James Harden away. 

BetMGM has the Nets at (+400) to take the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Shortly behind them are the Golden State Warriors at (+450) and the Phoenix Suns at (+475). 

In the Eastern Conference, the Milwaukee Bucks are tops at (+650). If we follow the trends of NBA odds, we may expect a Bucks-Warriors Finals matchup if the Nets don’t improve without Harden, the Philadelphia 76ers (+700) zoom to the top, or the sizzling Suns fall to Golden State.

But what about the two teams that have been the biggest regular-season surprises so far? A pair of squads that aren’t anywhere close to the likes of the Nets, Bucks, Warriors or Suns?

Grizzlies vs. Cavaliers NBA Finals: Could It Happen?

Odds Stacked Against the Grizzlies

The Memphis Grizzlies are at (+2500) to win the Finals at BetMGM. They’re even behind the Los Angeles Lakers, who we know aren’t going to make it. 

Los Angeles is at (+2000), which is a real sign of disrespect to Memphis, which has the third-best record in the NBA and Western Conference.

Memphis is at (+1100) to take the West, which is fifth behind the likes of the Utah Jazz (+550) and (somehow) the Lakers at (+800). 

Has anyone noticed that the Grizzlies beat the Lakers the last three times in head-to-head matchups and were a dozen games ahead of them in the standings on the morning of this year’s trade deadline?

Many NBA observers see the Warriors and Suns on a collision course to the Western Conference Finals, and that is understandable. But what if the Grizzlies become this season’s version of the Atlanta Hawks, who made a thrilling run to the Conference Finals last year?

Grizzlies vs. Cavaliers: The Memphis Case

Memphis is just a few games back of Phoenix and Golden State. The Grizzlies recently vaulted 20 games above .500 for the first time since the 2014-15 season.

The Memphis offense has been rolling recently, enjoying an 11-game stretch in which it scored 115-plus points in each outing. 

Of course, the charge has been led by Ja Morant, who has soared to seventh in the league in scoring at 26.8 points per game. He closed January with seven-consecutive 30-plus point games and has netted 30 or more in three games in February, including a season-high 44 last night against the Blazers.

Memphis was third in the league at 113.1 points per game after 56 games. It has been much more than just Morant boosting the Grizzlies to within striking distance of the two elite teams in the West, however.

Ja’s Supporting Cast

Desmond Bane has averaged 17.9 points per game and has shot 41.9 percent from three-point range. Jaren Jackson Jr. has averaged 16.7 points per contest and his work on the boards continues to be impressive, with two double-figure outings in rebounds in three games to open February.

Once Memphis gets Dillon Brooks back from an ankle injury, the Grizzlies could prove to be a real upstart team in the Western Conference playoffs. 

As recently noted by SB Nation, Memphis ranked in the top 10 in offensive and defensive efficiency in early February and led the NBA in fast-break scoring and points in the paint.  

The one significant concern for the Grizzlies is ranking near the bottom of the league in three-pointers made. That could be a major issue against Golden State, which leads the NBA in that category. 

But the Grizzlies have taken two of three matchups with the Warriors so far this season while splitting its first two with the Suns, proving they can hang with the NBA’s elite.

Cavaliers Not Considered True Contenders

Like the Grizzlies, there’s also an up-and-coming team in the Eastern Conference that could be a threat to contend for the NBA title this season.

The Cavaliers are at (+4000) to win the NBA Finals at BetMGM, and they are at (+1800) to win the Eastern Conference. The recent trade for Caris LeVert, though, could give them a better chance than being considered the sixth-most likely team to win the East.

Cleveland has led the NBA in team defense, allowing just 101.9 points per game through the trade deadline. 

After losing Collin Sexton (knee) and Ricky Rubio (knee), the latter of whom tore his ACL and was subsequently traded to Indiana in the LeVert deal, the Cavaliers have now bolstered their offense in an effort to keep pace in the East. 

Grizzlies vs. Cavaliers: The Cleveland Case

The Cavaliers could have a few teams in their way towards a Finals appearance, whereas the Grizzlies just have two.  

We don’t know if Brooklyn will be ready to display their best form in the playoffs, and Milwaukee has dealt with significant injuries throughout the season so far. The Miami Heat have also lost some of their better players for stretches. 

The 76ers have to hope Harden fits in well after the trade. But after the big deal, there are four teams that look like favorites at the top of the East. The Cavs are also looking good, though. 

Jarrett Allen has been a major force in the interior, recording 30 double-doubles in 50 games. Darius Garland has been the axis of Cleveland’s success and is on pace to become just the third player in NBA history to average 19 points and eight assists per game while shooting at least 46% from the floor and 90% from the line in a season. 

Evan Mobley leads all rookies in rebounds and blocks per game while averaging 14.9 points per night. Now the Cavaliers also have LeVert, who averaged 18.7 points per game with Indiana. He gives Cleveland a much-needed wing scorer. 

Kevin Love isn’t done, either. The veteran forward averaged 19 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in a seven-game stretch in late January and early February.

Cleveland had won 16 games against teams .500 or better this season through 55 games and won 18 by double digits. The Cavs are also youthful, as all three of their top scorers are 23 years old or younger.

That lack of experience may end up being their ultimate undoing in the playoffs, however.

Cleveland-Memphis NBA Finals: Will It Happen?

The Cavaliers and Grizzlies have been fun stories so far this season, and it would be a thrill to see them meet in the NBA Finals. However, such a meeting seems more likely to occur in NBA 2K. 

For Memphis to make it, either Golden State or Phoenix would have to be upset in the early rounds, and the Grizz would have to take the other team out themselves.

In the East, Milwaukee and Miami would have to deal with major injuries in the playoffs while Brooklyn possibly regrets dealing Harden. Philadelphia is also now in the mix to take the East, too. 

Realistically, Cleveland has greatly increased its chances of winning a series by acquiring LeVert and are poised to be a contender for years to come. For now, though, they simply have too many outstanding opponents in their way.

While neither team is quite ready for a deep postseason run, it was fun to imagine. 

Still, let’s not rule out seeing this NBA Finals matchup happen in the next few seasons. We are just likely earlier than most to suggest it. 

About The Game Day's Scott Engel

    Recommended for you

    Powered by