Grizzlies

Grizzlies Grind Out Successful Week One

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The Memphis Grizzlies had a solid start to the season, defeating the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets before falling to the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday.

The Grizzlies looked like a top tier team during their first two games of the season. Even though those games were closer than many would think they should have been, Memphis looked every part the better team in those games. There was clearly some rust to knock off as well as some growing pains with the young guys, but the Grizz controlled both of those games.

They then proceeded to get absolutely smacked by the Mavericks in their final game of the week. While Grizz fans are certainly tired of the team getting beat by the Mavericks, that game was the definition of a “schedule loss.” The Mavs had two days’ rest heading into their home opener while Memphis was on the second night of a back-to-back and playing their third game in four days.

No reason to panic.

So, given a solid first week with an initial look at this season’s team, what really matters from those games?

The Good

Rookie Roddy

With Ziaire Williams, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Dillon Brooks all out to start the season, Jake LaRavia and David Roddy got a lot of meaningful minutes.

Outside of the Dallas contest (let’s not hold it against him that he was thrown on Luka Doncic), Roddy had some promising moments. He clearly needs to develop, but he already has shown growth from game to game. His shot looks serviceable with a chance to be reliable has he continues to adjust to the NBA game.

And although he did get cooked by Luka in that Dallas game, he also really showed a knack for getting to the rim and using his body for impressive finishes.

Again, there’s a lot of growth ahead for Roddy. But he showed the foundation in the first week, and there’s no doubt he’ll develop quickly.

LaRavia

LaRavia was the real deal in his first three games.

He was able to rebound well (3.0 REB per game), which is something the Grizzlies desperately need from guys when Adams is off the floor.

Jake also defended much better than he had in his Summer League and preseason. While he was far from spectacular on the defensive end, he held his own, which is all that matters at this point. He was able to move his feet well, knew his rotations and made solid vertical contests at the rim without having to foul. Just knowing he won’t be a defensive liability is a great thing for the team, and it rounds out an offensive skillset that will benefit the team.

Speaking of that offensive skillset…the kid can shoot. The way Jake stepped into his first three alleviated any concerns from fans that he was too unwilling to pull the trigger, as he calms drilled the shot without breaking a sweat.

LaRavia shot 54.5% on threes in his first three games on 3.7 attempts per game. That is a real stroke on real attempts, and it provides Memphis with another weapon for its elite point guards to find.

Jake showed a ton of promise in his first three games, and there’s a lot to build on there as the season moves forward.

Santi Clause

If the season was one game long, Santi would’ve finished second in MVP voting behind Ja Morant.

In all seriousness, Aldama played so well in the first game that it was a wonder his rotation spot was ever in question. He was easily the most impactful Grizz player besides Morant, and he impacted every area of the game. He hit three of eight three pointers, grabbed 11 rebounds, had an assist, a steal and a block, and finished with 18 points.

Perhaps most impressively, he frustrated Julius Randle all night with his defensive quickness and length.

Actually, him punking Randle after this throw down was most impressive.

Aldama is no Jaren Jackson Jr. But he is coming into his own in his second season, and he looks like yet another bullseye for Zach Kleiman and the Memphis front office.

The Big Kiwi

Steven Adams hasn’t done anything too spectacular, and he rarely will. But that’s why Grizz fans should appreciate him all the more—he does all the little dirty work and expects none of the glory. The big man is averaging nine rebounds per game through the first week, and he’s still a facilitation machine from the high post.

Just look at all the dirty work Adams does to make way for Morant.

Most importantly, he’s bringing his winning personality to the team.

Adams doesn’t get much recognition, and he won’t ask for it. But the best way to start the season off is by acknowledging him from the start, and Grizz fans should be thankful the big man is in Beale Street Blue.

That Morant Fella

There’s a lot more good things from Memphis out of the first three games. John Konchar looked good, and Tyus Jones’ three-ball looked great. But there was one thing that stood out more than everything else.

Somehow, Morant got even better.

Ja put himself square in the middle of (way-too) early MVP talk in the first week, averaging 34.3 points, 7.0 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 1.0 blocks. The numbers are good, but they don’t tell the whole story.

First off Morant looks more locked in on defense. He is never going to be an exceptional defender, and his size will limit his abilities. But his ability to just play solid defense can round out a very good Memphis defense, and he showed that in the first three games.

Secondly, and most importantly Morant looks like a real three-point threat. So far, he has shot 57.1% from deep on 14 attempts. Once again, the numbers are great, but the eye test completes the story.

Ja has a quicker release, steps into the shot more methodically and confidently, and his ball rotation is now straight rather than at an angle.

Combine Morant’s athleticism and explosiveness with a real jump shot, and he becomes nearly impossible to guard. Not only that, but he will also be able to save his legs more with easier shots rather than purely relying on explosive plays at the rim.

But also…he should keep some of these explosives plays at the rim.

The Bad

Des

Desmond Bane simply hasn’t looked right.

He’s nailed some impressive threes, and he will break out of his funk sooner than later. But he certainly has not hit shots this normal efficiency, and all in all he just looks off. It seems like he’s pressing, but if that’s the case then he will assuredly regress to the mean soon.

The real worry is that he may not be healthy, as he had a scary landing on night one, and he looks similar to the version of Bane that was hobbled during the playoffs.

Hopefully Bane will bounce back to his normal form soon. Until he does, his health is something to keep an eye on moving forward.

Too Much Ja

Yes, there was just an entire section dedicated to how awesome Ja has been.

That being said, the team has relied on him far too much so far. The Grizzlies are at their best when the whole team is rolling and Morant can step back until the big moment comes. So far, that has not been the case.

If Morant hadn’t had the gas on all game, Memphis would likely be 0-3 right now. There were flashes in the Knicks game where the rest of the team was rolling, but that needs to become the rule rather than the exception. It simply is not tenable to rely on Morant so much, and it is not best for his health to have the carry that load every night, either.

This team has shown it is much more than just one player, and it will do so again. But there will definitely need to be improvements in that area from week one.

Overall

A successful week one.

With the back-to-back and third game in four nights being in Dallas, a 2-1 record was always the goal this past week. There were some rough spots that need to be cleaned up, but those were far outshined by the good.

Especially considering Memphis accomplished this with three of their best players in street clothes, Grizz fans should be pleased with the start to the season. There will be bumps in the road early, but it’s shaping up to be another fun ride this season.

CRAVING MORE GRIZZLIES?

Check out last week’s Season Preview by Nathan Qualls (@MemGrizzHomer), Morant, Grizzlies Ready to Run With the Big Dogs. And be sure to check out the Grizz 901 Podcast, where the Grizz Lead guys get on to discuss these Deep Dive players and much, much more!

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