MLK Day Basketball is Here

While many (myself included) will describe NBA Christmas as the best day for regular season basketball, MLK Day comes in at a close second. Multiple playoff teams play each other, and some always have a bigger picture at stake. For instance, a certain team playing early today should hope to lose to improve draft positioning, whereas the game right after will feature two teams vying for the 8 seed in the playoffs. There is so much to get into, and so little time, so we should probably go in order of TV air times right?

12:30pm = Thunder-Knicks

As stated earlier, the first game, while shaping to be a blowout, does have a lot of implications for the future. Paul George can slightly let off the pedal of his dual MVP/DPotY race since there is not a single talented players stepping on the court wearing a Knicks jersey. Russ can easily get his triple-double average he desperately craves. Most importantly, Enes Kanter will again enjoy the satisfaction of riding the bench and eating to put on size to rival future teammate Zion Williamson. However, much like football, this is a trap game. If the Thunder let off the pedal too much, the Knicks do have the firepower to score themselves back into the game. For the Knicks, while they may WISH they want to win, they should remember that they don’t WANT to win. It would be better for both teams if the Thunder won, which I predict they will do.

5:30pm = Pelicans-Grizzlies

As stated earlier, this is a fight for the 8th seed in the playoffs. While I fully expect Anthony Davis to dominate the aging Marc Gasol, I do not think Jrue will be able to best Mike Conley. With that push between the two stars, this means that the fight will occur with the rest of both team’s lineups. Both teams are defensive juggernauts, but which sideshow duo (Moore-Randle vs. Anderson-Jackson, Jr.) will be able to overpower the other to help secure the win?

Who knows, but it should be interesting to see. Both team’s fates are intertwined to the outcome of this game since the trade deadline is fast approaching. Maybe a loss convinces one team it is time to cut ties with an All-Star? Gimme the Pels though over the Griz in this one (sorry @soft7juice).

8:00pm = Rockets-76ers

This is the PPV (not to be confused with POV) of the night for sure. You cannot miss the culmination of Harden’s INSANE stretch be dethroned by the 76ers. While I do not believe the Rockets with Capela and Paul can topple an Embiid-Butler-Simmons 76ers, I do believe that Harden will shot/score enough to keep them in the picture. I can’t wait to watch all the iso ball that will go on in this game, and I will for sure LOVE the fact that Butler will be guarding Harden for the majority of this game. I might even make popcorn. I got the 76ers in this one.

10:30pm = Warriors-Lakers

For what looked like a marque matchup at the beginning of the season, a LeBron-less Lakers don’t fan my flames as much as it may for some. I will go ahead and get this out of the way now:

– the Warriors are gonna kill the Lakers

– Kuzma will be the best player to don the purple and gold tonight

– Ingram will suck

I can’t wait til LeBron is back because watching the Lakers without him is like watching a train go off the rails. Never forget Laker fans didn’t even want him, and they are now begging for him to return.

Pathetic.

Trouble in…Memphis?

This piece started out as a news/scoops piece on how the locker room altercation between Garrett Temple and Omri Casspi fight is starting to show the cracks in the Grizzly facade. Then, news broke on how Chandler Parsons has apparently been healthy “for well over a week, and is ready to play.” So then this evolved into an ‘Issues on the Bench’ piece. Now, the debacle of the trade of Wayne Seldon, a scrub (sorry Marshon Brooks), and two unprotected 2nd round draft picks for Justin Holiday. While I personally love Justin Holiday and his hyper-athletic gene pool of a family, the issue I found with this was the picks. Those are pretty valuable to a team that is certainly doing a little more than just struggling this year. However, with all three of these news-worthy pieces occurring within a short 4 day window (and this is not including the debacle of the proposed Wiz-Suns-Griz trade that no one knows who is at fault for), it is making me start to ask a couple troubling questions that I never have had to ask about this team before. Chief among them: the hell is going on? To answer my own question so early would be amateur (which yes, I am), but I feel like I must: I have no idea.

Generally speaking, I can get inside the heads of most GMs and coaches, and can lay out a couple pathways that they can follow. Sure, I will of course be leaning into which one I believe is the most correct given the circumstances the organization has put itself in (remember, bad teams are bad because they are inept, not because of bad luck). This whole organization, however, has always been a middle of the road one. They generally don’t screw over players. They are fairly loyal to their fan base (ownership bought out the other parties too make the team more fan-orientated). They also were in the best spot roster wise of all teams in the top 10 of the draft last year, possessing two legit All-Stars.

And yet they NEED to rebuild, and badly. The only bright sports for their future are possessing 3J (Jaren Jackson, Jr.) and Slo-Mo (Kyle Anderson), and both of the players are playing at the wrong positions currently. They do not have a single first round pick (currently) in this draft. Their two All-Stars (Mike Conley and Marc Gasol) are both over the age of 30 and still account for nearly $55 mil of the team’s cap this year, and will count (if Marc Gasol opts into his contract for next year) for $58 mil. THIS IS ALSO NOT ACCOUNTING FOR THE NEARLY $50 MIL CHANDLER PARSONS IS OWED BETWEEN THIS YEAR AND NEXT YEAR, AND HE ISN’T EVEN PLAYING.

As the saying goes, “Yikes.”

It is really tough to picture a way where the Grizzlies can come out on top. If they wished to get the rebuild started now, then they should trade off Conley, Gasol, Parsons, and anyone over the age of 26-28 (looking at you Garrett Temple, Omri Casspi, Joakim Noah, Justin Holiday, and JaMychal Green). They should trade experience for youth, bad money, and draft picks. Hell, they should look to get in on the Anthony Davis sweepstakes (or any other trade that may/could require a third party) to get draft picks and young players. I do not know a single Grizzly fan that, looking ahead, would turn this trade down, or any other variety of trades that could occur. Looking at you Orlando, heard you need a point guard. Or maybe the Suns, since they need a center that can play competent/passable defense. Hell, I’m sure the 76ers wouldn’t mind taking on Parsons since it means they upgrade their poor bench rotation.

As I said in the beginning, bad teams are bad because they let themselves be bad. While I do not think that the Grizzlies are a bad team now with the changes in ownership, I do believe that their future is looking bleaker as the days go on. They have a mountain ahead of them, and it is looking more and more like Everest than…I don’t know, Appalachia? Point is, the Grizzlies have some hard questions they have to ask themselves in the coming months about the direction they need to take their organization. Teams like the Nuggets should show and prove that tanking for a few years to acquire assets is not a bad alternative. Hell, the Nuggets will be better next year since they got Michael Porter, Jr. WITH THE 14th PICK IN THE DRAFT (but more on that later). The Grizzlies are an intriguing team, and can become a good team if they play their cards right. The biggest issue is that they need to decide a course of action and stick to it because the trade deadline is fast approaching, and their fan base’s anxiety is only mounting.

Noah to Memphis

Image result for joakim noah

As reported a few moments ago by Shams, Joakim Noah has agreed to a one year deal with the Memphis Grizzlies.  Noah took the Vet Minimum in order to backup Marc Gasol, who may have or may not have injured his ankle (depends who you ask).  To me, this is a dumb move.  The Knicks were paying Noah millions just to stay away from the team, so why did Memphis take him? The answer is pretty easy, Gasol can’t play 40 minutes a game. 

Marc Gasol is one of the most dominant big men in the NBA, but he’s getting up there in age.  Noah fills the slot of a backup perfectly.  When he was in Chicago, he was the first player since the Jordan era to make All-Defensive first team.  He is one of five NBA players of all time to win a NCAA title, top 5 MVP vote, All-Defensive 1st team, and all NBA.  The other four are Jerry West, Bill Walton, Anthony Davis and Hakeem Olajuwan.  Noah gives Memphis a defensive edge, which is their style of basketball.  Ultimately, this is a good move by Memphis, if it pays off.  We’ll be able to tell soon, but if it doesn’t they should start selling.  

Memphis is currently 12-8 and leading the Southwest division by 1.5 games.  They have been a nice surprise this season, which makes my preseason prediction of them beating the Warriors more relevant. Conley is putting up another stellar season, averaging 20 PPG and 6.6 assists.  Gasol is averaging 18 and 9, which could improve but it seems to be working.  The surprise star of the Grizzlies lies within Jaren Jackson Jr.  The Grizzlies could end up being a 4/5 seed in the playoffs, especially with how bad the West looks right now.  This Noah signing can shake everything up.