Wolves at Grizzlies
After serving his suspension for his appearance in a Wrestlemania event, Karl-Anthony Towns rejoins his teammates against the young, pesky Memphis Grizzlies.
Let’s put the emphasis on “young,” there, as well. Memphis has six players on their roster over the age of 24. Two of those players are either not in the rotation or not even active — Andre Igoudala and Yuta Watanabe. Another is Kyle “Slo-mo” Anderson, who is still only 26. The point is, Memphis is giving nearly all of their minutes to incredibly young players, going all-in on their youth movement as the Grit-and-Grind era has come to a close.
With youth like this, comes the inevitability of being a bad team and racking up losses. While this is true, and will likely remain true for another year or two, Memphis is building a really nice young core.
Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson, Jr. are the headliners of their youth movement, and deservedly so, but the fact that they were able to come away with both Morant and Brandon Clarke on draft night was outstanding. Morant has the potential to be an all-star level point guard in the future, we know that.
Clarke, on the other hand, figures to be a positive contributor in the very near future, even though he’s less heralded than Morant. A front court of Clarke and JJJ moving forward should be menacing for opponents because of their size and fluidity. That’s a pairing that should work well for years to come.
In the here and now, though, Minnesota should be able to have their way against the Grizzlies. While Jackson, Jr. has the potential to be an All-Defense type player eventually, he suffers from the same bad habits KAT did as recently as last season, fouling at an alarming rate. Thus far, JJJ is averaging 6.6 fouls per-36 minutes, so, yeah, Minnesota should be able to get him in foul trouble.
While JJJ may see some of Towns tonight, Jonas Valancuinas figures to spend the most time on KAT while they’re on the floor together. In the past, this would’ve been a difficult matchup as KAT was forced to operate primarily from the post. Now, though, this should be a matchup Towns dominates from the perimeter. I’d expect KAT to launch a heavy volume of threes while JV is guarding him.
That matchup could get tricky on the other end of the floor, if Valancuinas tries to bully KAT in the post. This is typically a situation that can either frustrate Towns or cause him to get into early foul trouble. That would obviously be a problem for Minnesota.
Another area that could cause an issue for the Wolves is their defense of Ja Morant coming out of the pick-and-roll. He isn’t a great pull-up shooter yet, but if he gets it going a little bit from that range, that makes things tough for the Wolves.
The thing I’m honestly most interested to see is the play of Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins played one of his best games as a pro in the Wolves’ recent loss to Milwaukee, and his shooting overall has picked up as of late. Is this another blip in an otherwise disappointing career? Or is this shooting, and thus scoring, here to stay?
Keep an eye out for Jarrett Culver tonight as well. With Shabazz Napier out, he might (will) see some time running the point. He looked most comfortable at this spot during the preseason, so it’ll be interesting to see if that’s a trend that can continue into the regular season. Culver has really struggled out of the gate, so a good night for him would be a welcome sight.
Last, but certainly not least, I’m looking forward to seeing Tyus Jones play basketball again. He was a joy for us to watch in Minneapolis during his tenure here, and I have no doubt the same will be true tonight. He should be a great player to pair with Morant during the early stage of his career and to show Ja the ropes of what it takes to play point guard in the NBA.
This is the type of game that, in the past, Minnesota comes out flat, trailing early and fighting to try to get back in the game. If this team is to prove once again that they are different, they’ll start strong and take control of the game against an inferior opponent. That’s what we should want to see tonight.
For the Grizzlies perspective, head over to our friends at Grizzly Bear Blues.
Jaren Jackson, Jr.
Our friends over at Grizzly Bear Blues have the Memphis story.