I kind of love watching Memphis play. Read on for me to explain myself.
Are they good in general?: I think they're sneaky-good. Consider: they've never really been all healthy at the same time in the past two years. Last year, they made that playoff run despite not having Rudy Gay in the lineup. This year, they're right in the middle of the Western Conference despite not having Zach Randolph in the lineup. They're a bit up and down, but given the circumstances, you can understand that.
Are they good against the Wizards? The two teams split their games last year, with Washington winning at home early in the year and Memphis winning fairly easily later in the year.
Are they fast or slow? Their half-court offense is pretty deliberate, but because they force so many turnovers (more on this in a second), they're ninth in the league in pace.
Are they especially good at anything? For the second year in a row, the Grizzlies are the league's best team at forcing turnovers. Last season, opponents turned it over an average of 15.7 times per 100 possessions. This year, they're forcing a full turnover more/100 possessions. The reason is fairly simple. Memphis has some of the best perimeter defenders in the league, both on the wing (Tony Allen) and at point guard (Mike Conley), and they have a big man in Marc Gasol that roams so effectively that the guards can apply extra pressure.
Are they especially bad at anything? They lack a lot of three-point shooting, with only Gay (37 percent), O.J. Mayo (35 percent) and Conley (33 percent) as guys to really worry about. The lack of spacing can hurt their post players too. Last year, they were creative at masking this weakness, but with Randolph out of the lineup for most of this year, it's been more of a grind.
Are there any people involved with the organization that Mike really likes? Conley and Gasol are both massively underappreciated. Gasol made his first all-star team this year, but he's one of those guys you have to watch all the time to appreciate the subtle things he does. Conley, meanwhile, is a heady floor general who can hit from deep, get the ball to the right people, get to the rim if there's a lane and pressure the ball. Nothing he does is spectacular, but he's always solid. I also love Tony Allen for basketball and non-basketball reasons.
Are there any people involved with the organization that Mike really doesn't like? I've soured a bit on Mayo this year. Once, I thought he could grow into a solid shooting guard in this league, but he still is the same player he was two years ago. He takes a lot of bad shots and struggles to get to the basket.
Are there any players poised for a breakout? This isn't a group with a lot of up-and-coming young players, so this is a tricky question to answer.
Are there any players the Wizards especially need to worry about? Randolph returned to the lineup on Friday against Toronto, and while he looked a bit out of shape, he still managed to produce 25 points on 14 shots. He's going to be a load for Trevor Booker.
Beyond players, the key to this game is ball possession. Memphis gets so much of its offense from its defense. This is not a game to be sloppy with passes or ball-handling. If the Wizards can deal with Memphis' pressure, they can win. Thing is, not many teams can.
Is their mascot cool? It's a grizzly bear.
Any other random quirks: This game will be going on at the same time as Harrison Barnes and Bradley Beal are playing. If you would rather watch those games, I'd understand.
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