My go-to source for everything Grizzlies is Parker Fleming, the site manager for Grizzly Bear Blues, our SB Nation sister site. He asked me a few questions about the Wizards to help preview the game. I thought running those answers here, plus a few answers from him, would also be a good way to do this preview. Seemed more productive than including anything about the Nets game.
Gametime: 6:00 p.m. ET, Sunday, Nov. 6.
Where: FedExForum, Memphis, Tennessee
TV: NBC Sports Washington
Injuries: Jaren Jackson Jr. is out for Memphis.
Parker: This is the start of the first full season of the Beal-Porzingis pairing. How is everything shaking out so far?
Matt: Beal looks pretty good and Porzingis looks pretty good. The team looks pretty good when they’re both out there together. They even look decent as long as one of them is out on the floor. But when they’re both off the court the wheels fall off quickly.
Parker: What’s the consensus vibe with the Wizards - go for the postseason, or go in on Wemby/Scoot
Matt: Depends on who you’re asking. I just ran a Twitter poll yesterday and 75% of voters said to “blow it up.” The organization, however, has literally no intention of that. It’s play-in games or bust for them. And I think it’s far more likely they’re buyers than sellers at the trade deadline this year, assuming the play-in games are still somewhat in reach.
Parker: The Wizards have had 3 top-10 picks in the past 4 drafts. Johnny Davis’ struggles have been discussed ad nauseam, but how are Deni and Rui improving in their games?
Matt: Avdija is genuinely a high-level one-on-one defender in the NBA. He still fouls a little too much but given how few legitimate defensive-minded players the Wizards have, you can live with it. He’s still largely a non-factor offensively, however. It seems like we are guaranteed at least one air-balled layup per week at this point. He’s shown flashes of improvement on that end but just needs to be much more consistent.
Hachimura provides a really nice scoring punch off the bench. I think he would benefit greatly from playing next to a point guard who actually created some easy looks for him because sometimes he breaks from the offense to “get his.” Most of the issues come on the defensive end though. He looks solid for stretches but similar to Avdija, there’s just no consistency. In general, I’d say both are marginally better than last season.
Parker: How has Kyle Kuzma’s game/perception shifted since his move from LA?
Matt: Kuzma has been a real leader off the court which I did not expect. He started off the year pretty strong but with the injury to Delon Wright, it seems like they’ve asked Kuzma to take on more playmaking duties. He’s struggled a good amount lately and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. While it’s certainly nice to have a 6-10 player who can grab and go, it seems to be asking a lot of him to initiate the offense.
Kuzma would be better served next to a dynamic playmaker who can collapse the defense and create a few easy looks per game for him. He also seems to guard better players well but struggles against less-heralded guys. That tells me he’s struggling to stay locked in and this team needs more from him on that end.
Parker: What matchup are you looking forward to seeing tonight?
Matt: As a total and complete masochist, I’m looking forward to seeing if Monte Morris can pose any resistance to Ja Morant whatsoever. The Bradley Beal - Dillon Brooks matchups are usually entertaining. And then selfishly, I was really high on Santi Aldama, Jake LaRavia, Kennedy Chandler, and Vince Williams during their respective predraft processes so I would like to see them perform well.
Matt: What matchup are you most interested in seeing?
Parker: The matchup I'm looking forward to seeing is Desmond Bane and Bradley Beal. Granted, they won't be guarding each other, as Dillon Brooks will shoulder that responsibility - and he's already been thinking about it too.
Dillon Brooks: “I love the 1-on-1 matchup. I’m already thinking about guarding Bradley Beal, how to guard him, and what he brings to the table”— Parker Fleming (@PAKA_FLOCKA) November 5, 2022
However, Bane and Beal have such fun skillsets and are somewhat comparable. Both players are stocky shooting guards that can just shoot the heck out of the basketball, and they’ve both continued to refine their offensive games and add more stuff to their bags each and every year. The matchup between Bane and Beal just allows Grizzlies fans to continue to dream big about what Bane could eventually become.
Matt: How has Santi Aldama looked filling in for the injured Jaren Jackson Jr.?
Parker: Santi Aldama has filled in admirably in the absence of Jaren Jackson Jr. It's hard to replicate Jackson's defensive impact, but Aldama has been a key part of the Grizzlies' successful lineups. They outscore their opponents by 11.7 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, and they have a defensive rating of 105.3 in those minutes (per Cleaning the Glass).
Though there are defensive flaws, particularly in 1v1 coverage, his size and length make him a threat around the rim when contesting shots. Offensively, it's a classic role-player deal where he's a lot better at home than on the road, but his shooting and his ability to attack closeouts have stood out on that side of the floor.