Hello everybody and welcome to AC Playoff Takeaways, a series where I'll be writing daily articles with a focus on coaching/player strategy, and will be making predictions about player stats, game outcomes, and coaching adjustments along the way! The easiest way to stay updated when we release an article is by following our Twitter. Thanks and hope you enjoy the journey :)
Chances are, you weren't that excited for the Jazz-Grizzlies matchup last night. And… it’s not because you weren't excited about watching the Jazz play. The Memphis Grizzlies played 3 nationally televised games this entire NBA season, and they don’t have a 20 ppg scorer. The only thing stopping them from being a COMPLETE AFTERTHOUGHT is a crazy highlight dunk from Ja Morant here and there. But, after last night, I don’t think this will be the case for long. If the rest of the basketball world is anything like me, they fell in love with the Grizzlies last night. How hard they play. How together they play. The energy that not only the players in the game have, but their bench as well. It’s all so special, but I think it’s time we give some INDIVIDUAL love to the guys that make this Memphis team go.
If I was tasked with starting an NBA team right now, Ja would be a top 7-10 guy I would draft on my team. The poise and composure with which he plays is extremely rare for his age, and it’ll only continue to improve as he gets older and has more playoff experience under his belt. In addition to his maturity, he’s probably a top 5 athlete in the NBA, pound for pound. Some of this guy’s moves to the hoop are so ridiculous that writing could never do them justice. The hangtime. The finishing with both hands. The explosion to the rim. He puts it all together to be one of the most lethal attackers of the rim in the NBA. What he did towards the end of that game in terms of getting to the hoop and finishing with contact on the left side… there aren’t many players in the league that can do that. Furthermore, he’s got the ball on a string and can create for his teammates, skills that are super rare for athletes like himself. Look at a guy like Russ, and try to remember the last time he carved someone up with his handle… I’ll wait. Ja isn't a great shooter, but if people continue to go under screens on him, he’s comfortable enough hitting that shot to make them pay. He’s got a complete game, and he plays with such a chip on his shoulder, which seems to be a theme for this team.
I’ve been saying for awhile now that JoVal is one of the most underrated players in the NBA. Even though he had a legitimate all-star case, and in my opinion a legitimate case to be included in the finalists for most improved player, he gets absolutely no respect. I think it’s because his game just isn’t visually appealing, like many on this MEM team. He’s got the slowest pump fake I’ve ever seen (Okay, maybe not, but it’s close), and he isn’t going to WOW you with his skills, post-moves, or shooting. He does, however, have great touch around the rim and can really finish at the hoop with both hands. He’s also an absolute beast down in the paint; I wouldn’t want to be throwing elbows with JoVal for a rebound. He’s the anchor of this MEM team, and he certainly deserves to be talked about when we are discussing the best big-men in the league. Of course he isn’t on the level of a Jokic, Embiid, or Kat, but he definitely has a case to be in that second tier.
I got the chills watching Dillon Brooks play the game of basketball yesterday. First of all, it makes absolutely no sense how in-shape that man is. He’s absolutely grinding on the defensive end the whole game - fighting over and through screens, contesting every shot, making multiple efforts - yet he still has the energy to be an explosive offensive player throughout the game. Again, like JoVal, he isn’t going to WOW you in any way with his skill; sure, he’s a decent ball-handler and can hit the pull-up, but he’s nothing we haven’t seen in the NBA. However, like lots of guys on this MEM team, he just gets the job done, and he does it with a crazy amount of energy and zeal for the game. He’s so engaged at all times, and he plays with that chip on his shoulder that makes him so fun to watch; he’s a COMPETITOR! We need to also talk about how he took that game over in the 3rd quarter, though; the takes to the hoop, the unstoppable pull-ups, the crazy energy. Brooks responded time and time again to the Jazz runs with sweet takes to the rim and pull-ups at the free throw line. He looked unstoppable for a stretch there, all while defending his ass off on the other side of the ball. Brooks is a unique player, and it’s about time we start mentioning his name with some of the elite 2-way guards in the NBA.
Slo-Mo might be my favorite NBA player to watch. There’s certainly a skill to slowing down your steps and throwing off the defense when attacking the paint; we see some of the best players/finishers in the NBA do it (Kyrie comes to mind). But, Kyle Anderson takes it to a completely different level. He actively tries, on seemingly every offensive play he makes, to slow down his footwork and momentum in order to throw the defense off. And boy, does it work. His slow euro step is one of the most effective in basketball, and his methodical and ugly shot release throws the defense off as well, even though he’s fairly consistent with it. He also has great length and uses that to his advantage on defense - he had 6 (!) steals yesterday. My favorite moment of Anderson’s game yesterday, though, was definitely when he got into it with Ingles; he’s not usually one to be conflict-seeking, but he didn't remotely look scared by the increased physicality yesterday. I think, to be honest, he and the other Grizzlies take the lead from Dillon Brooks, who just plays with a crazy amount of energy, fight, determination, and anger.
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