The Dallas Mavericks will be competing against many daunting Western Conference teams for a playoff spot. How do they match up with the Memphis Grizzlies?
This year the West is just as deep and competitive as always, with many teams looking to make runs at a championship and several others eyeing the last few playoff spots. While teams like Golden State, San Antonio, and the Clippers are almost guaranteed locks, people always seem to count out Memphis, who will be one of the most important opponents the Mavs face all year.
Last year was absolutely disastrous for Memphis. Their franchise centerpiece, Marc Gasol, one of the top centers in the league, missed the back half of the season due to a broken foot. Mike Conley missed significant time, Mario Chalmers ruptured his Achilles, and Zach Randolph missed time here and there for various ailments. Memphis suited up 28 different players last year, which was an NBA record.
Unfortunately for the rest of the league, all Grizzlies are healthy for the start of the season, and their bone and soul crushing defense will be their calling card yet again. New coach David Fizdale is revamping the offense by bringing Z-Bo off the bench and inserting JaMychal Green.
Marc Gasol is shooting threes now and former Maverick Chandler Parsons (RIP) is the best wing option the Grizzlies have had since Rudy Gay. Look for Memphis to play faster than they usually do this season.
At the point guard spot, Deron Williams matches up with Mike Conley. Conley is a speedy, crafty scorer and passer that has somehow never made an All-Star game. He’s had his fair share of injuries the past few years, but so has D-Will.
Williams is thicker and stronger and a fair bit older, but is a good matchup against Conley. He may get blown by a couple times but his size will keep Conley perimeter oriented and away from those off hand floaters he loves.
Wesley Matthews will guard the Grindfather himself, Tony Allen. Both are excellent perimeter defenders capable of taking the best scorer every night, and pride themselves for it. The key difference in this matchup is Matthews’ ability to score consistently.
Allen is a smart cutter and excellent offensive rebounder, but he isn’t what you’d call a good shooter or finisher. His nonexistence offensively could lead to a quick pull by Fizdale, which takes their best defender off the floor and opens it up for Matthews and others.
The small forward matchup will be very intriguing; Harrison Barnes vs Chandler Parsons and his knees. The old vs the new. Parsons will most likely be out to show Cuban he deserves the money he wouldn’t give him, and Barnes will have to respond to that.
They are also very similar players. Barnes may be a slightly better defender and healthier, but Parsons has proven to be a more explosive scorer. If both are healthy this will be the game within the game to keep an eye on.
JaMychal Green will probably match up with Dirk at the beginning, but Fizdale will probably rotate different guys onto him to give him different looks depending on the game. Green is an insanely athletic forward that will most likely wear Dirk out on defense, but will take his lumps on the other end. The physicality of the Grizzlies might wear down on Dirk as well, meaning he may not play as many minutes against Memphis as he would against other teams.
At center, Marc Gasol will match up with Andrew Bogut. Both are strong, athletic, and cerebral defenders capable of anchoring an entire team on that end.
However, Gasol is an offensive force who can shoot at a high percentage and sling amazing passes to cutters and open shooters. He has even flashed some three point range in the preseason, which makes him more deadly.
His ability to shoot means Bogut will have to hedge screens quicker and won’t be able to just sag five feet off in help like he could against non-shooting bigs. Bogut will have to stop Gasol to stop the Grizzlies offense.
Some other important players to consider are:
Since Memphis is a division rival the Mavs will have to win at least half of the games against Memphis, preferably more to get the tiebreaker.
These games will be won in the paint. Whoever wins the rebounding battle and gets the most stops will win the most games. Both teams finished fairly close last year and it’s safe to expect a similar finish this year unless Utah breaks out or someone really underachieves (or the Grizzlies’ whole roster gets injured again).