We’re about two weeks out from NBA All-Star Week, and the Memphis Grizzlies are struggling to keep the energy level that helped them soar to the best record in the Western Conference in the first three months of the season.
Last month saw the ups and the downs that have been Memphis basketball recently: an 11-game winning streak followed immediately by a five-game skid. But the Grizzlies are still in the catbird’s seat in their division, and within a few games of Denver for the best record in the West.
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Shooting Efficiency Responsible for 5-Game Losing Streak
Whether you care about the possibly inflated stats of Jaren Jackson Jr. or not, you should care about his shooting. The big man down under is not converting his touches into shots at a rate that makes a head coach happy. Jackson’s adjusted shooting percentage is 102, which means he’s shooting at 2% above league replacement rate.
The Grizzlies need interior scoring at a high rate of efficiency: they won’t get it from outside the arc, as only seven teams rank below them in 3-point shooting.
Memphis wears down opponents by transitioning and dumping the ball into slashing or post targets in the paint. Second chance points are their specialty: the Grizzlies lead the NBA in offensive rebounds and points off missed shots. Playing Memphis is sort of like how it was going against Dennis Rodman when the squirrely Hall of Famer was in full Worm Mode.
Will the five-game losing streak, which ran from Jan. 20-27 and came all on the road, prompt general manager Zach Kleiman to flip his roster to get an outside shooter or off-the-dribble shot creator? Maybe. But, then again, his team is 33-18, so “if it ain’t broke, why fix it?”
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Grizzlies’ Upcoming Games
The Grizzlies have a road game at Cleveland against the Cavaliers on Thursday, Feb. 2, followed by a Sunday contest back in Tennessee against the Toronto Raptors.
Memphis manhandled the Raptors in December, and they erased a 7-point halftime deficit to beat the Cavs last month. Memphis is a sizeable underdog in Thursday’s game against the Cavs. Here are the odds for that one from DraftKings Sportsbook.
- Point Spread: Cleveland -6
- Moneylines: Memphis +200 | Cleveland -240
- Total: Over/Under 223.5 points
Injury Notes: Center Steven Adams will miss 3-5 weeks with a PCL sprain to his right knee. His injury coincided with the 5-game losing streak. Adams provides a “crash the boards” mentality that few players in the NBA possess. His absence has hurt the Memphis offense and defense… Desmond Bane, Danny Green, and John Konchar were all questionable for Wednesday’s game, and are nursing various injuries. The NBA All-Star break, which will start Feb. 16, will be a welcome respite for a few banged up Grizzlies.
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Grizzlies NBA Odds Trends
- The Grizzlies have covered the spread in seven of their last nine home games.
- However, the Grizzlies have failed to cover the spread on the road in eight of their last 12 games on the road.
- Memphis is 10-11 in its last 21 games against the spread.
- Ja Morant has been increasing his offensive workload, and while his shooting percentage has suffered, the Memphis star is averaging 27.3 PPG in his last 10 games.
- In the last 4 games, Jaren Jackson Jr. has tried his best to fill in for the injured Steven Adams, averaging 2.5 offensive boards.
Ja Morant NBA Most Valuable Player Odds
As we near the mid-season break, it’s time to peek at the NBA Futures Odds bets from FanDuel Sportsbook. The oddsmakers list Ja Morant at +3200 to win the NBA MVP Award. That means a $50 winning bet on the Memphis guard would pay out $1,600. Or go all the way with $100 and net $3,200.
Morant has the sixth-lowest odds at FanDuel. He trails Nikola Jokic (-105), Joel Embiid (+200), Luka Doncic (+550), Jayson Tatum (+1000), and Giannis Antetokounmpo (+1600).
Morant is averaging 27.3 PPG and 8.2 assists, the latter of which ranks fourth in the league. While he may seem like a longshot to win the award, there have been second-half surges in the past.
Morant is not helping himself by hoisting up more than 5 threes per game, a career-high. A recent slump from beyond the arc has his 3-point percentage at a near career-low. If Ja gets back to doing what he does best: dribble penetration and mid-range jumpers, he could push that average closer to 30 PPG. If so, yes he could be an MVP candidate, especially if the Grizzlies end up with the league’s best record.