Probable Starters: Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Tayshaun Prince, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol
Wednesday night the Pistons opened the season against a team that last year boasted a top 5 defense with a bottom 5 offense. They're doing it again tonight with the Memphis Grizzlies, who drew a bit more attention with their top-tier defense with Marc Gasol taking home Defensive Player of the Year and Tony Allen earning a hefty $20 million extension over the offseason.
The Grizzlies dropped their opener to the Spurs, thanks in large part to a second-quarter collapse where they scored only seven points. They attempted a comeback in the second half, lighting up the scoreboard with 67 points, but it wasn't quite enough.
Rising: Ed Davis. What is it about scrawny North Carolina power forwards who can't get minutes that make me swoon? I guess I'm just a sucker for super-efficient bigs who also rebound and block shots.
Lionel Hollins is gone in Memphis, a good thing for Davis. Despite improving each year in the league, Davis has watched his minutes decrease due to emphasizing his frame over his results, plummeting under Hollins to 15 minutes per game. SB Nation's Grizzly Bear Blues suggests Hollins absurdly held some sort of resentment against Davis for the Rudy Gay trade. The first game of the season was a dud for Davis, but over the preseason he put up 10 points, 8 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks in 22 minutes per game. If he gets consistent minutes this year, that's the type of production he can offer.
Not so much: Zach Randolph. The Grizzlies are built to be defensive stoppers with Randolph as their offensive engine. Randolph has been on the decline for the past two years with steady drops in his scoring and efficiency. As he's tailed off, Conley and Gasol have helped pick up the slack - however, the effectiveness is debatable as last year the Grizzlies were 27th in scoring and 28th in effective field goal percentage. A bounce-back year from Randolph would be much appreciated. Absent that, he could wind up finding his minutes divvied out to the second unit, which has a fair amount of offensive talent.
Don't let him beat you: As Matt mentioned in the opening game recap, the Pistons could be vulnerable defensively when shooters catch fire. Trevor Ariza was that guy in game one, and the newly extended Quincy Pondexter has the potential to hurt the Pistons tonight. Pondexter's style is reminiscent of former Piston Arron Afflalo, a tough defender with enough size to play both wing positions and a dangerous shooter. Just the type of player who could present matchup problems for the Pistons.