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Pistons vs. Grizzlies preview: As the Pistons rebuild, Memphis should be the model

Memphis is Ja Morant, and also so much else

Memphis Grizzlies v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

The Detroit Pistons should sit down and take notes at what has happened in Memphis in the past three years. A veteran team that had run out of steam and was going nowhere has completely retooled with minimal pain and are stocked up with solid young assets going forward. Ja Morant might get most of the headlines, but there is so much to be excited about in Memphis. The team has 11 players in the first three years of their NBA careers at sit at .500 in the tougher conference.

Game Vitals

When: 8 p.m. EST
Where: FedExForum, Memphis, Tennessee
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit+
Odds: Pistons +4.5


During the 2018-19 season the Grizzlies were led in minutes by Mike Conley (31 years old), Marc Gasol (34), Garrett Temple (32), Jaren Jackson (19), Justin Holiday (29), Kyle Anderson (25), Shelvin Mack (28) and JaMychal Green (28). The team was able to unload Gasol and Conley, reorganize their front office and hire a promising young coach in Taylor Jenkins.

Now the two most senior players in their rotation are Jonas Valanciunas (28) and Kyle Anderson (27). More than that, though, they hit it out of the park in grabbing their point guard of the future in Ja Morant, who leads the team in minutes per game at 21 years old. They also invested in analytics and scouting and apparently empowered the right people because they have hit the past couple of drafts out of the park. Brandon Clarke was snagged later in the first round after Morant and Desmond Bane and Xavier Tillman Sr. seem like two of the biggest steals of this year’s draft. Add that to the potential, health permitting, provided by Jaren Jackson Jr, and the Grizzlies have an incredible core.

In the next couple seasons, Gorgui Dieng’s $17 million cap figure and a combined $40 million could come off after 2022 if the team wants to move on from Anderson, Valanciunas, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones. The team should be primed to compete in the West and have the flexibility to add significant pieces. It’s everything a rebuilding team dreams of.

Regarding today’s game, Memphis does one thing really well and that’s create havoc on defense and force a lot of turnovers. That comes with the territory of relying on a bunch of young, athletic, aggressive players. The Pistons can be prone to turning the ball over a ton, and there can be a snowball effect as they try and force the action when adversity hits. If Memphis can capitalize, it could be a long night. Keep an eye on Josh Jackson — I think as Jackson goes, so goes the Pistons. For its part, Detroit will want to try and capitalize on Memphis’ aggression by trying to move the ball (smartly), and create drive and kick lanes that open up the 3-point line. Saddiq Bey, a very Memphis player, now that I think of it, could be the beneficiary and have another big night.

Projected Starters

Detroit Pistons (8-20)

Delon Wright, Wayne Ellington, Saddiq Bey, Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee

Memphis Grizzlies (12-12)

Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, Grayson Allen, Kyle Anderson, Jonas Valanciunas

Question of the Game

Delon Wright returns to face his former team. What will Delon’s line look like in this revenge game?