clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

What Lakers fans should expect from the Grizzlies in the first round

Lakers vs. Grizzlies should be incredible theater in the first round of the 2023 NBA playoffs. We asked a Grizz expert to give us a scouting report on what to expect from Memphis.

Memphis Grizzlies v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers are set to take on the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the NBA playoffs in a series that should be equal parts thrilling and physical, with plenty of potential for off-court shenanigans and feuds to boot.

Here at Silver Screen and Roll, we have written plenty about our own theories on this series, with more to come, both before it begins and as it moves along. But we also wanted to get some local insight on Memphis from someone who has watched them more closely than any writer on our staff could hope to.

For that expertise, we turn to Parker Fleming, who is both an SSR editor and, more importantly for today’s purposes, the head of Grizzlies content at Bluff City Media. Parker (@PAKA_FLOCKA) has covered Memphis as a credentialed reporter for years and rooted for the team for years as a fan beforehand, so it’s safe to say few, if any, know this organization as well as he does.

So let’s ask him five questions about what to expect from Grizz Next Gen, and if you want my insight on the other side of the series, check out our Grizzly Bear Blues podcast where I tried to give him some Lakers perspective.

Who should the Lakers be most afraid of on the Grizzlies heading into this series?

Parker: I’d probably say the Memphis Grizzlies’ backcourt. There’s going to be a “pick your poison” approach with the Lakers’ defense. Are they going to put the better perimeter defender on Ja Morant or Desmond Bane? Both players are capable of taking over a game with their offense — Morant with his downhill attacks to the paint, and Bane with an evolving 3-level game with elite 3-point shooting. Surely Austin Reaves will take on the assignment of one of those 2 players. Depending on how they use Jarred Vanderbilt, either guarding Jaren Jackson Jr. or one of the backcourt players, it could shape D’Angelo Russell’s defensive role. As seen through last year’s playoff series, the Grizzlies have identified Russell as a defensive weak link, which could force Darvin Ham’s hand by leaving him with a decision to play or sit their third-best offensive weapon.

What do you think is the Grizzlies’ biggest advantage in this matchup?

Parker: As mentioned above, probably the backcourt. Morant is more explosive and offensively potent than any member of the Lakers’ backcourt. Bane has become just as dangerous as Morant in transition — ranking top-five in transition points per game (6.6). Between those two, as well as a bench backcourt of Tyus Jones and Luke Kennard, that quartet can carry them in this series — given the elite scoring of Morant, the shooting of Bane and Kennard, and the ball security and playmaking of Jones.

Which Lakers advantage most scares you if you’re the Grizzlies? Like if L.A. wins this series, what do you think leads to that?

Parker: Definitely Anthony Davis, but for this specific category Jarred Vanderbilt as well. The Grizzlies don’t have Steven Adams and Brandon Clarke, the team’s two best offensive rebounders. In last year’s playoffs, Clarke was able to out-hustle Vanderbilt to minimize his impact. The Grizzlies have gone from a dominant rebounding team to merely average without those two big men, ranking 12th in rebounds per game since Clarke’s injury on March 3. If the Lakers just absolutely demolish the glass — something Davis is very capable of doing — then it could become spooky for the Grizzlies. They will have to really on Jaren Jackson Jr. and Xavier Tillman a lot in this series already, dealing with Davis as well as the heavy drive attack from the Lakers, but it’s going to take a village to keep Davis and Vanderbilt off the glass.

Is there anything that you think people don’t realize about the Grizzlies nationally that you think could determine this series?

Parker: The team’s halfcourt woes have often been discussed since last year, ranking in the bottom 10 in halfcourt efficiency dating back to the 2021-22 season. Since the trade deadline, the Grizzlies are 11th in halfcourt offensive efficiency — raising their points per 100 possessions from 94.8 to 101.1, per Cleaning the Glass. The acquisition of Kennard has slid under the radar, as he made 54% of his 3’s on 5.7 attempts per game to lead the NBA in 3-point shooting (49.4%) for the second season in a row. Jackson also transformed into an All-NBA level big man on offense, averaging 23.5 points on 64% true shooting since Morant’s suspension in early March. Granted, people need to see it in the postseason and against a formidable defense like the Lakers have, but it’s being ignored in the analysis of this series.

Now I have to put you on the spot: What’s your prediction for how this goes as someone who has watched both of these teams pretty closely?

Parker: I’m probably more worried about the Lakers than most of my Grizzlies circle. The Lakers have become a legitimately good team since the trade deadline, and you can never count out LeBron James in a playoff series. I still just don't think they have enough backcourt firepower to keep up with Morant and Bane. Grizzlies in 6.

This is tremendous insight from Parker, so please don’t be mad at him even if you disagree with his prediction (as I do: Lakers in six). We’ll see what happens when the series tips off on Sunday.

You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen, and Parker over at @PAKA_FLOCKA.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Silver Screen & Roll Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Los Angeles Lakers news from Silver Screen & Roll