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NBA Notebook: Are the Memphis Grizzlies for real?

Profile Picture: Rory Breasail

Rory Breasail

January 14th, 2022

Is Dame done for the season? Are the Grizzlies legit contenders? We get to all that and more in this week's edition of our NBA Notebook. Let's dive in!

CAM REDDISH TRADED TO THE KNICKS

In the first significant transaction ahead of the 2022 NBA Trade Deadline, Cam Reddish has been traded from the Atlanta Hawks to the New York Knicks along with Solomon Hill and a second-round pick, in exchange for Kevin Knox and a protected first-round pick via Charlotte.

Reddish is a strong wing defender but has struggled to produce consistent offense, and apparently was grousing about a limited role inside the Hawks' ecosystem. But Reddish also made waves for his inspired playoff performance last season, and it’s a bit odd to see the Hawks cut bait so quickly and for seemingly so little.

Reddish was teammates at Duke University with the Knicks’ RJ Barrett and the New Orleans Pelicans’ Zion Williamson. The trade has increased already animated speculation that the Knicks might be positioning themselves for a run at Zion Williamson, who has still yet to play this season.

IS DAMIAN LILLARD DONE FOR THE SEASON?

The hits just keep coming for the Portland Trail Blazers. The team announced earlier this week that Damian Lillard went under the knife to deal with a nagging abdominal issue, and while his timetable is officially listed as somewhere between 6-8 weeks, given the state of the Blazers season, it’s being speculated that he might slow play a possible return and be done for the season.

It would be the right move. At 16-25 and missing Lillard and CJ McCollum, Portland’s slim playoff hopes are now deader than dead. All that remains to be decided is how far they slip (or lean into) the draft lottery standings. 

It might be a blessing in disguise, as the Blazers now have the unusual opportunity to tank with a superstar player already on the roster. If they happen to grab a top 3 pick, they might draft a star big that can help Lillard win now as well as bridge the gap to the team's future after Dame.

ARE THE GRIZZLIES DARK HORSE CONTENDERS?

The talk of the town this week has undoubtedly been the surging Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizz have now won 11 straight after their back-to-back victories over the Golden State Warriors and the Minnesota Timberwolves, and have the league's best net rating, defensive rating, and record (18-4) since Dec. 1.

On top of that, they also have a winning record against many of the other elite teams in both conferences. It’s well past time to ask the question: are the Memphis Grizzlies legit contenders? And if they are, what, if anything, should they do about that?

FiveThirtyEight’s RAPTOR model gives the Grizzlies a 5% chance to win the championship this season, if that seems slight for a contender, consider that the Warriors are a rung below at 4%. By ELO though, the Grizzlies rise all the way to 11%, which is more than high enough to consider them in real contention. The Grizzlies are no doubt ahead of schedule, but that doesn’t mean they should stand pat. Their roster is primed for a consolidation trade, and if they could swing for the fences on a young, star wing, they should do so even if they have to give up significant future assets.

Championship windows are capricious things. They often close before one even realizes they were open (ask the 2012 Thunder). The Grizz are for real, and they should act accordingly. Oh, and they’re +1600 to win the conference and +3500 (!) to win it all.

NBA Championship 2021/2022

Sat, June 18 2022, 11:58 PM

Brooklyn Nets

+260

Golden State Warriors

+450

Milwaukee Bucks

+700

Phoenix Suns

+700

Utah Jazz

+1100

Los Angeles Lakers

+1400

Miami Heat

+1400

Chicago Bulls

+1800

Philadelphia 76ers

+2200

Los Angeles Clippers

+2500

WIZARDS HALFTIME ALTERCATION

Shams Charania reported that Wizards teammates Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Montrezl Harrell had to be separated after a confrontation during halftime against the Oklahoma City Thunder became physical. The origin of the argument was evidently Harrell’s displeasure with KCP for refusing to pass him the ball enough.

It remains to be seen if either player will face disciplinary action, or if this is all being overblown now that it’s in the public eye. This kind of heated exchange is all too common in the NBA, but it’s not generally a good sign when it leaks out of the locker room so quickly.

KOBY ALTMAN EXTENDS IN CLEVELAND

The Cleveland Cavaliers announced that they have extended Koby Altman through 2028. Given the Cavaliers' emergence as a likely playoff team this year and a soon-to-be conference contender, it’s well-deserved.

Altman was the main mind behind moves such as drafting Darius Garland and Evan Mobley, as well as trading for Jarrett Allen - all three of whom seem All-Star bound some time in the future. The Cavaliers are now set up for sustained success for the first time without LeBron James since the early 90s.

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