- The Memphis Grizzlies are currently in the eighth seed in the Western Conference
- They were +950 to make the playoffs at the start of the year
- Ja Morant and co. have some favorable games before the end of January
The Memphis Grizzlies traded away Marc Gasol at the deadline last season and sent Mike Conley to the Utah Jazz in the summer. Instead of dropping to the bottom of the Western Conference in 2019-20 as many expected, they are in a playoff spot at the halfway point of the season.
The Grizz were a whopping +950 in the NBA playoff odds at the start of the campaign, but that price has shortened drastically to +290.
Powered by the highlight machine Ja Morant, Memphis have been playing some great basketball of late and could be heading for a first post-season appearance since their first-round exit in 2016-17.
Memphis Grizzlies 2019-20 Playoff Odds
Odds taken Jan. 16th
The Grizzlies have won their last six, including wins over the Rockets, Spurs and Clippers. Morant has averaged north of 20 points over his last seven games and 8.5 assists per night over his last nine. They have the sixth-best defensive rating in the league over the course of their winning streak.
Jaren Jackson Jr., enjoying an excellent second season in the NBA, is 23-for-46 from three over his last seven. He has found his role alongside Morant.
Jackson isn’t just a three-point shooter, he can get to his shot in so many different ways; out of pick-and-pops, off-the-dribble, running off screens. As the fourth overall pick in 2018, it’s no surprise to see how high Jackson’s talent level is, but his fit with Morant, his versatility as an offensive player, is what the real bonus is for the Grizz.
There were high hopes for this duo at the start of the season, and they have exceeded all expectations so far.
If they are to keep winning, it will likely depend on their defense. Memphis were in the bottom five in defensive rating in November and the bottom 10 in December. The improvement on that side of the ball is what will determine the sustainability of their recent run.
Experienced Rosters Chasing the Grizz
The race for the eight seed in the Western Conference looks like it will come down to the Grizzlies, Portland and San Antonio. Memphis are two wins ahead of the Spurs, and one ahead of the Blazers, though Portland have lost two more games than Memphis and San Antonio.
The Spurs have won three of their last five, with wins over the Bucks, Celtics and Raptors, but lost to the Grizzlies in that run. Portland recorded a great win over the Rockets on Wednesday night, and have been boosted by Carmelo Anthony’s scoring.
Defense remains a major issue for the Spurs and Blazers, however. Both teams are in the bottom ten in the league in defensive rating on the season and, unlike the Grizz, neither have shown signs of improvement.
Russell Westbrook down 14 to Damian Lillard:
“You can’t guard me” 🥴🥴🥴 pic.twitter.com/YRSDNUWpui
— Sami Jarjour (@JarjourSami) January 16, 2020
San Antonio and Portland have very different roster make-ups to Memphis. They are built around veterans, players with years of NBA experience and with bodies accustomed to the 82-game regular season schedule.
Injuries could yet derail the Grizzlies’ push for a playoff spot – they are 1-5 in games Morant has sat out.
How the three teams are playing at the beginning of February could prove crucial. Portland host the Spurs on February 6th and head to Tennessee to face the Grizzlies on February 12th. If the standings remain tight into the closing stages of the regular season, Memphis’ trip to Portland on April 5th could be massive.
Memphis Look a Good Price
The biggest change for any of these teams will be the return of Jusuf Nurkic for the Blazers. It remains to be seen how Nurkic looks after a long injury lay-off, however, and the Grizzlies’ record gives them an obvious advantage over Portland over the remaining 40 or so games.
Memphis’ roster won’t look much different in April, and they have likely already lost their draft pick. The reliance on young players, and their recent improvement defensively, is where their uncertainty lies. With how Morant, Jackson and Dillon Brooks are playing, the Grizzlies look a good bet to make the playoffs.
Pick: Memphis Grizzlies to make the playoffs (+290)
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