A lot has been made of the Cavs difficult schedule. And that’s fair, it’s been pretty tough. With some games against some of their fellow basement dwellers, the time to take stock of where some of their players stand individually, as well as collectively, is now upon us. The game on Wednesday with the Charlotte Hornets was inconclusive. The team won, sure, but it was really ugly. We’re starting to see signs of life from Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, and Kevin Porter Jr., though, so that’s nice. Cedi Osman was particularly good for large stretches on Wednesday. The players you want to see do well are inching forward. I’ll take it.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (7-21) vs Memphis Grizzlies (10-18)
When: 7:00 p.m. EST
Where: Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse — Cleveland, Ohio
TV: Fox Sports Ohio, NBA League Pass
Neither team has serious injuries to work through, all due respect to Dylan Windler and Grayson Allen.
The Grit-N-Grind Grizzlies are no more, but they are collecting an interesting array of talent. Mike Conley is in Utah, Marc Gasol in Toronto. In their place, the trio of Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson and Brandon Clarke will attempt to build their own identity, and frankly, they could be pretty darn good in three years. Clarke was an analytics darling that somehow fell to No. 21 overall in the draft after dominating in college and he already looks pretty good as a pro. He’s 23 years old, so it’s fair to question his upside, but he’s already scoring efficiently and rebounding at a high rate. He’s not going to soak up possessions but he can handle them just fine. It’s unclear if the Cavs could have traded back up high enough for him or what that cost may have been, but he’d be nice to have.
Morant projects as a franchise point guard that can score and distribute at a high level. There isn’t much offensively he can’t do and it’s only his age 20 season. Defensively he’s an albatross, but we know that most young guards are. His matchup with fellow rookie point guard Darius Garland will be interesting. Morant is having a much more successful rookie season but they’re situations both within their teams and with what they brought to the table in terms of coming off injuries and college experience have been very different.
One other note: Jae Crowder is getting more minutes per game than any other Grizzly, and he famously struggled after being a lauded addition in the Kyrie Irving trade once he got to Cleveland. I can’t imagine Northeastern Ohio is his favorite place to play.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
If Garland can play Morant to some sort of draw, the Cavs can win. Cleveland 112, Memphis 108.