When the post-playoffs ratings come in, don’t be surprised when the viewership on this series ranks out as the most watched of all the first round matchups. After all, the Lakers are the most box office team in basketball and the Grizzlies are one of the most hated teams in the league and market themselves as villains.
Remember, the Grizzlies and Lakers have been going at each other for some time now. With taunts from both sides and heated exchanges galore, sign me and the rest of the NBA world up for a seven game series between the Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Lakers.
Star power- Lakers
With all due respect to Ja Morant and his co-star Jaren Jackson Jr, they aren’t a better duo than LeBron James and Anthony Davis. At full strength the Lakers still have two top 10 level players which gives them arguably the most dangerous duo in the sport. Morant and Triple J are emerging from the pack as a duo, especially given their most recent status as All-Stars. With that being said, LA still has a comfortable edge in the star power department.
Role players- Grizzlies
The Lakers did a remarkable job of overhauling their supporting cast at the trade deadline and it showed in their late season surge that put them at the seven seed. However, the Grizzlies success is built off having a deep team of guys who thrive in their role. Desmond Bane is one of the league’s top outside snipers. Dillion Brooks is a fantastic point of attack defender. Tyus Jones is the best backup point guard in the league and still severely underrated.
Memphis finished just outside of the top 10 in offense, posting a 114.7 ORTG, good for 11th in the regular season. Los Angeles was 19th offensively and saw that figure climb after their post All-Star break surge. The Grizzlies offense is built off a heavy dose of Ja Morant drives where he can create a shot for himself or pass to an open teammate which spurs good ball movement and off ball cutting. This kind of offense is more natural than the Lakers will hold up over the course of a long playoff series.
When it comes to cleaning the glass in this series, we need to consider who’s out for Memphis in this series. Two of the Grizzlies top four board catchers in Steven Adams, Memphis’ top rebounder at over 11 RPG, and Brandon Clarke will miss the series due to injury. Due to those losses, it’s easy to pencil in the Lakers as winners in this category, especially given the fact that the Lake Show was sixth in rebounding this season.
Similar to both teams’ overall offenses, shooting isn’t among either side’s primary strengths. The Grizzlies were the 22nd best outside shooting team in basketball, converting 35.1% of their three pointers which is under league average. That mark is still better than the Lakers, who shot 34.6% from behind the arc. Given the marksmanship of Bane and newly-added Luke Kennard, it’s plausible to see the Grizzlies as the better outside shooting team.
Interior defense- Grizzlies
Who would you rather have to block a shot at the rim, Anthony Davis or Jaren Jackson Jr? Based on his latest campaign, give me JJJ. The Grizzlies second All-Star has put together a fantastic defensive season headlined by his sublime paint protection and shot blocking near the hoop. Davis is obviously one the league’s best rim protectors as well but in 2023, it feels like his best in this area is behind him.
Perimeter defense- Lakers
The Lakers best asset on defense is still Anthony Davis’ versatility. AD can switch out and defend the perimeter which is a huge luxury to have for the Lakers defense. Factor in the trade deadline acquisition of Jarred Vanderbilt and the Lakers perimeter defense feels completely revamped. Vanderbilt has his offensive issues but on defense he’s a complete nuisance for opposing teams backcourt players.
Darvin Ham has had a positive impact on the Lakers turnaround, but Taylor Jenkins is still doing extraordinary work in Memphis. This season and in years past, the Grizzlies have struggled to stay healthy. However, it doesn’t matter as Jenkins is still able to right the ship without the presence of his star players. Jenkins may have been outcoached by Steve Kerr in last year’s second round but he still has more experience than Ham.
Team chemistry- Grizzlies
Love them or hate them, the Grizzlies have fun on the basketball court. Their bark may be a little louder than their bite at times but they’ve certainly built a lot of team comradery this way. The Lakers have too many new pieces to give them a team chemistry edge. The Grizzlies have built this core in the draft and developed them the right way to become a threat in the West right now and in the many playoff runs to come.
Total score: Grizzlies 6 | Lakers 3
Series prediction: Grizzlies over Lakers in six games