Two projected Western Conference lottery teams will square off in Memphis today as the 1-5 Grizzlies host the 4-2 Minnesota Timberwolves (8 p.m. ET Wednesday).
Memphis has predictably struggled quite a bit on offense due simply to lacking experience and talent. Rookie Ja Morant has received a significant amount of offensive reps, with mixed results. The Timberwolves have been surprisingly good to start the year behind a superstar start for Karl-Anthony Towns and solid contributions from Andrew Wiggins, Robert Covington and Jeff Teague. Minnesota will be getting Towns back after a two-game suspension and the Timberwolves do have a talent advantage in this matchup.
This NBA game preview will first ask some important questions that will swing the outcome of this game one way or the other. Then we will wrap up with our Minnesota Timberwolves vs Memphis Grizzlies predictions, aiming to profit from the best USA sportsbooks’ betting lines.
Will Jonas Valanciunas Stay Energetic & Out of Foul Trouble?
Karl-Anthony Towns is off to a strong start to this season. The Timberwolves big man is coming off of a two-game suspension for his actions in a game against the Philadelphia 76ers, but he is averaging career highs in points, assists, steals, blocks and true-shooting percentage in his four games played.
The Grizzlies’ best player at this point is probably center Jonas Valanciunas. He is a 20-point, 10-rebound threat when he gets starter’s minutes. He is a dominant post scorer who is somewhat capable defending the interior.
Two big problems with Valanciunas are foul trouble and a lack of nimbleness on the perimeter. His minutes are often limited for those two reasons.
However, the Grizzlies need him to remain on the court by staying energetic on the perimeter and staying out of foul trouble. Without Valanciunas on the court, they will have to turn to Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke to play big minutes near the basket. Both guys are athletic, but they probably don’t have the combination of size and strength to match up with Towns.
Will Shots Start to Fall for the Grizzlies’ Role Players?
Memphis has the worst net rating in the NBA so far this season. Its inefficient offense has been the biggest reason for that. The Grizzlies just have not been converting their outside jump shots, connecting on a league-worst 26.5 percent of their three-point shots.
Guys like Jae Crowder (23.1 percent), Jaren Jackson Jr. (26.3 percent), Tyus Jones (9.1 percent) Marko Guduric (7.1) and Grayson Allen (26.3 percent) are all respectable shooters who are converting way below their normal levels. That is affecting the Grizzlies’ offensive flow significantly.
One of Minnesota’s weaknesses thus far is allowing a high three-point percentage (38.9) to opponents, so Memphis’ shooters could have a good opportunity to get their strokes back to normal.
Can Timberwolves Turn Ja Morant Over Several Times?
Morant has had an up-and-down start to his rookie season. The No. 2 overall pick of the 2019 draft is averaging 19.5 points and 5.5 assists per game on a 53.4/50/73.9 shooting slash. Those are all solid numbers.
A key negative, however, has been Morant’s 4.5 turnovers per game. That number ranks as the fourth-highest number in the NBA. The three guys ahead of him (James Harden, Trae Young and Luka Doncic) are all averaging at least 26 points and seven assists per game. This turnover problem has haunted Morant since last year, when he averaged 5.2 turnovers per game at Murray State.
Minnesota has played a very fast pace early this season, capitalizing on their second-ranked 11 steals per game to create lots of fast-break opportunities. The Grizzlies need to find ways to get the Timberwolves playing offense in the half court, and having Morant avoid turnovers is one key way.
Our Preview’s Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Memphis Grizzlies Predictions & Betting Picks Verdict
Towns will come out with a vengeance in this game and I really don’t see any way the Grizzlies will be able to contain his versatile offensive skill set without fouling. He will have his way with the Memphis frontcourt, forcing lots of double teams and good looks for teammates.
Both of these teams have played very fast paces to start this season. Even though neither squad is an offensive juggernaut, I see the Grizzlies improving their three-point shooting a little bit and the Timberwolves running their offense through Towns with a lot of offense. Our Minnesota Timberwolves vs Memphis Grizzlies predictions look like this: