It's two very different teams and styles on Sunday night in Memphis when the plodding, frontcourt-based Grizzlies face off against the up-tempo, guard-heavy Phoenix Suns. Memphis is a 4-point favorite on BetOnline NBA odds with a total of 203.
Suns Upgrade Frontcourt
Phoenix comes off a 100-95 loss in San Antonio on Friday, but it was still a good day for the Suns. That's because they acquired forward/center Brandan Wright from Boston for a pretty good price. Phoenix has perhaps the deepest stable of guards in the NBA with Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas but is short on big men. The Suns sent a protected first-round pick to Boston for Wright, who originally was acquired by Boston from Dallas in the Rajon Rondo deal. The former No. 8 overall pick is averaging 7.5 points on 72.4 percent shooting, 3.6 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 35 games between the Celtics and Mavs this season. He was terrific in Dallas, which is an offensively excellent club, but not so much in Boston.
As Suns coach Jeff Hornacek noted: "The way Dallas played last year is somewhat similar to what we play -- being in the open court and pick-and-rolls."
Wright's amazing shooting percentage is the highest in the NBA for anyone who has taken at least 100 shots. He also averages 2.9 blocks per 36 minutes, which ranks fourth in the NBA. Wright can become a free agent after this season, but the Suns can pay him more than any other team if they like him. He will serve as a backup power forward to the Morris twins and at center behind Alex Len. Wright should debut Sunday barring something unforeseen.
Phoenix is 22-15-2 against the NBA betting spread this season and 23-16 'over/under.'
Grizzlies Upgrade Offense
Memphis enters off a 106-95 loss in New Orleans on Friday and has dropped seven of its past 11 games, but the first 10 of those were without one of the team's best players, power forward Zach Randolph. He did return against the Pelicans and had 11 points and 11 rebounds in 31 minutes, but the team was minus-9 with him on the floor. Tayshaun Prince had six points and three rebounds off the bench, and I mention him because it will be Prince's last game in a Boston uniform.
The Western contenders all are loading up for the playoffs, with teams like Dallas acquiring Rondo, the Rockets picking up Josh Smith, the Thunder getting Dion Waiters and the Suns acquiring Wright. To keep pace, the Grizzlies are going to get Jeff Green from Boston. It's potentially a three-team deal that could be finalized by the time you read this. Reportedly Memphis will send Prince and his $7.7 million expiring contract and a future first-round pick to Boston. The Pelicans might be involved as well and it could mean Memphis also sends bench player Quincy Poindexter to New Orleans, but Green is the main piece. He is averaging 17.6 points and 4.2 rebounds this season. Green makes $9.2 million this year and holds a player option of $9.2 million in 2015-16.
Memphis is a terrific defensive team but middle of the pack on offense so Green solves the problem and he's a much better player than Prince. It's not yet clear if Green will play in this game as he would have to pass a team physical for the trade to be official. Over the past two seasons, Memphis small forwards averaged a league-worst 6.5 points and 28.8 percent 3-point shooting, both worst in the NBA. Green has averaged 17.1 points and 33.1 percent. According to ESPN, Green ranks third in the league in points per play as a pick-and-roll ball-handler and seventh in points per post-up play among players with at least 50 plays in each play type. Green and Chicago breakout star Jimmy Butler are the only players in the Top 10 in both categories this season. So this was a terrific trade for the Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies are 17-19 against the spread and 19-16-1 'over/under' on NBA odds.
On Nov. 5 in Phoenix, the Grizzlies were 1.5-point underdogs on NBA odds but won 102-91 ('over' 192.5 points). Memphis, which trailed by 11 in the second quarter, took control by outscoring the Suns 30-19 in the third quarter. The Grizzlies forced 10 Suns turnovers in that quarter. Mike Conley and Courtney Lee combined for 17 of those 30 points. Conley had a big game with 24 points and 11 assists, while Lee had 22 points. Bledsoe led the Suns with 23 points but Dragic struggled, shooting 3-for-9 for six points. Last season, Memphis was 4-0 against Phoenix, the Grizzlies' first-ever season sweep of the Suns. The Grizzlies have won two straight at home in the series, so add them to your NBA picks.
NBA Free Picks: Grizzlies -4 and 'over' 203 points. The Grizzlies have covered five straight meetings and the 'over' has hit in all five.