NBA Betting Dime: Should The Grizzlies Make a Move?

Jaren Jackson Jr. looks on against the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena on January 21, 2022 in Denver, Colorado.
Image Credit: Ethan Mito/Clarkson Creative/Getty Images

Welcome to the NBA Betting Dime. If you missed the debut edition, it’s a weekly basketball column that combines some of the game’s best aspects. You can expect to find some analytical deep dives, social media clips, gambling information, and maybe some dumb pop culture references sprinkled in.

This week, we’re going to take a look at the Grizzlies’ options before the trade deadline, the impact of Joe Ingles’ injury, and why the Warriors’ future is even brighter than expected.

However, let’s start by diving into some of the hoopla surrounding the All-Star game:

1. Andrew Wiggins: All-Star Starter

Andrew Wiggins #22 of the Golden State Warriors shoots a foul shot against the Utah Jazz during the first half of an NBA basketball game at Chase Center on January 23, 2022 in San Francisco, California.
Image Credit: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Wiggins is having a nice season for the Warriors, and there was some speculation that he might grab one of the final All-Star nods in the Western Conference. However, no one thought he was going to be named a starter. That honor is reserved for the best players in basketball, and Wiggins has never even been close to being in that conversation.

Wiggins is shooting a career-best 48.7% from the field and 41.6% from 3-point range, but that is to be expected when you’re playing alongside Stephen Curry. He generates more defensive attention than anyone else in basketball, so you’re going to get some wide-open looks.

Overall, Wiggins has averaged just 18.3 points per game to go along with 4.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists.

The real question is: Is this a mistake or a downright travesty?

Some of his metrics grade out favorable, but I’m still leaning towards the latter. Rewarding the Warriors with two starters would make some sense if the Warriors had the best record in the league, but that hasn’t been the case for a while now.

Additionally, the Warriors’ success is not even remotely correlated with Wiggins. The Warriors have increased their Net Rating by +18.0 points per possession with Curry on the floor this season (per Cleaning the Glass), but that number is just +3.0 for Wiggins. Wiggins also ranks 65th in the league in Player Efficiency Rating, 41st in Win Shares per 48 Minutes, 47th in Box Score Plus/Minus, and 39th in Value Over Replacement Player. In other words, he fits the role of a solid role player more than an All-Star.

So how did this happen? For starters, the Warriors’ fans showed up for Wiggins. He racked up nearly 3.5M fan votes, which was the third-highest mark among Western Conference forwards. It also put him well ahead of Paul George, who finished in fourth with 2.8M. Wiggins got a late push from a Warriors-loving K-Pop star named BamBam. Sometimes, fact is stranger than fiction.

The fan vote comprises 50% of the total voting for the starters, with the other 50% coming from the players and the media. The players give Wiggins the fifth-most votes among the Western Conference frontcourt players, while the media had Wiggins sixth. Rudy Gobert and Draymond Green both finished higher in both departments, but neither player could overcome the discrepancy in fan voting.

Is this a huge deal in the grand scheme of things? Probably not, but things like making the All-Star team do have certain contract implications and impact players’ legacies. I think weighing the fan vote less moving forward makes sense. This game may be for the fans, but if one K-Pop star can impact the process this much, there’s clearly room for improvement.

2. All-Star Reserves

Darius Garland #10 of the Cleveland Cavaliers brings the ball up court against the Charlotte Hornets during the first quarter during their game at Spectrum Center on November 01, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Image Credit: Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

Since I clearly take things like the All-Star rosters too seriously, I obviously have some thoughts for which players should make up the rest of the rosters:

Eastern Conference

  • Guard: Darius Garland, James Harden
  • Frontcourt: Jimmy Butler (starter in place of Kevin Durant), Jayson Tatum, Jarrett Allen, Domantas Sabonis
  • Wild Card: LaMelo Ball, Fred VanVleet

The way I see it, there are four absolute locks on the reserve squad: Garland, Harden, Butler, and Tatum. After that, a lot of it comes down to preference.

Butler grabs one of the starting spots in place of the injured Durant, so I picked three additional forwards to satisfy the bench requirements. Allen deserves to make the roster given his impact for the Cavaliers this season, while Sabonis would not make it if not for a lack of quality options. He’s had an All-Star-worthy year from a number’s perspective, but the Pacers have been so bad that it’s certainly fair to leave him off the roster.

The Wild Card spots came down to three players for me: Ball, VanVleet, and Zach LaVine. LaVine ultimately ended up just missing the cut. The Bulls have been better than the Hornets and Raptors, but I’m not sure they’ve been good enough to warrant two All-Stars. With DeMar DeRozan grabbing a starting spot, I’m comfortable rewarding Ball and VanVleet for their contributions.

Western Conference

  • Guard: Devin Booker, Chris Paul
  • Frontcourt: Rudy Gobert, Draymond Green, Karl-Anthony Towns
  • Wild Card: Luka Doncic, Donovan Mitchell

The West is a bit more straightforward. I would be pretty surprised if these seven players didn’t grab the final seven spots.

The Suns should absolutely get two spots for Booker and Paul, and one of them should probably be in the starting unit. Gobert, Green, and Towns are the obvious choices in the frontcourt, and Doncic has a spot locked up as well.

The last spot is the only one that can really be debated in my opinion. I would love to see Dejounte Murray get some attention – and perhaps he can still make it as an injury replacement should the need arise – but it’s hard to discount what Mitchell has meant to the Jazz. They have bottomed out with Mitchell out of the lineup recently, and they were one of the best teams in basketball before he suffered his concussion.

3. (Not) So Fresh And So Clean

One last piece of All-Star news before moving on to other business. The league officially released the jerseys for the All-Stars, Rising Stars, and Celebrities:

Is this really the best we could do? I don’t hate the Rising Stars and Celebrity jerseys, but the All-Star jerseys feel very conservative.

I’ve been thinking about what All-Star game jerseys I’ve liked best throughout the years, and the clear answer is the stretch from 1995 to 1999 when the players wore their regular NBA team jerseys. One squad would wear the colored unis and the other squad would wear the whites, and it looked super clean.

The NBA will obviously never go back to this format – there are too many sweet, sweet merchandising dollars available – but it’s the clear winner. It’s honestly not even really worth debating.

4. The Grizzlies Are At A Crossroads

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant #12 during the game against the Los Angeles Lakers at FedExForum on December 29, 2021 in Memphis, Tennessee.
Image Credit: Justin Ford/Getty Images

The Grizzlies are the envy of the league at the moment. They have one of the game’s brightest young stars in Ja Morant, a young, talented core of complementary pieces, and a group of veteran role players to help them grow. They’re all the way up to third place in the Western Conference, and they’ve seen massive movement in the NBA Finals market. They opened the year at +15000 on BetMGM, but they’re down to just +2500.

It seems like the Grizzlies are at the beginning of a stretch that could see them contending for titles for years.

However, there’s no guarantee that the window stays open as long as expected. If you don’t believe me, just ask Celtics’ fans. Boston was expected to ride the core of Tatum and Jaylen Brown to a championship, and while that still may happen, they feel much further away than they did just a few years ago.

That brings the Grizzlies to an interesting crossroads: Do they stand pat and hope their young core continues to improve naturally, or do they try to make a big move?

If they opt for door No. 2, they have plenty of ammunition to try to swing a deal. They have three first-round picks in the 2022 draft – their own, the Lakers, and the Jazz’s – and an additional first-rounder in 2024.

They also have some roster spots they can open up without really touching their core. Kyle Anderson is on an expiring contract and making nearly $10M, while moving Jarrett Culver would free up an additional $6.4M. They could also include Tyus Jones and his $8.4M expiring contract, but I’m not sure if they’d be as comfortable moving him.

Even if they don’t move Jones, that still gives the Grizzlies approximately $16.5M to work with. They can secure a nice upgrade with that much space. Some possible candidates:

  • Eric Gordon: Gordon is making $18.2M this season, and his contract is only guaranteed for one more year. He would give the team another scoring guard, but it’s not the most logical fit. They already have De’Anthony Melton as a combo guard off the bench, so this move doesn’t seem all that likely.
  • Jerami Grant: This is the move I want to see most. Grant has emerged as a legitimate No. 1 option, albeit for a bad Pistons squad. He’s also proven he can fill a role for a contending team, which he has done previously with the Nuggets. He would essentially fill a very similar role to Anderson, but he could do it at a much higher level. It would also allow the Grizzlies to play a small-ball lineup with Jaren Jackson Jr. at center and Grant at power forward, which would give them another weapon in their arsenal. I love this fit.
  • Thaddeus Young: Young has been a forgotten man for the Spurs this season, but he gave the Bulls some really good minutes last year. He’s also on an expiring contract, so the Grizzlies could acquire him without any real implications on their future. He would also be very cheap, and like Grant, he would fit the Anderson role better than Anderson.

Grant and Young feel like two strong options for the Grizzlies at the deadline. They don’t need three first-round picks in the upcoming draft, so making a moderate upgrade in place of Anderson feels like the right decision. Could this impact team chemistry? It’s possible, but I always lean towards being aggressive. The title chase feels more open this season than it has in years, so why not make a run instead of waiting for a better opportunity that may never come. The Raptors took a shot at interrupting their chemistry by acquiring Marc Gasol before the 2019 deadline, and that worked out well for everyone.

5. The Rich Get Richer

The Warriors have been one of the best teams in the league this season, and they recently got Klay Thompson back in the lineup. That’s a huge addition, and the scary thing is, the Warriors may still be getting better.

They used the No. 7 pick on Jonathan Kuminga in the 2021 NBA Draft, and Kuminga looks like a player. He’s gotten limited playing time for the Warriors this season – which is to be expected for a 19-year-old – but he’s flashed when he has seen the floor.

He got to put his athleticism on display at the end of a blowout win vs. the Mavericks. He caught a full-court pass in transition and finished with authority:

That’s special bounce, and he knows it. Just look at that grin after that dunk.

Don’t forget, the Warriors still have the 2020 No. 2 pick in James Wiseman waiting in the wings. It’s unlikely that either player will be a factor this season, but they remain extremely promising parts of the Warriors’ future. If those players can hit their ceiling, the Warriors could be scary good next year.

6. Nick Nurse, The New Tom Thibodeau

Thibodeau is notorious for running his players into the ground. Some people – myself included – believe that the insane workload he gave Julius Randle last season is part of the reason why he has regressed so badly this year.

That said, don’t tell that to Nurse. He is playing the Raptors’ starters like they have an expiration date. VanVleet leads the league with an average of 38.6 minutes per game, and Pascal Siakam is second at 37.5. Scottie Barnes ranks sixth in the league at 36.0 minutes. OG Anunoby doesn’t qualify on the minutes per game leaderboard since he’s missed some time, but he’s also averaged 37.1 minutes per game. Gary Trent Jr. is the most “underworked” starter, and even he’s averaged 34.5 minutes.

I’m not sure if that’s a good idea for the Raptors long-term, but it has gotten them back in the thick of the playoff race. They’ve gone 11-6 over their past 17 games, which has vaulted them into eighth place in the East. The final spots in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament are going to be competitive, but the Raptors should be able to hold off teams like the Knicks and Wizards as long as their starters stay healthy.

Nurse’s rotations also lead to some comical box scores. The Raptors went to triple-overtime two games ago, and they have five players log at least 53 minutes:

I’m sure there have been previous occurrences of five teammates playing at least 50 minutes, but I can’t find it on StatHead. Regardless, I hope they had plenty of ice available after the game.

7. Devin Booker’s Revenge

Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns during the NBA game at Footprint Center on November 02, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Pelicans 112-100.
Image Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Booker’s beef vs. The Raptor. While that was a fun story, Booker apparently took the ribbing to heart.

Since then, Booker and the Suns have been on an absolute roll. They’ve won each of their nine games since “the incident,” and Booker has averaged 31.7 points per game.

With their recent hot streak, the Suns have seized full control of the Western Conference. Not only do they own the top spot in the standings, but they’ve increased their cushion to 3.0 games over the Warriors and 7.0 games over the Grizzlies. They still slightly trail the Warriors in terms of Net Rating – The Warriors have outscored their opponents by +8.3 points per 100 possessions, the Suns +7.8 – but they’ve made a strong case that they’re the best team in the league.

If you have yet to jump aboard the Suns’ bandwagon, there is still time to grab them at a decent price. They’re down to just +550 to win the title on DraftKings Sportsbook, but you can still grab them at +700 on Caesars. That’s a pretty appealing price.

However, I wouldn’t expect that number to be available much longer. The Suns remain the biggest liability for BetMGM in the NBA title market, and I would imagine it’s similar at other locations.

8. Golden Nuggets

Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets gives high fives against the Houston Rockets at Ball Arena on November 6, 2021 in Denver, Colorado.
Image Credit: Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

The Suns aren’t the only team riding a winning streak at the moment. The Nuggets have won each of their past five games, and they’ve covered the spread in each of their past three. That’s the longest ATS winning streak in the league at the moment. UPDATE: Denver’s winning streak snapped with a 115-130 loss at Minnesota on Tuesday.

The Nuggets remain extremely shorthanded behind Nikola Jokic, but Jokic is doing enough to will this team into a guaranteed playoff spot. They’re up to fifth place in the Western Conference, and they’re only one game behind the Jazz for the No. 4 spot. They also own a 3.5-game lead over the Timberwolves, are currently on the outside of the guaranteed playoff picture.

I remain convinced that Jokic is the best player in basketball, and I am still bullish on his MVP odds. He is on-pace to basically re-write the record book in terms of advanced stats. His price has dropped drastically of late, but I still think he deserves to be the betting favorite.

9. Jingle No More

Joe Ingles #2 of the Utah Jazz puts up a shot against the Denver Nuggets in the fourth quarter at Ball Arena on January 16, 2022 in Denver, Colorado.
Image Credit: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Things have gotten ugly quickly for the Jazz. They’ve been without Mitchell and Gobert recently, and the Jazz have dropped five straight games. Overall, the team has lost 11 of their past 13 games, and they’ve dropped to fourth place in the Western Conference.

Now, they’ll have to deal with the season-ending injury to Joe Ingles, who has been one of their most important role players over the past few seasons.

That would’ve been a massive blow in seasons past, but Ingles hasn’t been quite as vital to the team’s success this season. They’ve still been at their best with Ingles on the court, increasing their Net Rating by +3.6 points per 100 possessions, all that production comes on the defensive end. Those numbers can be a bit deceiving, especially since Ingles has played 732 of his 1122 minutes alongside Gobert. He’s shared the court with Gobert more than any other teammate, so it should be expected that Ingles has strong on-court defensive metrics.

Meanwhile, the Jazz’s offensive numbers have plummeted with Ingles on the floor. They’re averaging -3.4 fewer points per 100 possessions, and their effective field goal percentage drops by -2.9%.

That’s not surprising given Ingles’ struggles to shoot the ball this season. He’s making just 40.4% of his shots and 34.7% of his 3-pointers, both of which are the worst marks of his career.

With that in mind, the loss of Ingles shouldn’t have a huge impact on the team’s chances. Guys like Rudy Gay and Danuel House should be able to pick up the slack.

As long as Gobert and Mitchell can return to action, there’s no reason the Jazz can’t still contend in the Western Conference.

10. Comeback Kings

The Los Angeles Clippers are playing without Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, but they are still fighting like hell on a nightly basis. They’re currently just one game under .500, which has them in eighth place in the Western Conference. That puts them one game ahead of the Lakers in the standings.

The Clippers have also been the kings of the comeback this season. They have three comebacks of 24 points or more during the month of January alone.

That includes a monster comeback vs. the Wizards last Tuesday:

The Clippers’ comeback victory was tied for the second-largest in NBA history, trailing only the Jazz’s 36-point comeback vs. the Nuggets in 2016.

This year has not gone the Clippers’ way from an injury perspective, but at least their fans can take solace in the fact that this team doesn’t quit. As a Knicks fan, let me assure you that isn’t always a guarantee.