Grizzlies vs. Hawks Preview: Can the Grizz Cover as Road Favorites?

Action Network NBA analyst Joe Dellera previews how to bet Friday's matchup between the Memphis Grizzlies and New York Knicks.

Grizzlies vs. Hawks Odds

Grizzlies Odds -5.5
Hawks Odds +5.5
Over/Under 236.5
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The NBA is back after a full day off (unless you really enjoyed Magic vs Pistons) and we have a matchup between two star point guards. Ja Morant is expected to return after a one-game absence and Trae Young looks to get his shot back on track against a formidable Grizzlies‘ defense.

Which of these two will be able to lead their team to victory? Let’s break it down.

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Morant’s Return Should Amplify Grizzlies Offense

The Grizzlies expect to return Ja Morant who missed the last game with a back injury. This is obviously a boost to the entire team’s offense considering he’s their leader, their point guard, and one of the top creators in the league.

The Grizzlies have surged up the standings in the Western Conference and whenever it seemed as if they could not do better they’ve risen to the occasion as they currently sit in second place in the Western Conference.

It shouldn’t be all that surprising though, the Grizzlies have the fifth-best Adjusted Net Rating (+4.6) in the league with the fourth-best Adjusted Offensive Rating and eighth-best Adjusted Defensive Rating. They destroy teams on both sides of the ball, and even when it may be difficult to create offense, Morant is a wizard with the basketball.

The one area that the Grizzlies have struggled a bit is with their halfcourt offense; however, this matchup with the Hawks is forgiving. Atlanta has the 24th ranked halfcourt defense and they do not do a particularly good job of forcing their opponents into halfcourt sets, per Cleaning the Glass.

Aside from the halfcourt, the Grizzlies prefer to get out and run. They play at the eight-fastest Pace in the league — this gives them more possessions, and more time in transition. The Grizzlies thrive in transition and they add the most points per 100 (+4.1)  possessions due to their transition plays. This is a clear strength and something I expect them to lean on against Atlanta.

Injuries Hitting the Hawks Down the Stretch

The Hawks received some bad news on Thursday with the report that John Collins is out indefinitely with a sprained right ring finger and a torn plantar facia in his right foot. Besides Collins, both Trae Young (Quad) and Danilo Gallinari (biceps) are listed as questionable for today’s game. If Young is unable to play, this spread likely will balloon to -7 or higher and Delon Wright will see a significantly increased role in the offense.

Considering Atlanta was in the Eastern Conference Finals just last season this year has to feel like a disappointment. But this is not due to a lack of scoring. On the season, the Hawks have the second-best Adjusted Offensive Rating due to their multifaceted attack that features an exceptional creator such as Trae Young and an elite halfcourt offense that has the fifth-best shooting percentage from downtown, per Cleaning the Glass. 

The issue for the Hawks has been their defense. They cannot stop anyone and have the 27th ranked Adjusted Defensive Rating. They struggle as it is in the halfcourt with a bottom 10 defense there, but the Hawks get absolutely destroyed in transition and their opponents have been able to add the second most points per 100 possessions through their transition play. This does not bode well for them against a Grizzlies team that loves to set the Pace.

Grizzlies-Hawks Pick

This line initially opened at Grizzlies -3 and has since moved to -5 at the time of this writing. This is partially due to Trae Young popping on the injury report and that the Grizzlies have received some initial sharp action. My thoughts are that the line at -5 even with Trae would be a fair price considering their significant advantage over Atlanta in transition and  on defense overall.

The Grizzlies are a superior team, and they should be able to take advantage of Atlanta’s defensive inefficiencies. If you’re concerned about Trae playing then wait until the news is confirmed; however, I don’t think this line should be fewer than 4 points in any circumstance. Additionally, if he is ruled out, don’t be surprised if this spread jumps to Grizzlies -7 or -8.

I’ll back the Grizzlies on the road to set the Pace and take care of business against this porous Atlanta defense.

Pick: Grizzlies -5.5