Knicks vs. Grizzlies Odds
|Time||7:30 p.m. ET|
|Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.|
The New York Knicks tip off their season on the road as underdogs to the Memphis Grizzlies. The Knicks were in the headlines all offseason due to the massive Jalen Brunson signing and Donovan Mitchell trade rumors.
The Knicks ultimately decided against a blockbuster Mitchell trade and are returning much of the same core from last year’s team. The Grizzlies had a relatively quiet offseason and didn’t make many significant moves to improve their roster.
This will be a great early test for the Knicks as the Grizzlies were one of the most efficient teams on both ends of the floor last season.
Knicks Offense Should Improve Greatly
The Knicks’ season was a massive disappointment as they finished 37-45, going under their win total by four games despite having league-average injury luck according to Man Games Lost. They were 10th in Defensive Rating, but their inefficiency on offense killed them as they ranked just 24th in Adjusted Offensive Rating per Dunks And Threes.
That will happen when you allow Julius Randle to be your offensive engine. Enter Jalen Brunson and Isiah Hartenstein and this team should be significantly more efficient on the offensive end of the floor. Brunson’s offensive ability has been well-documented following his playoff dominance with the Mavericks last year, but the Hartenstein signing should significantly bolster this team on both ends as well.
Hartenstein finished his last season with 77 blocks, same as Ivica Zubac who started and played 600 more minutes than Hartenstein. He had an 20.5% assist rate, fourth-best among centers behind only Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, and Kelly Olynyk. His 66.4%True Shooting Percentage ranked fourth as well behind only Montrezl Harrell, Jarrett Allen, and Rudy Gobert. Hartenstein wasn’t just a dunker last year either, he demonstrated some touch last year shooting 46.7% from deep on 30 attempts.
While the preseason mostly doesn’t matter, it is pretty clear that this offense should be significantly more efficient with Brunson as the primary ball-handler instead of Randle. The Knicks ranked fifth in points per 100 possessions on offense and they were the second-best defense in the preseason allowing just 98.7 points per 100 possessions.
This is an extremely small sample size (and they didn’t exactly play the best competition), but it is certainly encouraging given how much they struggled last year.
Injuries Will Limit Grizzlies’ Impact
The Grizzlies exceeded all expectations last season, finishing second in the Western Conference with a 56-26 record exceeding their win-total by over 20 wins. They were by far the biggest over-achievers in the league, but I think that it is highly likely this team regresses.
The primary reason we should expect a drop-off in performance is the fact that Memphis will be without their second-best player and defensive anchor, Jaren Jackson Jr., for the first few months of the season.
Jackson was 98th percentile in block percentage last season and had the third-highest Usage Rate on the team at 25.4%. Jackson also played in a team-high 78 games last season. His absence on the Grizzlies can’t be overstated.
The second reason that this team should struggle to repeat its magical season is the simple fact that they didn’t get meaningfully better in the offseason. In the Western Conference, almost every legitimate contender made moves to bolster its roster through free agency and the draft.
The Grizzlies traded De’Anthony Melton for Danny Green who is recovering from torn ACL. They also let Kyle Anderson walk in free agency. Ultimately, the Grizzlies lost three of their top players.
They added some nice young players in the NBA Draft, but we shouldn’t expect these guys to make meaningful contributions early in the season. The Grizzlies are still a formidable team, but it will be an uphill climb for them to finish in the top four of a crowded Western conference.
The Knicks lost both of their matchups with the Grizzlies last season, but the loss of Jackson is huge and I expect the game to play out differently this time around. The first thing going for the Knicks is the Brunson vs. Ja Morant matchup.
The Knicks should have a decided advantage at the point of attack with Morant trying to guard Brunson. Morant is obviously an explosive offensive threat, but he struggles mightily on the defensive end of the floor.
If you watched the Timberwolves series, you saw Patrick Beverley consistently attack Morant and score on him inside the post and paint area. Beverley isn’t much of an offensive threat and even he was able to consistently abuse Morant. Brunson should have his way with Morant in this game and should be able to consistently draw help defenders and get the Grizzlies into defensive rotations.
Another reason I anticipate the Knicks will have some success here is their transition defense. The Knicks ranked seventh in opponent transition points per game and were the best team in the NBA at preventing fast breaks off live ball rebounds per Cleaning the Glass.
Transition defense is arguably the most important facet of the game when facing Morant and the Grizzlies as they ranked first in transition frequency and second in transition points per 100 possessions last year, according to Cleaning the Glass.
The Grizzlies dropped to just 22nd in points per 100 when they were forced to play in the halfcourt. Thibs has a track record of good transition defense and the Knicks should be able to force the Grizzlies to play halfcourt offense.
Another key when facing Memphis is the ability to defensive rebound as the Grizzlies ranked first in the NBA in offensive rebound rate (33%). Fortunately for the Knicks they ranked third-best in the NBA in defensive rebound rate, allowing just 25% of shots to be rebounded by the offense. The Knicks defense also ranked first in putpack points per 100 possessions (17.2).
The final reason I like the Knicks here is I believe they have a decided advantage with their second unit. While the Knicks do not have one of the best starting units in the NBA I think that they have a strong case for having one of the deepest benches.
The Grizzlies bench is significantly weaker due to the departure of Melton and Anderson and they should struggle early on in the season as they try and get some of their younger, inexperienced guys up to speed with the NBA.
The Knicks bench unit lead by Obi Toppin, Immanuel Quickley, and Derrick Rose has consistently proven it is one of the best in the NBA over the past two seasons and it should look even better this season with the addition of Hartenstein.
I expect the Knicks to compete and have a chance to win this one. This line has fallen drastically since opening at +7.5. I played this at +6.5 and I would recommend
Pick: Knicks +6 or better