The trade deadline has passed. The guys on the roster will be there for the stretch run. There’s nothing left now but playoff positioning.
Did you know? These teams were inconsequential trade partners last week, one of many boring matches made during a lackluster trade deadline.
Miami traded Dexter Pittman, who plays in the D-League, and for Ricky Sanchez, who plays in Argentina. Luckiliy, neither of these players will matter when they play on Thursday.
But Tayshaun Prince will. The Grizzlies traded for Prince and Austin Daye at the end of January. Prince fills the small forward position formerly occupied by Rudy Gay. Neither of them has been very good this season. Prince shoots the ball better, but he’s not as athletic a defender as Gay. The biggest difference, and probably the most positive difference for the Grizzlies is that Prince doesn’t shoot as much. Gay led the Grizzlies in usage while posting a TS% worse than Tony Allen‘s. Prince isn’t a sniper, but he’ll cede more possessions to Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, which alone should boost the Grizzlies’ offensive efficiency. Other than that, Prince shouldn’t swing the Grizzlies’ prospects one way or the other, though he’s one of the least turnover-prone players in the league.
Prince will have the unenviable task of lining up across from LeBron James. What doesn’t he do for the Heat? He’s their most reliable and prolific scorer, their best defensive rebounder, their defacto point guard and their most ferocious defender. He’s having a career year shooting the ball. There are two players ever to have had seasons this great: Michael Jordan and himself, during his do-it-all Cleveland days. I’ve always been one of these people who thinks Jordan will never be topped. I still think I would take him first in my all-time fantasy draft, but I would have to think about it for longer than I ever thought I would.
What to Watch For
The Grizzlies don’t shoot well, and they don’t get to the line that often. What lifts their offense to mediocrity is their league-high offensive rebounding rate. Their leader in this category is Zach Randolph. The Heat’s lack of prowess at defensive rebounding has been touted as their biggest weakness, but they’re merely below average, not terrible. Still, they’ll have their hands full. As I mentioned before, LeBron James is their best defensive rebounder. He’s an extraordinary athlete, but I’m sure the Heat don’t want him expending too much energy keeping Randolph off the block—the Heat need to gang rebound.
Both these teams are excellent at forcing turnovers. With Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Mario Chalmers and Dwyane Wade, the court will be a dangerous place for ball handlers. The difference in this game might be how well each team protects possession. While both are excellent at forcing turnovers, Miami is more proficient at holding on to the ball. Memphis has to be careful. Although it won its first matchup against the Heat, Miami won the turnover battle and the rebounding battle—Wayne Ellington sunk the Heat with seven three-pointers. Ellington is in Cleveland now, so Memphis has to focus on their strengths.
Why Else to Watch
To see if anyone else hits seven three-pointers?
How to Watch
ESPN, Friday, 8 p.m. eastern
League Pass Bonus Game
Los Angeles Lakers at Denver Nuggets, Monday, 9 p.m. eastern. The Lakers will have to play out of their minds to make the playoffs. But they’re old, and the air is thin in Denver.