Welcome back to The ‘Shop for another week of NBA talk with Jabari Davis and Lang Greene. They’ll be joined today by SBNation’s Kofie Yeboah to discuss Houston’s chances out West and potential playoff showdowns, the exploits of the Diminutive Dynamo (Isaiah Thomas) and whether a franchise can be built around him, how the Knicks should build around Kristaps Porzingis and more.
Jabari: Allow me to welcome you to the mix this week, Kofie. We certainly appreciate you taking the time to join us. In order to add a bit of perspective and context, how about starting us off by letting us know which player(s), team(s) and eras of ball made you fall in love with the game?
Kofie: Hey guys, thank you for having me on. I grew up watching the NBA on NBC. I didn’t have cable for a long time so I used to VCR the games and then play them over and over again. I would try to imitate the moves in my playroom. I watched the Shaq and Kobe Lakers, the Sacramento Kings and of course Allen Iverson. I also remember the Jason Kidd Nets and the Paul Pierce-Antoine Walker Celtics….. I need to find my VCR player, man.
Lang: Good to have you Kofie. Thanks for linking up with us. One thing I want to get your insight on is the Houston Rockets. Is this team for real? Entering the season, I believed the Los Angeles Clippers would be the sleeper team out West but they’ve been ravaged by injuries to their top guys. Houston is winning at a high level and their squad is buying into Mike D’Antoni’s system. But here’s the deal … relying on Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson to stay healthy is a risky belief system. Plus their style of play, outscoring people, would work versus 95 percent of the teams in the league – but as I’ve said in the past – no one is beating Golden State in a track meet to 130 points in a seven-game series. What do you think?
Kofie: To be honest, over these last few years I had been hoping the Clippers would get over the playoff hump just so people could stop slandering Chris Paul for never making a Conference Finals. But here we are. Now, as much as I love the Rockets and James Harden, I don’t think that they are the team in the West to dethrone the Warriors. You can see how hard it is to beat the Warriors in one game; it’s even harder for a team to have to beat them four times out of seven.
I’m going to divide it like this. If these two teams do play each other, of course it’s going to be a three-point shootout.
In the first game where the Rockets won these two teams combined for 88 3PA. Eighty. Eight. Thompson, Durant and Curry combined for 10-37 from the three-point line and the Rockets won in double overtime.
In the Warriors’ 125-108 win over the Rockets, they shot 15-38 as a team from distance (39.5 percent) and the Rockets shot 20 percent from deep. As good as the Rockets have been, they’re going to have to hope that Golden State goes cold for four of those seven games but I just can’t see that happening. Curry, Thompson and Durant are such explosive shooters that it’s hard to believe that all three will go that cold. When all three of them go cold it feels like there is something wrong with the balance of the universe and that just goes to show just how good they are at shooting the rock.
I also think that against the Warriors and, in general, that too much of the offensive burden will fall on James Harden and I think that the number of explosive options that the Warriors have at their disposal will just be too much for the Rockets to deal with in a seven-game series. I am praying that everybody on both teams stays healthy and I’ll be happy for a Rockets-Warriors, Rockets-Spurs or Spurs-Warriors series. Any combination of those three will be lit.
Jabari: We dance around this subject each week, but I think we can all agree that if Golden State is healthy, you probably aren’t beating them in a series. Point blank, period. Trouble is, I kind of had that same feeling last season. Especially when they were up 3-1, but I’ll let that go at this stage. I think the Dubs win a hypothetical series against the Rockets in six games, but each one will be some of the most exciting basketball you can ask for.
Let’s kick it out to the Eastern Conference for a bit. Last week, we got into whether the Knicks would ultimately wind up parting ways with Carmelo Anthony and each determined he would likely end up outlasting Phil Jackson in New York. This story doesn’t seem to be going anywhere (admittedly, in part, due to folks just like us), so I’d like to get your thoughts on the idea of finally moving Anthony in the upcoming offseason. In particular, what type of player(s) would you like to see them put around Kristaps Porzingis?
Kofie: Man I’m a huge fan of Kristaps Porzingis taking over the reigns as the Knicks go-to player. I’m also scared that the Knicks are going to aim too high and then end up not giving Kristaps Porzingis the right amount of help that he needs.
This looks like it is going to be a lit Free Agency period.
I’m not an insider, but I do have some people that I would love to see play with Porzingis. If the Knicks want to move on from Derrick Rose at point guard, then this is the free agency class to do so. This is a strong point class that features the likes of Steph Curry, Chris Paul and Kyle Lowry. Now being realistic, the names I just mentioned are most likely just going to be photoshopped into Knicks jerseys as they sign elsewhere (CAN I DREAM THO?). Looking past the 1st tier, Jeff Teague, Jrue Holiday and George Hill are also up for grabs and I wouldn’t mind seeing any of them playing with Porzingod. What do y’all think?
Jabari: Keeping it in the EC, has John Wall played himself into the MVP discussion? He’s averaging 23.1 PPG, 10.1 APG and 4.6 RPG while his team is in the midst of a 19-8 stretch. They are just three games behind the 2nd-seeded Toronto Raptors in the loss column. If they can maintain this and work themselves into a three or four seed, what about Wall finally getting some love?
Kofie: I honestly think that the MVP race is already too clogged up with LeBron James, James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, but that doesn’t mean that we need to overlook the fact that John Wall is BALLIN right now. However, John Wall is always going to get love from me because we’re from the same place (Raleigh be the city where we like to do the dance.) And yes, he dunked all over my high school.
Lang: Slow down. Slow down. Slow down. John Wall is balling, make no mistake, but he is on a different tier compared to Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Those two guys are putting up historical seasons. What Wall is doing is great, but I can’t put him in the MVP discussion. Right now, the three guys in my MVP race are James Harden, Russell Westbrook and LeBron James. Yeah, I’ll go with the King to close out the top three slots. Funny how a guy averaging 26-8-8 is considered to be “saving” himself for the stretch run. Still the best player in the league, but I would give the MVP nod to … The Beard.
How do you guys feel about Isaiah Thomas and the Boston Celtics? Obviously, we’ve never seen another guy under 5’10 put up these type of scoring numbers in league history but are you guys sold he’s a legitimate franchise player for the Celtics to build around. Meaning, he’s going to be tasked with taking out the King over the next few seasons. Is he that type of player? Or do you need more game footage?
Kofie: It’s amazing how Isaiah Thomas is so cold with it. His speed, quickness and bag of tricks around the rim are really fun to watch. The way he uses his body and the rim to get his shot off is so inspirational to 5’9/5’10 guys like me everywhere. As for building the team around him? Eh, why not?
Either way, he currently has a cast and crew with Al Horford, Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder among others so it’s not like everything falls on his shoulders. Oh, I almost forgot, they get the Nets pick next year, which looks like it’s going to be pretty high up there again. LeBron is getting older … the Celtics add another potential piece in the draft. Three years down the road … who knows? I’m excited about it.
Jabari: Understanding the fact that crowded MVP discussions can be a bit unrealistic, I just feel like if we are going to praise Kyle Lowry to the point where he’s at least mentioned as a secondary thought (deserving as well), then we can still give Wall the same acknowledgement for what he’s been able to do with bringing Washington back from an early grave.
The Isaiah Thomas story is fantastic. From being the final pick in the 2011 Draft to being a likely selection for the All-Star game for the second consecutive year. On the question about being a franchise guy, isn’t there a legit argument about him being the best player on a Boston roster that features several lottery picks and another two or three guys that were first-rounders? At any size, if you’re the best player on a team that is just a half game out of the second-seed and you’re throwing up 29.1 PPG while dishing out 6.2 APG and killing it in the fourth quarter and overtime on a nightly basis, then I don’t see how we can call him anything less?
Last topic of the day, and we’ll keep it in the EC as we wrap another great week of b-ball talk. I understand what LeBron James is doing in trying to motivate his teammates while “encouraging” management to make a move to bring in an additional playmaker, but part of me has to chuckle a bit when he complains about the team being a bit top-heavy. Factual, yes, but that’s going to be the case when four of your players are making $85 million.
For the record, I actually agree he’s playing too many minutes and carrying too much of the burden. At 32, you don’t want a guy in his 14th season necessarily racking up the type of taxing minutes he’s playing. His 37.6 MPG is the most he’s played since 2013-14. While this is a burden that comes along with prolonged greatness (‘heavy is the head that wears the crown’ and such), you’re going to want ‘Bron as rested as possible when heading into that playoff push. Is there a guy out there that can pick up some of the playmaking slack for these Cavs? Let me get your best options and a quick idea of how they can actually go out and get a guy if a trade is needed.
Kofie: If LeBron says he needs a playmaker, I’m going to do everything in my power to get him a playmaker. I’m not sure who the Cavs should get, but one thing I do know is that Nate Robinson wants a phone call.
Lang: I like the position LeBron is putting management in. Let’s not get comfortable. That’s the message and the appropriate approach to have when evaluating whether a team has what it takes to win a title. We can debate if the media was the correct platform to voice his opinion, but the Cavaliers only have two guys averaging over two assists per game. Golden State has six, with Klay Thompson (1.9) and Shaun Livingston (1.8) knocking at the door. The Cavaliers’ offense absolutely stops if Kyrie or LeBron isn’t creating.
But on the flip side, I also want LeBron to understand that this is the consequence of advising management to pay everyone their money come free agency time. Pay Kyrie Irving. Pay Kevin Love. Pay himself. Pay Tristan Thompson. Heck, let’s throw J.R. Smith some big bread too this past summer. Now a few months later, hitting the media with we’re “top heavy” seems a bit weak. If you pay everyone at or near max, guess what, you’re going to be top-heavy.
A guy Cleveland should have on their radar is Ish Smith in Detroit. He filled in admirably when Reggie Jackson was hurt earlier in the year. He is a well-traveled veteran that has averaged 7.3 dimes per 30 minutes for his career. He doesn’t have a great jump shot, but analyzing how he’s bounced around the league and adapted to every situation without drama speaks volumes about how the guy might respond if acquired midseason. Just saying.
Hoop Freaks – thanks for joining Kofie, Jabari and myself this week at The ‘Shop. Make sure you hit us up on Twitter and throw some suggestions for next week’s show our way. LG. out.
NBA Daily: Defensive Player of the Year Watch
An inside look-in at the early frontrunners for the Defensive Player of the Year Award.
In this fresh edition for Basketball Insiders, there are a few players that should be finalists for the Defensive Player of the Year Award. Of course, this prestigious award is given to the contributor who makes the biggest impact on the floor for their team on the defensive side of the ball. In two out of the last three seasons, the award has gone to Rudy Gobert, the rim-protecting center for the Utah Jazz. This past season, Giannis Antetokounmpo won both the DPotY award, as well as Most Valuable Player for a second straight year. Over the past few years, the trending group of finalists for the award has been consistent no matter what the order ends up being.
Can anyone new break in this year?
Anthony Davis will always be in the conversation for this award as he has shown throughout his career that he is one of the league’s most ferocious game-changers. Despite never winning the award before, he has made four NBA All-Defensive teams as well as being the NBA’s leader in blocks on three occasions. Davis’s block numbers are a little lower than they usually are at 1.9 blocks per game this season – compared to 2.4 for his career, per Basketball-Reference. This could be due to the addition of Marc Gasol to the Lakers’ frontcourt, a move that has boosted the team’s rim protection. If Davis can raise his numbers again, he should be in consideration for the award purely based on his defensive presence on the court – but he should still finish among the top five in voting.
The center for the Indiana Pacers – the former potential centerpiece of a Gordon Hayward trade with the Boston Celtics – has continued to show why the team would not package another one of its top players with him. Turner is the current league leader in blocks with 4.2 blocks per game, elevating his game beyond any doubt in 2020-21. He is one of the more underrated rim protectors in basketball, as he has only one top-five finish in the DPotY voting in his career. Turner has also improved his steals metrics this season by averaging 1.5 per game, thus providing a strong defensive presence alongside All-Star frontcourt mate, Domantas Sabonis. Turner should be the frontrunner for the award as things stand right now, but that could change as the season progresses, especially as his injury impacts proceedings.
The reigning two-time MVP should always be in the conversation for the DPotY award as he revolutionizes the defensive side of the floor at an elite level. Currently, Antetokunmpo is averaging 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks per game to go along with a 106.5 defensive rating, per NBA Advanced Stats. It goes without saying, but Antetokounmpo is a chase-down block artist, always there to contest shots around the rim with his long frame. The 6-foot-11 power forward is one of the league’s top five players due to his exceptional play on both sides of the ball and will always be considered for the DPotY award as long as he in the NBA.
The Los Angeles Clippers’ superstar has been arguably the best defensive small forward in the game over the past few years. He first gained major recognition for his defense during the 2014 NBA Finals against the LeBron James-led Miami HEAT. Since then, Leonard has racked up six All-Defensive team nominations to go along with two Defensive Player of the Year awards. This season, Leonard remains an elite defender for the championship-hopeful Clippers with 1.8 steals and 0.8 blocks per game – but his defensive rating is the highest of his ten-year career at 107.8.
The current league leader in rebounds for the Cleveland Cavaliers is having a monster season thus far. In a contract year, Andre Drummond is currently putting up 19.3 points per game, 15.8 rebounds per game, 1.7 steals per game and 1.6 blocks per game. He also has a very stellar defensive rating of 105.0, a culmination of points allowed per 100 possessions. Drummond is not on a very good team, but that should not take away from the impact he makes when he is on the floor. As a pure rim protector and rebounding machine, he should finish higher up in the voting results than usual, even if his season doesn’t end with Cleveland.
Honorable Mention: Tobias Harris
The Philadelphia 76ers have started the season on a very high note at 9-5, all despite loads of COVID health and safety protocols preventing their full team from taking the floor. Tobias Harris has played a major part in their early-season success leading the NBA in defensive win shares among starters who have played at least 10 games with 0.184, per NBA Advanced Stats. Along with that, Harris is also second in defensive rating among qualified starters at 99.6. The veteran forward has averaged 1.1 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. So if the 76ers want to remain at the top of the Eastern Conference, Harris’ overall play will be a huge reason for that success.
As the old saying goes, defense wins championships – and these players are the type of players that can change the result of a game every night. Keep an eye on these players as the season moves along as they should garner consideration for both All-Defensive team nominations and the DPotY award.
NBA Rookie of the Year Watch – Jan. 21
Basketball Insiders’ Tristan Tucker provides an update on some of the rookies around the league and which are truly in contention for the Rookie of the Year award.
Through the NBA’s first month, the rookie class has continued to show what they can do on the court. While some have faltered or succumbed to injuries as the games have piled up, others have shone bright and even cracked their team’s starting lineups as the race toward the Rookie of the Year award heats up.
With that in mind, let’s take a third look at Basketball Insiders’ Rookie of the Year ladder stands and see where they stand.
1. LaMelo Ball (Previous: 2)
Through the first month of play, Ball has been, undisputedly, the Rookie of the Year. With numbers that could rival some NBA veterans — 11.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game — Ball has found a way to impact winning for the Charlotte Hornets without starting a game thus far.
While much of the hoopla around Ball has come from his offensive, he’s been pretty solid on the defensive end as well; his 1.5 steals per game are good for 13th in the NBA, while his 21 total steals tie him for 10th.
On Jan. 9, Ball also made history as the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double. An eventual move to the starting lineup should only further promote his game.
He could stand to improve his efficiency, as Ball has shot just 40.3% from the field, 33.3% from three and 67.9% from the free throw line. That said, the sky’s the limit for the young rookie. With Ball at the helm, Charlotte and their fans should feel pretty confident about their group going forward.
2. Tyrese Haliburton (Previous: 1)
Haliburton’s late-lottery selection was a surprise, as the point guard that reportedly shot up draft boards late in the process had always played with a hardworking and winning mentality at Iowa State. Still, he hasn’t missed a beat with the Sacramento Kings and paced the Rookie of the Year race from the start.
His 11.1 points, 5.3 assists and 1.2 steals per game, along with his 51.6% mark from the field and 51% clip from three (on over four attempts a contest) are mightily impressive. Meanwhile, lineups that have featured Haliburton with the Kings’ usual starters have fared exceptionally well; when he’s replaced Marvin Bagley, the Kings are a plus-10.6 and play at a torrid pace.
Haliburton and Ball have comparable stats, with Ball being a better rebounder and Haliburton being a better shooter. But Sacramento’s 5-10 record has kept him out of the top spot for now, as leading his team to a positive record — and a potential playoff spot — will almost certainly work in Ball’s favor when voting commences at the end of the season.
3. James Wiseman (Previous: 3)
After taking a year away from competitive basketball, the fact that Wiseman has been able to contribute at such a high-level right away has come as a pleasant surprise for the Golden State Warriors. Wiseman’s 10.7 points per game place him fifth among rookies, while his 6 rebounds per game place him second.
Fresh off a career-high 20 points against the San Antonio Spurs, Wiseman has continued to learn more each day. Draymond Green’s role in Wiseman’s development could also pay some extreme dividends for the Warriors, as the young center might prove unstoppable were he to incorporate Green’s court vision and handle into his own game.
With numbers comparable to Kevin Garnett’s and Giannis Antetokounmpo’s age-19 seasons, Wiseman has helped put the Warriors in prime position to push for a playoff spot despite the loss of Klay Thompson prior to the season.
4. Tyrese Maxey (Previous: Not Ranked)
With a move into the starting lineup, Maxey has rapidly climbed the board as he’s earned more and more praise. He was always going to be an impressive piece for the Philadelphia 76ers — in fact, Maxey was seen as so crucial to Philadelphia’s future success that he was held out of any potential James Harden trade package — but his 39-point outburst against the Denver Nuggets has seemingly sparked more trust from the team in Maxey early on.
For the season, Maxey has averaged an impressive 11.4 points on 47.7% shooting from the field. But his numbers have spiked since he moved into the starting-five: in six starts, Maxey has averaged 16.2 points, 3.7 rebounds and assists and has shot 46.7% from the field.
If he can sustain that kind of productivity as the 76ers’ health improves, Maxey might be a lock for the All-Rookie First Team. Likewise, expect him to hold down a spot on this list for the foreseeable future.
5. Patrick Williams (Previous: 5)
Despite his late rise, many saw Patrick Williams’ selection by the Chicago Bulls as a reach. But, so far, Williams has proven the doubters completely wrong, as he’s started every game in which he’s made an appearance for the 6-8 Bulls.
That isn’t to say Williams hasn’t been perfect, as many of Chicago’s groups that feature the young forward are net negatives by a good margin. But, so far, Williams has already brought the confidence and energy that you want to see out a top pick. He hasn’t shied away from tough matchups, either, as Williams took to the task of guarding both LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard in the Bulls’ recent games against the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, valuable experience that should only further improve his game.
His 10.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 48.5% field goal and 87% free throw percentages are nothing to slouch at, either. So, while it may be a while before he reaches the height of some of his classmates, Williams has look of a special NBA talent.
6. Anthony Edwards (Previous: 4)
Edwards has put up some incredible scoring numbers off the bench for the Minnesota Timberwolves, as he’s averaged a rookie-leading 12.2 points in 25 minutes per game.
However, Edwards’ shooting splits have disappointed, while he hasn’t been able to do much to turn around the Minnesota Timberwolves 3-10 season in the absence of Karl-Anthony Towns.
Edwards’ placement on this ladder is contingent on how the Timberwolves both fare in Towns’ continued absence and how different they look upon his return; they showed plenty of promise when he was on the court and Edwards’s standing could improve drastically if the team can turn it around and win some games.
Each year, it would seem as if that the next group of young talent is more exciting than the last. And, with so many talented rookies in the fray, almost any of them could crash the Rookie of the Year party. Make sure to check back on our next update to see who might do just that.
NBA Daily: The Memphis Grizzlies’ Young Core Rises
The Memphis Grizzlies have built one of the most exciting young teams in the NBA – and it won’t be long before they’re competing at the top of the Western Conference.
Needless to say, the NBA is flush with some exciting young rosters. Trae Young’s Atlanta Hawks, Luka Doncic’s Dallas Mavericks and Zion Williamson’s New Orleans Pelicans are bursting at the seams with talent and, in short order, have sparked discussions as to which team might be basketball’s next big thing.
While each of those teams excites in their own, unique way, it’s the Memphis Grizzlies that stand out from the rest of the pack.
The Grizzlies are led by Ja Morant, their sophomore star point guard out of Murray State. As a rookie, Morant proved he was one of the NBA’s brightest up-and-comers, but he’s taken it to another level this season. While he missed time with an ankle injury, Morant has averaged 22.6 points and 7.0 assists per game on 53.2 percent shooting. Morant is also first in the NBA in fast-break points per game, averaging 5.8 per game.
The bright hooper hasn’t had the hype that someone like Young did early on in the season, but there’s a case to be made that Morant is just as promising as the Hawks’ star guard. Per 48 minutes, Morant is averaging 37.1 points and 11.5 assists versus Young at 33.6 points and 13.1 assists per game. While not a perfect comparison given the former’s smaller sample size in 2020-21, it does show that Morant is absolutely in the discussion for the best young guard in the league.
The Grizzlies already have their cornerstone of the future, but what separates them from the rest of the NBA’s fascinating teams is the organization’s ability to acquire talented role players. Five of the Grizzlies’ top seven scorers are players the Grizzlies drafted in the last four seasons; better, four of them were players selected in the previous two.
Memphis only has two players older than 30, Gorgui Dieng and Tim Frazier, the latter of which has played just 33 minutes this season. That number jumps to three with players 28-years-and-older by adding Jonas Valanciunas to the list.
Lead amongst those role players is the Grizzlies’ second-leading scorer Dillon Brooks, the 45th overall selection for Memphis in 2017. Brooks is putting up 15.2 points per game in his fourth season in the NBA despite not shooting the ball well, just 36.9 percent from the field and 30.5 percent from three-point range. Brooks has never shot below 35 percent from three or 40 percent from the field in his career, so it stands to reason his percentages will increase by the end of the year and, with it, his entire scoring output.
Elsewhere, Brandon Clarke, a second-year forward out of Gonzaga, is one of Memphis’ five players averaging over 10 points per game this year, putting up 13.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. While his scoring numbers are substantial, Clarke’s value comes on the defensive end – much like the two Grizzlies’ rookies, Desmond Bane and Xavier Tillman.
Bane and Tillman were picked between 30-35th overall, and through a handful of games, both have well exceeded their draft slots. Bane is averaging 8.6 points per game on crazy efficient shooting percentages of 47.1/48.9/77.8. Beyond that, Tillman has shown his worth on both ends of the ball too, averaging 8.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.3 blocks per game. This doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the Grizzlies’ talented young core which includes two ultra-talented youngsters who have yet to play this season.
Jaren Jackson Jr. may be the Grizzlies’ second-best player behind Morant; last year, he averaged 17.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game on 46.9/39.4/74.7 shooting splits. Winslow hasn’t played since early on in the 2019-20 season with the Miami HEAT, before being traded to Memphis at the deadline for Andre Iguodala. During his last full season, Winslow averaged 12.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game on 43.3/37.5/62.8 shooting splits, making him a valuable wing player that the Grizzlies have just waiting on the bench.
Of course, Memphis is one of the youngest teams in the NBA with an average age of 24.3, second-youngest in the league, and have dealt with significant injury problems early on this season. Despite this, the Grizzlies are one of the best defensive units in the league, holding a defensive rating of 106.66, second-best league-wide. The Memphis offense has struggled so far this year, but a major reason why is because of Morant’s injury.
When Morant plays, the Grizzlies’ offensive numbers are much improved. With Morant on the floor, they’ve got an offensive rating of 115.4, which would be the sixth-best mark in the NBA. Without him on the floor, their offensive rating drops to 103.8, good for second-worst. Given that Morant has missed more than half the Grizzlies’ games this year, it’s no wonder their offensive rating is a 105.66 on the season.
Ultimately, this has left the Grizzlies with a record of 7-6, putting them at the eighth seed in the Western Conference and right in the hunt for the playoffs.
The scary thing is that the Grizzlies are only going to get better. Morant and Jackson Jr. are both 21-years-old, Tillman and Bane are 22 and Brooks, Winslow and Clarke are 24. The entirety of the core is young, while their two best players are hardly old enough to buy alcohol. Even though the Grizzlies are young, they’ve already shown themselves to be one of the league’s best defenses and possess the tools to improve their offense in-house.
Come the end of the season, the Grizzlies will be a real playoff contender – and with such a young roster, it’s only a matter of time before Memphis is competing for more than just the backend of the playoffs.