It's only two games but the Memphis Grizzlies have put together a pretty phenomenal start to their 2017-18 campaign, taking down the Pelicans (103-91) on Wednesday and the Warriors (111-101) two nights ago.
Below, are they key ingredients in what could make for a special season in Memphis.
In both games, the Grizzlies' bench was worth their weight in gold; it almost begets the question, does Memphis have an elite bench? Against the Pelicans, Memphis' bench put up 53 of their 103 total points with strong contributions from rookie Dillon Brooks, Tyreke Evans, and Mario Chalmers.
Chandler Parsons is slowly being brought back up to speed via Memphis' bench and has also been an integral part of the second unit, being utilized in a stretch-four role.
In their matchup with Golden State, the bench proved it wasn't a fluke, following up their opening-night heroics with 41 points, including 6 three-pointers. Mike Conley managed to not even score a basket in the first half and Memphis still held a lead against the high-octane defending champs.
Production like this looks extremely promising, especially when guys like JaMychal Green and Ben McLemore return from injury.
The backcourt featuring Evans and Chalmers has proven to be a winning combo so far, with both guards pretty effective at being aggressive on both sides of the floor, setting the pace for the rest of the unit. A frontcourt featuring Brandan Wright, Dillon Brooks, and a resurfaced Chandler Parsons rounds out a formidable, athletic (next-gen) bunch that are playing their roles to a tee so far.
Tempo & Pace
The Grizzlies are playing a with a lot more temp than previous years. Based on NBA.com's stats, last year's version of the Grizzlies totaled a pace metric of 94.74 per game. Through the first tow games of this season that metric bumped up to 99.56. Also, fast break points went up from 10.2 to 18,5. Keeping in mind the sample size for this season is literally two games, it shows promise of the type of team coach Fizdale and his group are trying to morph into, understanding that the league's play style has changed significantly.
Mike Conley Jr.
Grit & Grind 2.0
That's not to say that Fizdale and crew have abandoned the grit and grind moniker. Points in the paint have actually increased so far this season, increasing from about 40 last year to 52. Also points off turnovers has increased from 16 to 21.
The Grizzlies don't have to necessarily maintain these exact metrics as they'd be hard to sustain over the course of a full season, let alone against foes like the Golden State Warriors, but what they do need to do Is maintain the philosophy. This brand of basketball is quite honestly the best iteration of themselves they could have morphed into after the departure of Grit and Grind version 1.0 with Z-Bo and Tony Allen.
Even Marc Gasol seems to have more focus on spacing the floor and utilizing the ground and pound more strategically, creating an unpredictability that's a lot more suitable for fluid offense. It also helps that he looks like he's in possibly the best shape of his career.
The depth of the Grizzlies will prove paramount near the back half of the season when teams start to accumulate their respective bumps and bruises. Their second unit can honestly contend with a lot of the first unit's of eastern conference teams and they all seem comfortably bought into their roles. So far they've been without the services of JaMychal Green and Ben McLemore, two players who make the Grizzlies core look even more attractive than it already is.
Actually, after thinking about it, I'm doubling down on the second paragraph.
The 2017-18 Grizzlies have an elite bench.