Man, was that fun! After a minor letdown against the Nuggets on Monday, the Grizzlies engine revved right back up against the Lakers last night, as they racked up another win against yet another team that got loads of preseason hype. As Matthew noted in his post last night, the Grizzlies won because they were simply better on both ends of the floor. They took Dwight and Pau out of the game, and forced Kobe into an inefficient 7-for-22 night from the field, reminiscent of many of his underwhelming games last season.
This game promised to be a battle between two of the best frontcourt’s in the NBA: Marc & Zbo vs. Dwight & Pau. When the game was done, it was all too clear who the winners were. The ballyhooed big men for the Lakers were woefully ineffective, as neither one was able to hit double figures in points or rebounds. They combined for just 13 points and 8 boards, which Z-Bo bested by himself with a muscular 17-12. Marc had a solid 14-8 himself.
After watching this game, I’m completely convinced the Grizzlies have the best frontcourt in the league. The possibility of Marc being the best center in the game has already been thrown out by Matt, and on the national level, Charles Barkley. Frankly, it’s not that such an absurd thought anymore. Yes, Dwight puts up better numbers, but he can’t shoot at all, and he really can’t shoot from the line. He’s all about brawn, without any finesse. Marc is the rare skill player who isn’t afraid to get tough. If Marc was on a team without such a great supporting cast, he could probably score a lot more, but he doesn’t need to, and he knows that. Instead, he’s good for a solid 15 a night, while also adding killer D. Actually, I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before, but it’s a complete joke that Marc didn’t make all-NBA last year. Tyson Chandler? Yeah, he’s a good player, and a really nice guy, but how about someone who actually plays a significant role on offense?! I’m gonna be steamed about that for a while…
Okay, back to Dwight. Yeah, he’s a ridiculous athlete, and it’s fun to watch him impose his will on weaker opponents, but this is what happens when you put him up against a frontcourt that actually challenges him: he’s rendered useless. Think of how many of his baskets have come on dunks that the other team barely even contests because they’re afraid of him. He can dominate weak teams, but he lacks the skill to handle a real challenge. Shaq was like that in his prime, but he made up for it by being so dominant that he didn’t need to do anything else. Dwight’s weaknesses shine through much more. He’s the Dean Cain to Shaq’s Christopher Reeve. Or the Brandon Routh. Whichever is more insulting. Marc isn’t as flashy, but he’s a far more complete player, and he can contribute to a team without needing the ball all the time. Right now, I think I’d rather go to war with him. Obviously, Bynum is worth talking about, too, but he’s out right now, and frankly, he’s so unreliable with regards to his health, you’re taking a huge risk, no matter how potentially good he might be.
Okay, onto Zbo. What more needs to be said about this dude? He put up another double-double last night, and it was barely even noticeable. I mean that as a compliment. He was able to be extremely effective without becoming the center of the game. He can take over games when he needs to, but he can also go off to the side, and still put up great numbers. This is bigger than people realize; there are plenty of players who can only put up big numbers when everything revolves around them (see: Anthony, Carmelo), but Z-Bo doesn’t need that. He can get a double-double by taking over, or by just doing a ton of little things. Whatever suits him on a given night.
It’s amazing how well these two play together, and how complimentary their assets are. As stated before, Marc is a skill player who can be a banger when he needs to. Well, Zbo is the opposite: a tough guy, more than willing to run you over, who isn’t afraid of using a little finesse now and then. The fact that he’s also a solid mid-range shooter only makes things sweeter. Both of these guys are top 5 players at their positions, and they never make the other one appear redundant. Pau and Dwight can keep getting all the media hype; anyone who watches this Grizzlies team knows that they have the best frontcourt in the league. I look forward to an entire season of watching them annihilate anyone who stands in their way.