When: Sunday, January 5th, 12:00 PM CST
Where: The Palace at Auburn Hills, Detroit, MI
Bookending a road trip inclusive of games in Phoenix and Denver, the Grizzlies now drive their way up to Motor City to face a considerably well rested Pistons team. Detroit has yet to play a game in the New Year, having enjoyed a five day vacation since its back-to-back losses against the Washington Wizards, while Memphis enters this one lukewarm, having split the games on the trip thus far.
Expected Starting Lineups:
Mike Conley vs Brandon Jennings
Despite the new surroundings, Brandon Jennings’s first season in Detroit has for the most part yielded “more of the same.” He has been as mediocre as ever from the field, again shooting below 40%, all the while maintaining a strong 3-point percentage in the mid 30′s. The only difference for Jennings is that he’s seen a solid rise in his assist numbers at 8.3 per game. Mike Conley’s raw production numbers stack up slightly south of those recorded by tonight’s counterpart, but he does so with a far lesser cost in terms of efficiency, and plays 2.5 less minutes per game.
Tony Allen vs Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
The other half of the Pistons’ backcourt, shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, shoots an even lower percentage from the field than his running mate, as he’s been thrown to the wolves in his rookie campaign after coming in as a darkhorse Rookie of the Year candidate. Tony Allen has not quite been himself lately on the defensive end, but his offense was pretty good against Denver after playing a mere 13 minutes in Phoenix the night before. Regardless, KCP has been very unreliable so far, and against a defender like TA, I wouldn’t put money on him.
Tayshaun Prince vs Josh Smith
I can sit here and make all the Tayshaun Prince revenge game jokes that I want to make myself feel better about the prospects of this matchup, but the spry Josh Smith will hopefully see far more looks from James Johnson defensively. Prince has been playing pretty well of late, and his three-pointer at the end of the Nuggets’ game had me jump off the couch, but the athletic disparity between he and Smith definitely has me worried about the SF position.
Zach Randolph vs Greg Monroe
A few years ago, I was deep under the impression that Greg Monroe was well on his way to becoming a Lamarcus Aldridge-lite breakout star at the power forward position. However, here in his fourth season in the league, his outputs are for the most part at an all-time low for his career. His contract was not extended prior to the pre-season deadline, and with free agent signee Josh Smith’s effectiveness magnified ten-fold at the four, Monroe may find himself as the odd man out in Detroit. This doesn’t change the fact that Monroe is still a talented and versatile player, and should give Zbo a run for his money, but given the comparative effectiveness of the two on the year…
Kosta Koufos vs Andre Drummond
In the offseason, Andre Drummond caught my attention for his very public relationship with television starlet Jennette McCurdy– hey when you hang out on Twitter enough, the things that catch your eye are astounding. Now that the season has begun, Drummond has caught my eye by carrying over his excellent production from his rookie campaign into his sophomore year. Drummond has managed to keep up roughly the same efficiency numbers, while extending them over a 57% increase in minutes in his second year. In terms of raw production, he’s averaging well over a double double at 12.9 and 12.4, with a field goal percentage over 60%. You can feel totally confident putting on the foul line, however. His 36% free throw percentage makes Dwight Howard look like Steve Nash. Good luck with this one, Kosta.
Never in a million years did I think that I would say it’s the Grizzlies’ bench that has been doing a lot of the heavy lifting of late. Over the past five games, the team leaders in on-court net rating have been Ed Davis (22.6), James Johnson (11.6), Jerryd Bayless (11.0) and Mike Miller (8.6) — and it’s not even close. The only other Grizzly that’s been in the positive over the span is Mike Conley. With Rodney Stuckey unlikely to play due to a shoulder injury and Chauncey Billups looking like a shell, the Pistons bench is little to write home about. Kyle Singler is the most reliable player of their available options, and he might get the start in place of KCP.