The Orlando Magic will look to add to their 3-game winning streak when they visit the Memphis Grizzlies tonight at the FedEx Forum.
The hosts have been hot as well. The back-to-back Southwest Division Champions are on a 6-game winning streak and have been victorious in 9 of their last 10 contests.
Memphis likely will be without All-Universe point guard Ja Morant, who is listed as doubtful due to a thigh injury. While the Grizzlies obviously are better with Morant than without, they’ve proven that they still have one of the strongest squads in the Western Conference. Memphis won 6 out of the 9 games that Ja missed during his recent suspension.
Orlando Magic at Memphis Grizzlies Picks & Preview: 3/28/23
Tyus Jones will again be assigned starting point guard duties and will attract the interest of bettor’s nationwide. He’ll not only fill Morant’s minutes, but also step into a larger role. Right?
Wrong. It’s actually Jaren Jackson Jr. – not Jones – who has seen the biggest increase in usage with Morant off the court this season.
The frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year has enjoyed a breakout year offensively. For the season, Jackson is averaging 18.0 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, both of which are career highs. With Ja out, his offensive usage rate surges to 30.7% and his per-36-minute averages climb to 27.1 points and 8.2 rebounds.
Conversely, Jones sees his usage slightly decrease -0.2% to 19.1%. This isn’t surprising seeing how Jones and Morant have only been on the court together for 57.4 minutes this season. So while he’ll see more minutes, we shouldn’t expect Jones to necessarily rack up stats at any higher rate than usual. His per-36 averages with tonight’s available Grizzlies players is 17.8/4.0/8.7.
While I don’t see Jones as a sure-fire play, I’m still interested in him. In the nine games Morant recently missed, the Duke product led the team with a dazzling 32.9% assist rate. If we’re estimating that Jones will assist on 33% of Memphis’s field goals tonight while he’s on the court, he’s likely to rack up enough dimes to create some betting value.
I can’t move on to the Magic without also mentioning Desmond Bane, whose 26.9% usage rate is the second highest on the Grizzlies in games Morant has missed. This translates to a per-36 average of 25.4/5.9/5.6. I expect Des and JJJ to again be the focal points of the offense tonight, with Jones facilitating.
Orlando is in full rebuild mode, but the franchise’s future appears bright. The Magic’s youth movement has produced a relatively balanced offensive attack. While Paolo Banchero is the undisputed star of the squad, Orlando has 5 players who average 13+ points per game and 4 rotation members averaging ~4+ assists per game. Personally, this makes it very difficult for me to “get the Magic right” and pin down who’s most likely to be a top performer on a given night.
The Grizzlies have one of the best defenses in the NBA. They lead the league with a 45.1% FG% allowed, block 5.8 shots per game and grab 46.6 boards per game, both 3rd-best overall. They’re notoriously fierce defenders in the paint. This leads to many teams attempting more 3-pointers than average. This is supported by the Grizzlies facing 36.2 3PA per game, the 6th-highest in the league.
When these teams first met this season, Orlando attempted 36 3-pointers, well above their season-long average of 30.6 3PA per game. Even with Steven Adams out, I’d expect a similar trend tonight. The Magic also are 7-point underdogs. If they’re playing from behind, the expected game script would call for even more attempts from downtown. This means I’m less interested in any wagers involving Markel Fultz’s point total, but will look more closely at Franz Wagner, Cole Anthony, Jalen Suggs and Gary Harris.
Anthony is particularly interesting. He has seen a significant increase in minutes recently. He has averaged 28.8 minutes per game in March, which is well up from the 21.2 minutes per game he averaged in February.
On a similar note, Harris isn’t averaging significantly more minutes per game in March, but he is seeing noticeably more usage as a three-and-D wing. He’s averaging 5.8 3PA in just 25.4 minutes per game this month.
So the dangerously over-simplified recap for tonight’s Magic vs. Grizzlies matchup sans Ja Morant:
- Jaren Jackson Jr., Desmond Bane and Tyus Jones will be the offensive workhouses for Memphis tonight – and likely in that specific order.
- Jackson sees a huge bump in points.
- Jones sees a spike in assist rate. (And not necessarily across all stat categories.)
- Someone from the Magic will go off tonight, but I don’t have any confidence who. My leaders would be Wendell Carter Jr. and Franz Wagner. Mo Wagner has extreme boom/bust potential off the bench, too.
- We’re most interested in the members of Orlando’s backcourt who are scoring threats from deep.
Magic vs. Grizzlies Parlays & Best Bets
Taking on the analysis above + more, tonight’s Magic vs. Grizzlies picks, parlays and best bets are as follows:
- Cole Anthony over 1.5 3PM (+155) <– BEST BET
- Gary Harris over 1.5 3PM (-140)
- PARLAY (-140)
- 20+ Tyus Jones Points + Assists
- 18+ Jaren Jackson Jr. Points