The Memphis Grizzlies and Chicago Bulls—two playoff teams from 2011-12—look to assess whether their 2012-13 rosters are also playoff-worthy.
These two clubs face off at the United Center on Tuesday night for their first NBA preseason clash.(Memphis played a friendly against Madrid last Saturday.)
Both the Grizzlies and Bulls enjoyed highly successful campaigns last season. Their triumph, however, was matched with equal heartbreak.
Chris Paul’s Los Angeles Clippers knocked out Memphis in Game 7 of the Conference Quarterfinals, after Marc Gasol helped lead a comeback from a 3-1 series deficit.
A Derrick Rose- and Joakim Noah-less Bulls were eliminated by Philadelphia in six games after posting the best record in the NBA.
Opening-round exits aside, having made the postseason awarded—or rather, penalized—both teams with draft picks in the bottom-five of the first round.
The Grizzlies selected University of Washington guard Tony Wroten. The Bulls took guard Marquis Teague out of Kentucky.
Even while being listed as a point guard on the depth chart, Wroten is more of a tweener guard at 6’5’’. He will bring offense (16.0 PPG in 2011-12) to the Grizzlies offensively-challenged No. 2 personnel. Tony Allen is a plus-defender, but neither he nor Wayne Ellington contribute to the team’s point total.
The Bulls, meanwhile, needed depth at the point guard position. Their franchise lifeblood, Derrick Rose, is out (knee surgery) until after the All-Star break at the very earliest. Former backup C.J. Watson left for Brooklyn, leaving Kirk Hinrich and perhaps the 5’9’’ Nate Robinson as the only reliable point men.
Unlike Wroten, Teague is a true PG, having averaged 10 points and 5 assists during his one year under John Calipari.
These two rookie guards will see plenty of action opposite each other in this matchup. As with any league during the preseason, first-year players generally get opportunities to showcase their talents.
Last season, their respective rosters brought defensive prowess above and beyond that of offensive production.
Chicago led the league in rebounding and points allowed, while Memphis was unmatched in forcing turnovers by the opposition.
The Bulls’ starting five consisted of Rose, Rip Hamilton, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Noah.
Mike Conley Jr., Tony Allen, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol comprised the Grizzlies’ starting contingent.
Aside from Gay, or Rose during his limited action, no single player necessarily jumped off the stat sheet. These teams’ successes were truly a product of doing the little things right, playing stifling defense and putting forth total team efforts—however cliché that might sound.
On Tuesday, both squads will have a chance to take the proverbial rubber match after splitting their two meetings in the 2011-12 regular season.
Memphis’ lineup will materialize with essentially the same starting five as appeared throughout the season. Chicago’s, on the other hand, will feature a much different corps than what the Grizzlies saw last time around.
Headline star Derrick Rose will obviously be missing in action. Additionally, guards C.J. Watson and Ronnie Brewer are no longer with the Bulls. Instead, Hamilton and Kirk Hinrich will fill the starting backcourt.
And in case the pugnacious Noah misses the game due to personal reasons, Nazr Mohammed will man the center position instead of Omer Asik.
This game will be particularly interesting, because we will witness the new makeup of the Chicago Bulls—whether their depth and new draft pick can make up for the loss of Rose and potentially Noah as well.
Boozer especially will have to produce in ways other than meaningless numbers on the stat sheet.
We’ll also see if the Grizzlies’ playoff roster from last season can carry over into 2012-13. Z-Bo in particular must be seething after coming up short in his Game 7 performance.
It is indeed just the first preseason game. That said, players on both rosters have much to prove in an increasingly competitive NBA.
They have their first chance to work towards that on Tuesday.
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