The Atlanta Hawks will return to the court on October 4 for preseason action. But they, along with the rest of the NBA will return in just a few days for training camp. Our anticipation for the upcoming season has been building since we got the schedule release a little over a month ago.
We’ve already gone over a few pre-Christmas home games to be excited about, with matchups against the reigning champs and MVP on deck.
But another one could be intriguing just because of how many parallels there are to the Hawks.
The Atlanta Hawks should see a lot of themselves in the Memphis Grizzlies
When the Hawks take the court on Oct 9 for their third preseason game, most eyes will be on Trae Young and Ja Morant (assuming both play). Rightfully so, as they are two of the best young point guards and most electrifying players in the NBA. They’ve also had similar impacts on their franchises, each leading their organizations to the playoffs last season after three-year hiatuses.
Luka Doncic will always be associated with Young. But the better parallel to what the latter has done in Atlanta could be Morant in Memphis.
And there are more similarities than that which should make this an inter-conference rivalry to watch for years to come.
The first thing that makes the two organizations more similar than the Hawks to the Dallas Mavericks is a Mark Cuban. As simple or even benign as it may seem, his visibility is only outdone by his willingness to speak on spending big.
Dallas is always in conversations regarding trades for disgruntled stars simply because we expect Cuban to make a splash. This despite the fact that the last major move they made (outside of Doncic) was a trade that landed Kristaps Prozingis. There were reports this offseason the 7-footer could be on the way out.
Instead, Memphis, like Atlanta until the notion began to take root this season, certainly wasn’t talked about as a destination before Morant and honestly aren’t quite there yet with him.
Both had mildly successful previous iterations in the not-too-distant past as well. The Hawks having the Jeff Teague-Al Horford-Josh Smith teams while the Grizzlies “Grit & Grind” era featuring Mike Conley (now with the Utah Jazz) and the since-retired Zach Randolph.
It’s what they did this offseason that brings it all together though.
Memphis traded for their Clint Capela in center Steven Adams in an effort to add more toughness and offensive rebounding.
They also acquired rookie Zaire Williams in a draft-night trade, adding another young and lengthy wing to a group that, at least for now, includes Kyle Anderson, Dillon Brooks, and Brandon Clarke.
Trade rumors around Anderson and Brooks combined with a lack of playing time in the postseason is what has created the uncertainty that around the trio. It is very similar to what the Hawks are seeing with Cam Reddish, Kevin Huerter, and even rookie Jalen Johnson this offseason.
Memphis has to be hoping Jaren Jackson is indeed their version of John Collins. The Hawks forward just earned himself a new deal while Jackson is coming off of an injury-marred campaign.
The two teams face off two times in the regular season, first in Memphis on Nov 9 and again in Atlanta on Mar 18. They split their pair of matchups last season, with Young averaging 25 points, 10 assists, and four rebounds. Morant put up 23.5 points, 7.0 assists, and 5.0 boards in the mini-series.
Morant’s Grizzlies own a 3-1 edge since he entered the league.
But this is really intriguing when thinking of it in the big picture. Both teams are led by dynamic point guards who have already proven capable of uplifting their respective franchises. And Memphis was aggressive in making moves to hopefully propel this team to the next level as the Hawks did last offseason.
Could the Grizz take a similar leap as the Hawks with the right breaks? Will we eventually see the two battle it out in an NBA Finals or several? With Young and Morant at the helm, it would certainly be very entertaining and something to hope for.