Welcome to my preview of the first round of the postseason in the Western Conference. Below are full previews of each series and picks for how I believe those will play out. Throughout the postseason you can find all the NBA coverage you need here and on The Edge (1 p.m. PT / 4 p.m. ET) daily.
#2 Memphis Grizzlies (-330) vs #7 Minnesota Timberwolves (+ 260)
On paper, this is the most exciting series in the first round. Two young teams who love to run with young stars in Ja Morant and Anthony Davis playing in a best-of-seven that should be very competitive. However, a glance at the market is telling us that Memphis is going to have little trouble dispatching Minnesota despite the two teams splitting a four-game regular season series and the Timberwolves coming away with a + 8.1 net rating. This current price carries an implied probability of 76.7% which is somewhat high given how tight the four games were this season. Is the gap between Memphis and Minnesota larger than that of Utah and Dallas that could be without Luka Doncic? Personally, I would say that is not the case. That is not to say I believe the Timberwolves will win this series, but I do believe these two teams are much closer to one another than the betting market says.
Where Memphis seems to have the biggest edge is on offense. Minnesota finished the season 13th in defensive efficiency in non-garbage time minutes, allowing 111.6 points per 100 possessions. The Timberwolves play an extremely aggressive style on that end of the floor, blitzing off ball screens and jumping passing lanes to force turnovers and subsequently get out in transition for easy baskets. It’s why they finished second in defensive turnover rate (16.2%) and ninth in points added per 100 possessions in transition offense off steals (+ 1.8). However, that style has its weaknesses. Teams that can navigate the pressure tend to get open 3-point looks, specifically from the corners. Opponents took the second-highest rate of corner 3-point attempts against the Timberwolves (12.3%) and 38.9% of their shots from beyond the arc overall.