After winning their respective semi-final matchups on Sunday, the Memphis Grizzlies and Minnesota Timberwolves will square off Monday for the 2019 Las Vegas Summer League championship. Neither team has won a Summer League title, though Minnesota did make the final in 2016.
The 6-0 Timberwolves are led by a very deep roster that features six players averaging double-digit points. The team leader, undrafted free agent Naz Reid, is averaging 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds while shooting over 50% from the field. The 6-foot-10 big man was the difference-maker in the semi-final match against the Brooklyn Nets, scoring a game-high 20 points.
Perhaps most impressively, they’re doing all this without 2019 sixth-overall pick Jarrett Culver after the team decided to keep him out of Summer League action. Since his draft rights were traded, he wasn’t technically on the Timberwolves’ roster until July 6 after Summer League had started. The team instead held him out so he could work on learning the system off-court.
Similarly, Memphis won their semi-final contest over the New Orleans Pelicans on the back of big-man Brandon Clarke who erupted for 23 points and 14 rebounds (four offensive) on 7/10 shooting and 9/11 from the free-throw line. Clarke, the 21st-overall pick in this year’s draft, leads all Memphis players with 14.6 points and 8.6 rebounds during Summer League while shooting a strong 57 percent. The Grizzlies are also without their other first-round pick, guard Ja Morant, after he underwent knee surgery last month.
Clearly, the battle between Clarke and Reid on Monday will be one of the most important in the championship game. The 22-year-old Clarke has posted two straight double-doubles, including an 18-point, 12-rebound performance that included three blocks against the Boston Celtics on Saturday.
Both teams could benefit from more consistent guard play Monday. Grizzlies’ guard Keenan Evans dished out eight assists Sunday but has shot just 6/21 from the floor over the last two games. Meanwhile, Minnesota point guard Jordan McLaughlin has combined for 15 assists in his last two contests but has also posted an ugly 6/21 shooting line during that span.
How can Minnesota win Monday? Control Tyler Harvey. The 2015 second-round pick has shot drilled 17 of his 37 threes in Memphis’ five wins but shot just 4/11 from beyond the arc in the team’s lone loss. If the Timberwolves can keep him in check and outshoot the Grizzlies, they should be in good shape.
As for Memphis, their key to victory will be ball movement. It’s hard to find a weakness against the undefeated Timberwolves, but in their closest game (a 90-87 win over the Miami Heat), they allowed 19 assists. They only allowed 14 or more in one other game this Summer League, their first game back on July 5th.