Oklahoma City and Memphis will face off on the hardcourt Friday in what is sure to be a battle between two future Western Conference titans.
More alike than they or their respective front offices would probably admit, I’d expect they’ll meet in the Playoffs in the coming years more than once.
Each led by emergent All-NBA caliber guards, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Ja Morant, they’re likely to follow similar paths.
The Grizzlies stocked up on talent via the draft, and made their official Western Conference debut very suddenly. While OKC hasn’t followed quite that same route, they very well could next year with No. 2 pick Chet Holmgren back on the floor.
With teams like the Lakers, Clippers, Warriors and others phasing out eventually, looming threats like OKC, Memphis, New Orleans and more will be left in charge, and the ones who both built through the draft and acquired assets are who I’ll be putting my money on to make deep runs in the playoffs.
It’s not uncommon for rivalries to be bred through continual, high-intensity meetings. And like the Zach Randolph and Kevin Durant-led teams of old, Friday’s matchup is sure to have some fireworks in its own right.
The teams are currently separated by just two games, with the Grizzlies featuring plenty more experience.
The Thunder and Grizzlies tip off at 7 p.m. on Friday night in FedExForum.