Cavaliers vs Grizzlies Picks and Predictions: Block Panther on the Prowl

Jaren Jackson Jr.'s blocking shots at a historic rate, and against a Cavaliers squad that will have to rely more on its big men tonight, our NBA picks see plenty of value in the Grizzlies unicorn.

Last Updated: Jan 18, 2023 11:07 AM ET Read Time: 4 min
Jaren Jackson Jr. Memphis Grizzlies
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

The Memphis Grizzlies are the NBA's hottest team, winners of 10 straight and within inches of the West's best record. But the stiffest test that streak has faced yet may arrive tonight with the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers.

Can Memphis keep its composure as the Cavs try to weather Donovan Mitchell's anticipated absence? Find out in our free NBA picks for Cavaliers vs. Grizzlies on Wednesday, January 18.

Cavaliers vs Grizzlies best odds

Cavaliers vs Grizzlies picks and predictions

Some things are inevitable in life: Death, taxes, the changing of the seasons, New Year's Resolutions going to shit any week now.

Another thing that's pretty much certain — Jaren Jackson Jr. is going to block your shot. 

Memphis' unicorn (that moniker gets thrown around too often but definitely applies in Jackson's case) has been snuffing would-be scorers at one of the highest rates in NBA history, and has skyrocketed up the Defensive Player of the Year odds board, now an odds-on favorite despite not yet having played the minimum games to qualify for the league's official blocks leaders. 

JJJ's been nothing short of a revelation, blocking three or more shots in six of eight games this month, and seemingly developing new defensive instincts by the game, like that scene in a superhero origin story movie where they first start to discover their powers ("wow, I can do that").

Tonight's matchup against the Cavs' front line brings dueling logic for Jackson's blocks market, but should benefit him. On one hand, the Cavs have a great frontcourt that should test Jackson regularly — but that really only means serving up more potential blocks to the NBA's (and this may not be arguable at this point) best rim protector.

The Cavs will also run a fair number of pick-and-roll sets for Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley, especially with Donovan Mitchell likely out — the type of plays Jackson can feast on whether in primary or help coverage. 

The only real threat to this prop is Jackson's penchant for fouling, leading the league each of the past two seasons. But JJJ's slashed his hacking considerably this season, fouling almost 24% less than his career average. Last time out against Phoenix, he swatted six shots in 26 blowout-capped minutes without committing a single foul, which would have been inconceivable for him a year ago. 

Even if Jackson's floor time is limited, that might not be enough to stop him. He's only averaging 27.3 mpg this month, and has only cracked the 30-minute mark twice despite blocking multiple shots in every game he's played in 2023 — and his last 14 games overall. 

I might not be as inclined to fire this prop at -115, but bloated to +125, there's value to be had. Jackson's clearly feeling himself, and having a historic defensive season so far. I feel good testing his ceiling at plus money. 

My best bet: Jaren Jackson Jr. Over 2.5 blocks (+125 at bet365)

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Cavaliers vs Grizzlies spread analysis

Memphis has been on an utter tear, winning 10 straight games and going 7-3 ATS during that stretch. Now, lost in the hype is the fact that most of these teams (with Sacramento, oddly, being the lone exception) weren't very good — either lottery fodder, heavily injured, on in Toronto's case, in the midst of a full-on identity crisis.

Even without Mitchell, the Cavs will bring a serious fight to FedExForum, and the Grizzlies, despite their talent, depth, and homecourt, have been known to let their guard down and take a few blows before countering with their own. 

Cleveland still owns the NBA's No. 2 defense (a hair behind No. 1 Memphis), something Mitchell's absence does little to stifle, and also has multiple weapons who can help carry the scoring load. 

Of course, removing one of the league's best scorers against a team like Memphis isn't without its pitfalls. The Grizzlies are a dangerous two-way team (also with the league's No. 6 offense) and are relentless in attacking, especially at home. 

This is a large spread, and one that could easily be mitigated by a slower-paced game if the Cavs decide to really buckle down on defense and Memphis doesn't create as many fast-break opportunities.

But the Grizzlies also have a wide range of outcomes in spots like these, and it wouldn't shock me to see them win by double digits. This spread's a pass for me in a litmus test game for Memphis.

Cavaliers vs Grizzlies Over/Under analysis

As I alluded to above, there are factors swaying on both sides of this total, not the least of which is that it pits the league's two best defenses against one another. The Cavs are also the league's slowest team, compounded by the fact that, without Mitchell, they'll have to likely burn more clock on offense while doubling down on their defensive effort. 

The Grizzlies are one of the NBA's highest-scoring teams (117.6 ppg, tied for third), but this game could very easily adopt a defensive mindset if Cleveland drags the proceedings into the mud.

The Cavs are only averaging 111.5 ppg this season (26th) and they obviously project lower without their leading scorer. Mix in the impetus to foster whatever the opposite of a shootout is, and Memphis is going to have to both control tempo and get hot here to push this far past the 228 total. 

The Grizzlies are certainly capable of doing so — so, this is definitely more of a lean than a pick — but the Under has my attention here.

Cavaliers vs Grizzlies betting trend to know

Jaren Jackson Jr. has blocked multiple shots in 14 straight games. Find more NBA betting trends for Cavaliers vs. Grizzlies.

Cavaliers vs Grizzlies game info

Location: FedExForum, Memphis, TN
Date: Wednesday, January 18, 2023
Tip-off: 8:00 p.m. ET
TV: Bally Sports Ohio, Bally Sports Southeast

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