Two or three times a month, I take my kids to the local yogurt shop. It’s crazy the flavors they have these days: black forest cake, caramel macadamia, cinnamon coconut, guava grapefruit sorbet, etc. Man, when I was a kid, there was no fancy shmancy yogurt. We had ice cream. Flavors? Vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. The classics. Now, any store you go into, there will always be vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry flavors placed among the almond midnight mochas, cookies & creams, and alphonso mango tarts. Why? Although not sexy and often overlooked, they get the job done and still taste damn good. That’s how I feel about the Memphis Grizzlies. They play a boring, methodical style of basketball and don’t have star power, although Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are really good players. With that said, all they’ve done is make the playoffs for seven consecutive years.
2016 record: 43-39
- Ivan Rabb via draft
- Dillon Brooks via draft
- Wayne Selden via free agency
- Ben McLemore via free agency
- Tyreke Evans via free agency
- Mario Chalmers via free agency
- Tony Allen via free agency
- Vince Carter via free agency
- Zach Randolph via free agency
- Troy Daniels via trade
A drop off should be expected for the Grizzlies this season. The question is, “how much?” Known for being a “grind it out” defensive team (3rd in points per game), the team let go of Tony Allen, their best defensive player. They did add some more offense, but were the moves enough to improve upon their 29th ranking in points scored? When you look at the depth chart below, I think the answer will become apparent. The West is stacked and the improvements that many of the other teams made in the offseason will probably be too much. There are plenty of holes on this roster with questionable depth. What happens if they are out of contention? A trade? Start playing the youngsters? All within the range of outcomes.
PG – Mike Conley aka Mr. Vanilla aka Money Mike. While he did sign a five-year, $153 million contract last season, Conley still seems to be underappreciated. He’s like a silent assassin. Or he’s more like a ninja. I did read a funny joke about ninjas. I apologize that I don’t remember who wrote it, so I can’t give proper credit. Anyways, the person said, “weren’t ninjas actually terrible at their jobs because they are famous?” Anyways, Conley averaged 20 points for the first time in his career last season and the usage rate increased from 22% to 26%. It’s certainly possible that both of those numbers tick up again. He shot 40% from three-land, 86% from the charity stripe, dished out six dimes, and pilfered 1.3 a game. Money. Mario Chalmers tore his Achilles last year, but looks really good so far in the preseason. He looks to be the front runner for the backup point guard duties. He probably won’t get many minutes, but he does shoot well from three-land (35% career), will dish out some dimes, and has a career average of 1.5 steals. Andrew Harrison and Wade Baldwin should not get run, but Chalmers is coming off an Achilles tear so….
SG – Tyreke Evans and Wayne Seldon will battle it out for the starting spot. To complicate matters, Ben McLemore could join the fray a few months into the season after recovering from a foot injury. It’s an interesting shift in philosophy, as the shooting guard position has been a defensive one for many years. Now, the Grizzlies are trying to go with more offense. I guess it makes some sense, as the position is called “shooting guard.” I used to love Evans’ game early in this career. He could get to the paint at will and just bully defenders. He couldn’t shoot, though. Now, he’s like the old guy at the Y. Can’t drive but can shoot. He’s now a mid-30s percent shooter from three-land. He’ll grab some boards and dish out some dimes, but nothing eye opening. Seldon is young, but not really good. I’d give Evans the edge over Seldon. McLemore is the best shooter out of the group (38% from three-land last season), but he won’t contribute in anything else and will be coming off an injury.
SF – Chandler Parsons used to be a top-50 player, but injuries have derailed his career. He looked like literal dog shit last season. With that said, there is some upside here as a late-round pick. I’m usually hesitant of guys coming off injuries or those with extensive injury histories, but everyone has a price. James Ennis should be the backup. He shot 37% from three-land and grabbed four rebounds last season, but doesn’t do anything else. Dillon Brooks, the Grizzlies second-round pick, and Rade Zagorac, last year’s second-round pick, fill out the position.
PF – JaMychal Green is the starter. Per 36 last season, 11.8 points, 9.3 boards, 38% from three-land, and 80% from the charity stripe. He should soak up most of the minutes, so there’s inherent value in that even though he’s not that good. Ivan Rabb, the Grizzlies’ first round pick, is the backup. He’s been dealing with an ankle injury so he hasn’t been able to get any run. With that said, even if healthy, he probably won’t see significant minutes unless the Grizzlies are out of it and let their youngsters play at the end of the season.
C – Marc Gasol was in trade rumors all summer. If the Grizzlies struggle out of the gate, do they move him? Can’t totally dismiss that notion. I still remember when the Lakers traded for Pau Gasol back in 2008. Marc was basically a throw-in for the package that included Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, and Aaron McKie. Anyways, Gasol is 32 years old but can still ball. For a big man, he shot an impressive 39% from three-land last season. He also shot 83% from the charity stripe. Six boards with over four dimes and around one steal and one block per game are so juicy. With the Grizzlies bereft of talent, both the usage rates for Conley and Gasol could tick up. Backing up Gasol will be Brandan Wright. A tall, lanky, athletic big man that will shoot a high percentage from the field, grab boards, and accumulate defensive stats. No threes or assists and bad free-throw shooting.