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NBA Season Preview: Memphis Grizzlies Team Preview


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Image courtesy of Sean Davis/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Sean Davis/Flickr.

After winning 50 games in 2013-14, the Memphis Grizzlies finished seventh in the Western Conference. They battled the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round and lost in a seven-game series. This year, head coach David Joerger will be looking for his team to improve their conference seeding and make a deeper run in the playoffs. While the core of the squad remains the same, management did bring in quality depth through the draft and free agency. Here’s a preview of what the Memphis Grizzlies will look like in 2014-15.

Most Important Player: Mike Conley
Conley is the only high quality perimeter player on his team. With weaknesses at the starting shooting guard and backup guard spots, Conley’s elite status as a point guard helps keep the Grizzlies from offensive ineptitude. Their scoring struggles are the primary issue that’s held them back in past seasons. But even with a lack of perimeter offense around him, Conley’s managed to remain efficient from the field, three-point land, and the charity stripe. He also boasts an impressive career assist-to-turnover ratio of roughly three -to-one. When Conley plays well, Memphis typically plays well. His production is the single most important aspect to this franchise.

X-Factor: Marc Gasol
Gasol played in a career low 59 games last year. With the seven-footer’s consistent presence lacking, his overall numbers went down and the team struggled during his absence. Gasol is hugely important because he’s part of a two-headed post monster with Zach Randolph. When one of those players are missing, the flow of the offense becomes stifled. But Gasol’s absence is felt even more because of the elite defense he provides. He can shutdown any opposing big man as a result of his size and footwork. He’s also an efficient mid-range shooter and knocks down the majority of his free throws. A seven-footer who can hit a jumper, nail free throws, and showcase vision as a passer is rare. Gasol has to stay healthy for Memphis.

Rotations: The starting five should end up being Conley, Courtney Lee, Tayshaun Prince, Randolph, and Gasol. Lee’s spot is the only one in question as he competes with Tony Allen. Allen’s lack of offense better suits him for the bench so look for Lee to be the starter. Vince Carter was brought in through free agency and he could play significant minutes behind Lee and Prince. He might even be a spot starter if Prince struggles. Beno Udrih is capable as the backup to Conley at point. Kosta Koufos, Jon Leuer, and rookie Jarnell Stokes provide backup depth in the frontcourt. Stokes, a big bodied bruiser, should succeed under the guidance of the similarly sized Randolph. Quincy Pondexter is an important wing backup because he’s a long range threat. Memphis lacks shooting so Pondexter’s role is quietly crucial. Rookie UCLA product Jordan Adams could also see the floor because of his offensive game.

What Needs To Go Right: David Joerger needs to prove that he’s a worthy replacement of previous head coach Lionel Hollins. The Grizzlies win total and early playoff exit had experts questioning the coaching switch. If players buy into Joerger and he begins establishing himself, additional aspects need to go right such as Conley receiving help on the perimeter, Gasol staying healthy, and bench players productively aiding the offense. Veteran Vince Carter and the team’s rookies will also need to play a role. If these potential aspects go smoothly, Memphis could inch towards 55 wins and a comfortable playoff seed.

It’s Really Bad If: Gasol gets injured again and the team showcases the same ineffective scoring attack as last season. Gasol’s hardly a fragile player but missing extended time last year should make Memphis management somewhat nervous. It would also be significantly unsettling if the team starts on a poor note and fails to show improvements in the post-Hollins era. This would cause fans and management to question the move even more. It could even cause players to do the same.

Bold Prediction: Joerger is fired during the season. Considering the man signed a contract extension in May, is this bold enough for you? Let’s keep in mind that these seeds have already been planted. Joerger nearly left for Minnesota last off-season and he’s clearly not on the same leadership level as Hollins. The Grizzlies offense will stall and they won’t be able to surpass the Western Conference elites. Hollins had the team in the West Finals during his last season. Joerger won’t even sniff that situation. This equation adds up to a fired coach.


Jordans Adams, SG
Gifted slasher. Big build for a shooting guard.
Ball handling skills. Lack of athleticism.
Season Prediction:
With Memphis in dire need of scoring, Adams should see the floor. He’ll average upwards of eight points per game in a limited role.

Tony Allen, G/F
Defensive ability and intensity.
Anything associated with offense. One of the worst shooters in the NBA for his position.
Season Prediction:
Allen should make the NBA All-Defensive Second Team. As usual, his offense will hold the team back but his defense will help them win games.

Nick Calathes, G
Strengths: Defensive effort. Facilitator on offense.
Weaknesses: Limited game in most aspects. Not particularly quick and not a quality shooter.
Season Prediction: Calathes is clearly the third point guard on the depth chart. He shouldn’t play many minutes behind Conley and Udrih.

Vince Carter, G/F
Strengths: Experience and long range shooting.
Weaknesses: Most of his athleticism is out the window.
Season Prediction: Carter will be an important bench player and spot starter. His veteran leadership and scoring ability will be critical.

Mike Conley, PG
Strengths: Efficiency on offense and effort on defense.
Weaknesses: Not athletically gifted. He’s also not the kind of offensive player capable of putting the team on his shoulders.
Season Prediction: Conley will have his typical productive and efficient season. He’ll remain underrated and still won’t receive enough help on the perimeter.

Jamaal Franklin, G/F
Strengths: Athleticism. Unquestionable effort.
Weaknesses: Lack of a jump shot. Not enough perimeter skills to be a shooting guard, too undersized to be a small forward.
Season Prediction: Franklin will be buried on the bench behind players with more defined positions. D-League candidate.

Marc Gasol, C
Strengths: Defensive positioning. Dynamic offensive attack and vision as a passer.
Weaknesses: Sometimes overly selfless. Fails to take over games even when his teams needs him to.
Season Prediction: Gasol will be a member of the All-NBA First team. He’ll play in 75 or more games as he stays away from injury trouble.

Kosta Koufos, F/C
Strengths: Rebounding. Defined role as hustling backup big man.
Weaknesses: Lacks an offensive game. Poor finisher near the rim.
Season Prediction: Koufus will rack up fouls, eat minutes, and rebound the basketball. He knows his limitations and wisely doesn’t attempt to do too much.

Courtney Lee, SG
Strengths: Long range shooting. Overall efficiency.
Weaknesses: Poor slasher and play-maker.
Season Prediction: Lee will average double digit points per game. He’ll be a part of the revolving door shooting guard position in Memphis. Could lose starts to Carter and Allen.

Jon Leuer, F/C
Strengths: Size and effort.
Weaknesses: Hardly has any offensive abilities.
Season Prediction: Leuer will play sporadic minutes. Should see the floor about every other game.

Quincy Pondexter, G/F
Strengths: Long range shooting threat. Focused defender.
Weaknesses: Inefficient and lacks scoring ability beyond long jumpers.
Season Prediction: He’ll be one of the most important role players on the team. Could occasionally start if injuries occur.

Tayshaun Prince, SF
Strengths: Experience. Understands the team concept of defense.
Weaknesses: He’s a far cry of his Detroit self. Inconsistent mid-range shot.
Season Prediction: Prince will continue to fizzle away in Memphis. The Grizzlies will eventually have to trade for or sign a better starting small forward than Prince.

Zach Randolph, F/C
Strengths: Dominant in the post. Relentless with scoring and rebounding.
Weaknesses: Still takes too many mid-range jumpers. Slow defensively.
Season Prediction: Considering how long he’s been in the league, Randolph is remarkably productive. The wide bodied and ageless star will post similar numbers as last season.

Jarnell Stokes, PF
Strengths: Huge body. System fit for the team.
Weaknesses: Post game yet to be developed.
Season Prediction: Stokes will learn the art of banging and bruising in the paint from Randolph. Should log fifteen minutes per game.

Beno Udrih, PG
Strengths: Threat from beyond the arc. Rarely turns the ball over.
Weaknesses: Never been fast or athletic for his position.
Season Prediction: He won’t accomplish much statistically, but Udrih will pick his places to score and facilitate. He’ll offer structure to the backup point guard position.

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