Q-Pon. Three-ball. Corner pocket. Sweet.
Floor spacing. The Starting Lineup. How should the Grizzlies compensate for a shooting guard that does not, you know, shoot the ball. At least not very well. How do they get a real outside threat into the starting lineup?
How should the Grizzlies respond when an opponent packs the paint, clogging up everything the Grizz love to do, and dares them to beat them from the outside. You know, like the Spurs did in sweeping the Grizzlies out of last season's playoffs.
It does not seem that the answer to this dilemma is to have Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince together in the starting lineup, or on the floor at the same time, at least not for major minutes.
The solution is to shuffle the starting lineup. Someone is going to the bench, unless there is a trade. After the recent contract extension for Tony Allen, he is not likely to be involved in a trade. Nor would you want that. Tayshaun has been included in some trade rumors; but they haven't pulled the trigger on anything.
There has been some discussion about whether Tayshaun Prince would, and would be willing and effective, coming off the bench. The real question for the Grizzlies is: Can Quincy Pondexter be an effective starter?
Let's look at the kind of player Pondexter is, and what he brings to the starting unit. I see Q-Pon as a Shane Battier type player. This means solid defense and outside shooting, including that sweet corner three. It also means high basketball IQ on both ends of the floor, facilitating on offense and playing his role in the team concept on defense. This is a role Pondexter can provide as a starter.
Is Pondexter really a small forward, or is he a shooting guard? Is he Tony Allen's backup at the two? Should the debate be about Tony Allen going to the bench instead of Tayshaun? And is Pondexter tall enough at 6' 6" to guard the three. Tayshaun is 6' 9", and that's without accounting for those long arms.
Most importantly, is Q-Pon what the starting unit needs? Let's take a look at both ends of the floor.
On offense, the Grizzlies like to pound the ball inside to their bigs. Marc and Zach are decent shooters middle in. Conley likes to drive, and can shoot from up top. They like to run the pick and roll.
They need space. They need an outside shooting threat to spread the floor. That has to come from the shooting guard and/or small forward position. With Tony Allen at the two, it has to come from the small forward.
Q-Pon can do that. Float out around the arc. Stand in the corner. Catch and shoot. Hit the outside shot consistently. Draw the defense out. Spread the floor. Don't allow the defender to cheat and to pack the paint. Heck, he can even drive if the defense closes out too strongly. He can get to the free-throw line. And make freebies.
On the other end, Pondexter has shown he is a tough defender, perhaps with the potential to become elite. Very strong defensively on the perimeter, and has effectively guarded some of the best in the game. Who wants to face Tony Allen and Quincy Pondexter playing together on defense?
The question will be whether Pondexter gives too much away in height. My thinking is that the help defense and rotations the Grizzlies play will compensate for that. If you end up with a bad matchup against a taller forward? Bring in Tayshaun.
How would a move like this effect the bench? What would the rotation and the distribution of minutes look like?
I could see Tayshaun being the first man off the bench against many opponents, with a twist. Prince comes in for Allen, and Q-Pon slides over to the two. Next move, Bayless comes in for Pondexter. Then Ed Davis and Koufos replace the bigs. Conley gets some rest while (Wroten? Calathes?) comes in.
Tayshaun sits when
Mike Miller your backup outside shooting threat comes in, maybe at the same time Tony Allen returns. If the Grizzlies bring in a player like Mike Miller, Tayshaun and Miller could split backup minutes, play matchups, specific roles, rest by DNP-CD some games, and not be too beat up come playoff-time.
The rotation could get very interesting. Koufos could regularly come in for Z-Bo at the power forward, and then slide over to center when Ed Davis comes in at the four. The entire rotation, set up this way, provides tremendous matchup flexibility and depth.
Can It Work?
Is Quincy Pondexter durable enough to play this role? He hasn't earned the injury-prone label yet, as Darrell Arthur certainly did. It was just a freak accident in the Denver game last December. Someone fell on the outside of his knee, right? It did seem like it took him forever to come back, though, then quite a few games to really get back into it. He is not fragile. Right?
Tayshaun Prince is, well, a prince. He provided a lot of quality minutes for the Grizzlies last season. He was a breath of efficient air after the Rudy Gay trade. He was also not the outside shooting threat and floor-spacer the Grizzlies needed in the playoffs. In fairness, he suffered a hip injury in a collision with Nick Collison in the Thunder series, and was not the same after that. Does he deserve better than to lose his spot in the starting lineup? Maybe.
But, I think the Grizzlies are a better team by making the moves described in this article.
(...and, who couldn't stand to see a little more Chandler Lawson at the Forum, huh?)
Your thoughts matter? Let's hear it.