So it's been 22 games. 22 games without arguably the Grizzlies most valuable player, Marc Gasol. During this 22 game run, the Grizzlies have gone 9-13 and are only three games under .500. Now I'm not saying this has been good for the Grizzlies in any sense, seeing as they're four games out of the playoffs. With that being said though, there has to be some bright side to this right? I think there is and because of the injuries to Gasol and Quincy Pondexter it has forced the Grizzlies to develop something it hasn't had in the past few season: a bench. In the past 3 seasons, the Grizz have been so focused on winning games during the regular season it never had a chance to develop bench players for example Jon Leuer and Ed Davis to name a few from last season.
So let's take a look at the numbers from the past few seasons. Starting back at the Grizzlies first playoff run in 2011. All though a bench consisting of Darrell Arthur, Sam Young, Greivis Vasquez, and O.J. Mayo were seen as a good spark for the team they still only contributed to 28% of the teams offense and most of that came through Mayo. You'll see similar numbers throughout the next two years with the 2012 bench contributing 31% and 2013 contributing 29% with most of those points coming from one or two players.
This year is different though because of the injuries to Gasol and Pondexter. It has forced Memphis to play the likes of Leuer, Davis, and James Johnson after he was added to the roster in December. The numbers don't lie either. Before Gasol got hurt Leuer averaged 9 minutes a game scoring about 3 points and adding 1 rebound. After the injury his numbers took a huge spike averaging 12 points a game while shooting 53% from the field. He's also added a nice bump in three point shooting taking about two per game and hitting over 50%.
Ed Davis' numbers are also more impressive. Before the Gasol injury Davis played about 15 minutes compared to the 20 he plays now and his scoring has increased to about 10 points per. Of course there's also the addition of James Johnson who has quickly become a fan favorite because of his high energy and excitement he brings a lot like the bench from the 2011 playoff run did. His defense and the size he's brought alone has been a huge relief for the Grizzlies since Gasol went down. Now am I saying if Lionel Hollins was still the coach these players would never see the light of day; not necessarily. You have to admit though players like Leuer, Davis, and even Tony Wroten never saw any playing time. Now that they have, we see they can all contribute in some sense and be down right helpful when needed too. With the improvement to the bench this season, the numbers for the reserves has improved dramatically. This year's bench contributes over 40% of the team's offense averaging a little over 35 points a game without Gasol. This is the highest it's been since the 2006-2007 campaign.
So what will all this mean when Gasol returns? Well for one, most of these number will go down a bit, but it also means that these 3 will be ready to play when their names are called. Something the Grizzlies haven't had in a long time. It also gives the front office room to play around in the trade market come February. Everyone knows this team is in desperate need for a backup point guard something they've needed for years. With the departure of Jerryd Bayless, that leaves the job solely to Nick Calathes. I'm all for developing young talent, but if Calathes doesn't show any signs of life in the next few weeks I wouldn't mind the front office shopping Davis or Leuer for a veteran back-up point guard like an Andre Miller. Ultimately, the Grizzlies now have the ability to rest their starters knowing the reserves will not blow a lead and can keep their heads above water for a substantial amount of time. So although the Grizzlies do take a decent hit in the standings I still think that in the long run this helps the Grizzlies more than hurts them.
(All stats from ESPN.com)