On a team such as the Memphis Grizzlies, every point is valuable. Even with the versatile skills of Marc Gasol, the bruising post presence of Zach Randolph and the growth of Mike Conley, the Memphis offense still struggles at times. The offense ranked 18th in efficiency in 2012-2013 at 101.7 points per 100 possessions, and this past season saw minor improvements as they rose to 16th in offensive efficiency in the Association and 103.3 points per 100 possessions. For comparisons sake, the two teams currently in the NBA Finals are in the top 6 in offensive efficiency; Miami was 2nd at 109 points per 100 possessions, and San Antonio was 6th at 108.2.
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Of course, the Spurs and Heat are also among the top defensive teams in the NBA, but according to defensive efficiency (tied for 7th) and the eye test, so are the Grizzlies. The jump to title contention needs to be made offensively, but how can Memphis accomplish this without losing one of the "core four" players? The answer lies in the one member of the roster who did not offer much in terms of scoring the ball consistently in any way during the season; Tayshaun Prince.
Yes, the days of "The Bright Side" have come and gone. If at all possible, Tayshaun Prince needs to be off of this Grizzlies roster (according to our Ranker article this week a lot of Grizz Nation members agree) via trade or the stretch provision for release without a huge cap hit. It is possible, though, that Tayshaun's deal is untradeable and that Memphis would rather keep Tay through the last year of his deal and have all $7.7 million off the books heading in to 2015-2016 (AKA re-signing Marc Gasol time.) So, while
sadly Tayshaun could very well be back on the team next season, his role could be reduced and that could open the door for a new starting wing, whether it be someone already on the roster or a player in free agency.
The ArmChair GM has already taken a look at how this starter could be added in a few different ways but trades may fall through and Paul Pierce may be outside of Memphis' likely Mid-Level Exception price range. Smaller names may not be as sexy to the national media, but the right player in the right situation can produce outside of the norm. The Grizzlies need a playmaking wing who can get to the rim and free throw line, in addition to more perimeter scoring, Which potentially available players would fit best?
2. Playmaking Slasher
As stated at the beginning of the piece, every point is valuable for these Grizzlies. Wasted opportunities at the Free Throw line and the inability of current wing players to create for themselves and for others is certainly a weakness of the current Memphis roster. The Bears of Beale Street were 23rd in the NBA in free throw percentage this past season (74%) and 29th in the NBA in free throw attempts (20 per game.) More scoring from the line, more production from the wing.
Possible Free Agent Options
3. Chris Douglas-Roberts- An option that would undoubtedly make the Memphis Tigers fans in Grizz Nation quite happy. CD-R showed some flashes of playmaking capability for the former Charlotte Bobcats this past season and shot 81% from the free throw line in 49 regular season games. He also can shoot the three (39% this season) and has very good ball handling skills for a 6'7" wing who can defend multiple positions.
Of course, signing CD-R likely does not mean he becomes the starter for the Grizzlies. Douglas-Roberts is a rotation player on a title team at best and his signing would mean trust in Quincy Pondexter or Tony Allen as the other starting wing. Douglas-Roberts would likely be happy to be back in Memphis though, willing to fill a role as a wing who can drive and handle the ball while scoring in a variety of ways. He also would probably come cheap, considering he "only" made $535,288 last season. A 2 year $1.8 million partially guaranteed deal would likely be enough to lure CD-R back to Memphis, making about $4.4 million of the MLE still available for the Grizzlies to fill another need.
2. Rodney Stuckey- While CD-R provides limited scoring in a variety of ways, Rodney Stuckey put the ball in the basket more often in fewer ways. His shot chart from this past season shows those areas of strength.
Stuckey is a player who can put the ball on the floor and get to the rim. He also is capable of getting to the free throw line, averaging 4 attempts per game on 84% shooting. A noticeable flaw in his game is the lack of a three point shot; Stuckey shot 27% from 3 this season, and it clearly wasn't a focus of his game. While he is more offensively refined than say a Tony Allen and his numbers from the corner 3 area are not terrible, the lack of consistent range in his game is concerning.
As is the struggles he had defensively this season; his 108.7 defensive efficiency is quite high and Stuckey is not quite the "3 and D" wing that Memphis could use. He also could cost the entire MLE, since his salary from last year of $8.5 million may be hard to drop too far from. However, Stuckey has wasted away a bit in Detroit and could certainly raise his game on a contender. He would provide much needed playmaking alongside players who can space the paint like Quincy Pondexter, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol.
1. Danny Granger- This choice for number 1 on the slashing playmaker list comes as a bit of a risk. Danny Granger has not played more than 60 games in a season in 2 years and his numbers have been underwhelming given his injury issues. However, that 2011-2012 version of Danny Granger is exactly what the Grizzlies could use as a starter on the wing at a decent price. Granger got to the free throw line almost 5 times a game that season, shooting 87% from the FT line while also being a 38% 3 point shooter, a capable rebounder and defender. This highlight of a 32 point game against the then New Jersey Nets from that season shows the various ways he can hurt a team offensively when healthy.
The obvious critique of the Granger selection is that it is quite possible that the Danny Granger in the above highlight will never come back. He has been a shell of his former self for much of the past 2 seasons, lacking that quickness and timing that made him so effective. Memphis has shown to be a safe haven for reclamation projects in the past however, and the Grizzlies may be able to offer Granger an opportunity that most other contenders cannot: a starting position.
The Grizzlies' Front Office would certainly have to do their homework on his current medical situation, and anything outside of a 2 year contract would be a bad deal more than likely. If Danny Granger can find a way to work back to being 85% of the player from 2011-2012? On a 2 year $8.5-$9 million contract, he would be well worth the investment and calculated risk.
1. Three Point Shooting
New year, same song and dance. While a slashing playmaker/three point shooting hybrid would be perfect, the Grizzlies would be wise to continue their pursuit of wings who can at least score the basketball from range. All of the slashing and playmaking in the world cannot help if the paint is clogged, as it usually is with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol in the lane. Spacing continues to come at a premium for Memphis, and with Quincy Pondexter returning from injury and Mike Miller aging/a Free Agent, another beyond-the-arc assassin would be beneficial.
3. Caron Butler- Not the sexiest selection, especially to Memphis fans who remember the Caron Butler who has been a thorn in the Grizzlies' side as both a Los Angeles Clipper from 2011-2013 and member of the Oklahoma City Thunder this past season. He is another player who has likely lost a step or 3; the fact that Memphis did not feel the need to defend him with a wing and instead stuck Zach Randolph on him at times during their playoff series this season tells you the tale of the loss of foot speed for Caron.
What Butler does provide is that ability to shoot the three point shot. A 39% shooter this past season, Butler is capable of taking advantage of the looks he would get from playing alongside Gasol, Kosta Koufos and Randolph. His height at 6'7" is valuable in terms of defense, and he can be paired with Quincy Pondexter, Courtney Lee or Tony Allen and his loss of foot quickness will not be as painful. He will likely fall around the $2 million a season number, which may be too expensive for a player who is basically a lesser Mike Miller at this point in his career, but he is a solid locker room veteran who could fill a void and allow for wings who are better than him to get a majority of the minutes. A niche signing here, nothing more.
2. CJ Miles- Without the pedigree of bigger named free agents, Miles is a player who if he does not re-sign with Cleveland will probably fly below the radar a bit. This would be a mistake, though; Miles has a great offensive skill set that while he may not be a starting caliber wing for Memphis could certainly help in the rotation. He could improve his slashing game, but at the age of 27 he is entering his prime and can likely add that layer to his game more easily than an older player could. His shot chart shows that to an extent.
A threat from beyond-the-arc for sure at 39% shooting, as well as a player who is unique in that he has taken almost two times more shots from 3 than from inside the paint. In the motion sets of JoergerBall, Miles could find openings slashing and driving to the lane with or without the ball. Plus, if there was ever a player who could help Miles add that level to his game it would be a facilitator on the elbow like a Marc Gasol. CJ can also defend the wing relatively well, boasting a 101.9 defensive efficiency for a Cleveland team whose overall efficiency was 104.8.
Miles is an intriguing Free Agent. Is he better than Quincy Pondexter, Courtney Lee or Tony Allen? Remains to be seen, and he would be yet another wing added to a crowded rotation. However, his game has room to evolve and he will likely come at a fair price tag. 3 years, $7.5-8 million should be able to secure his services.
1. PJ Tucker- Tucker played well for the over-achieving Phoenix Suns this past season. Another 39% 3 point shooter, he plays bigger than his listed 6'6" size. He averaged 6.5 rebounds per game this past season, including 2 offensive rebounds per game. Phoenix's offensive system required their wings to hit the glass more due to having bigs such as Channing Frye and the Morris Twins, but the fact Tucker has range in his offensive game and is willing to mix it up on the boards is promising. This highlight reel of some of his early season successes shows the strengths in his game.
Tucker has a 7'1" wing span, allowing him to defend taller opponents better than other 6'6" players. He is a terrific effort player in that he will play his tail off and make the smart defensive rotation play while also being able to defend individually. Tucker is a true 3 and D guy whose specialty is the corner 3, converting those shots at a 41% clip.
At best, he is a starter at the Small Forward who brings defensive prowess and spacing in addition to the ability to attack the offensive glass, a valuable skill on a team with Marc Gasol as their Center. At worst, he is a valuable rotation player who can help nullify the effects of Tony Allen's range-less game off the bench and open up slashing lanes for his teammates. He also is due for a pay day; he has made only $2 million over the span of his career, and at 29 he is no doubt looking for a good contract. A good contract for PJ would not be overly expensive though, so 3 years, $9-$9.5 million would no doubt be attractive to Tucker while keeping MLE space for Memphis.
Ballin' on a Budget is not easy. The Luol Dengs, Paul Pierces and Lance Stephensons of the world, while enticing, are probably not within the price range of Memphis. The 6 players listed above are all capable of filling voids left by
zombie Tayshaun Prince in a variety of ways while being affordable for the Grizzlies. The tweaks made by the Front Office this off-season will make all the difference in the relentless pursuit of an NBA championship. Whether it be a slashing playmaker or three point specialist, a wing will undoubtedly be on that list.