clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Memphis Grizzlies Preseason Fantasy/Reality: What was real and what was a mirage?

New, comment

The 8-game preseason has concluded for the Memphis Grizzlies. Let's sort out what's likely to continue and what was fool's gold (or fool's coal, as the case may be).

Joe Murphy/NBA Getty Images

This is the hardest part of the GBB gig -- separating my fandom from an objective analysis. Feel free to call me out on anything you deem hyperhomer, but I'm doing all I can to be honest with myself.

Fantasy

Jordan Adams sees significant playing time before the end of December.

He's looked good - if not great - if not superb - at times during the preseason. But barring an injury or major face-plant from one of the wings ahead of him, the math just doesn't leave much of anything for Adams in terms of minutes. Going off of last year's averages and conservative estimates for new players or players with new roles, it lines up something like this:

Starters MPG: Conley (33), Lee (30), Tony (23), Zach (34), Marc (34) = 153 minutes

Bench MPG: Carter (20), Pondexter (15), Udrih (15), Leuer (15), Koufos (15) = 80 minutes

153+80 = 233 out of a possible 240 minutes in an NBA basketball game. And mind you that the estimates for the bench are conservative. Vince Carter could likely average a few more MPG and eat into the remainder even further. But BEST CASE scenario is that there are around 7-8 minutes available to split between Tayshaun Prince, Jordan Adams, and Jarnell Stokes. Based on Dave Joerger's history, who would you guess gets the nod? Oh, and this isn't even touching on what happens when Nick Calathes returns from suspension. Yeah, I know. I'm sad too.

Reality

Marc Gasol looks ready to have a career season.

It's all true. Every bit of it. He looks amazing -- I even contend that he's gone down a jersey size because of how the fit looks on him now. He's moving faster, his arms are darting through the air even smoother, and his pillar-legs are vaulting him higher into the air than I've ever seen. Marc's imagination can now manifest using the new temple he has built for it.

He's been aggressive. In fact, during the 2014 preseason, Marc Gasol has averaged 14.9 shots per 33 minutes played (his MPG average from last season and over his career). That's an incredible FIVE shots more than his career average of 9.9 per game and 2.8 more than his average from last season. Wendigo is showing no fear of scoring; he thirsts.

Were you thinking his defense might suffer from the loss of bulk? Not so much. The numbers are ridiculous and likely not very sustainable (and ever so slightly padded by the Flamengo game), but his 2.4 blocks and 1.7 steals per 33 minutes played suggest that Big Spain's defensive prowess will still be an incredible tool for the Grizzlies this season.

Fantasy

It will take a month or two for Vince Carter to get into form.

He's looked sluggish in some of his preseason minutes, but Carter's mind is 150.4% engaged. Yes, he did have ankle surgery during the offseason, but if it were a tender situation there's no way that Joerger would have played VC for 43 minutes in the 2 games over the past 3 days. And I'll say that when I watched him play vs. Miami on Friday night, any lingering issues showed no sign of affecting his shot.

Not to mention that Robert Pera will fly in extracted gorilla stem cells and manatee bone marrow if that's what it takes to get Carter's ankle ready for the season. If you are a billionaire, an NBA addict, and a fan of Vince Carter's for the past 16 years, there's NO WAY you're not doing everything you possibly can to keep the guy in pristine condition. DO YOU NOT REMEMBER MIKE MILLER MAKING IT THROUGH 89 STRAIGHT GAMES LAST SEASON!??!

Reality

The 13-game absence of Calathes hurts the chances of a hot start.

Tamoxifen how I loathe thee!! ICYMI: Nick Calathes received a 20-game suspension last season for testing positive for a drug called tamoxifen in a case where I believe the league even admitted that they didn't suspect any use for performance enhancement. But rules are rules, and Calathes ended up serving the first 7 games of the suspension during last season's playoffs. It's a big ole bag of frowns -- Calathes had really started to come into his own in the last couple of months of the regular season.

It's hard to really pinpoint exactly what it is about Calathes, but he just brings a very unique flavor to the stew. He's come a long way from his shaky debut as a backup point guard, but spelling Mike Conley is really just the tip of the iceberg with Nick. (He can likely spell thousands of words. badum-ching!) His ability to play the 2-guard in a timeshare of ball handling responsibilities really showcases his scoring talent (the man is ninja-like in his off-ball cuts to the basket) in addition to his knack for setting up teammates. He's finally developed a confident NBA rhythm, and he provides younger legs and longer arms than the current designee for PG backup, Beno Udrih.

I love Beno. Make no mistake about that. His demeanor is refreshing to say the least. And while he's got some wear on the tires, he's still a spry athlete with a lot to offer the Grizzlies (shooting, anyone?). But everyone knows what Beno brings to the table at this point in his career. Nick Calathes, on the other hand, has only shown a brief glimmer of what he has to offer at the NBA level. He's someone for whom coaches will eventually have to game plan. The Grizzlies are normally serving up BBQ to their adversaries, cooking teams low and slow, but when you throw some of Calathes' tangy tzatziki sauce onto the plate it's going to catch some opponents off guard.

The silver lining of this reality is that Calathes will indeed make a return, and he'll likely come back at a time when the Grizzlies can use his burst of energy to really push down on the pedal.

Bonus Mystery #1: What versions of QPon and CLee we end up seeing this season.

Bonus Mystery #2: Whether or not Dave Joerger can maximize the roster depth.

Bonus Mystery #3: How many thousands of times we hear "Marc to Knicks" rumors.