As the NBA season finally begins within the next several days, it is as good a time as any to pause and look back on and appreciate what was a pretty calm off-season for the Memphis Grizzlies. The additions of Matt Barnes and Brandan Wright, as well as the departures of Nick Calathes and Kosta Koufos, surely will lead the Grizzlies to having a different look than they have had the past couple of seasons. Wright's athleticism and Barnes' length/three point shooting will add new wrinkles, and how they fit with the core Grizzlies will be fascinating to watch play out.
However, it was just a couple of off-seasons ago that the Grizzlies future was cloudy at best. Leadership concerns, upheaval in the front office, whether or not the team as a whole would be staying in Memphis in the long term at all; things were not always so calm, cool, and collected for the Bears of Beale Street. Robert Pera and the Grizzlies should be commended for the way they have strengthened the ties with the city and the investment that has been made both in the FedExForum and the players/organization overall. The stability that eventually leads to consistently ranking among the best franchises in North American professional sports should not be overlooked; these are the best of times in Memphis Grizzlies basketball, but the worst of times were not too far away.
Makes these days leading up to the start of another season all that much sweeter. On to the Friday Three.
Ryan Hollins or Jarnell Stokes: Who Should Be the 15th Man?
A question that, as Peter Edmiston put it so well on GBBLive last night, is truly for the die-hards among Grizzlies fans. It is unlikely that Stokes or Hollins makes that much of an impact on Memphis' season regardless; the 15th man on any NBA roster is not meant to be a game breaker. However, on a team like the Grizzlies who are built to "win now" it stands to wonder which of these two options can best fill that last spot on the pine in Memphis.
In the case of Hollins you have a defender who has the size and experience to understand where to fit within scheme. The Grizzlies do not have a true back-up center, and while Brandan Wright will certainly see time in that "center" spot he is not your traditional rim protector/seven-footer meant to take up space and dominate the glass and paint. He is better served out around the elbow and perimeter in the pick-and-roll offensively, and having Hollins allows for him to do this and still let size be served on both offense and defense. Stokes may be a better rebounder, but Hollins has the frame (and understanding of how to use it) that the Grizzlies may need right now.
On the other hand, Stokes has age on his side and the ever-dangerous "potential." He has shown flashes of being an elite rebounder and while it was on the D-League level was dominant in multiple appearances with the Iowa Energy last season.
As the video above shows, however, his offensive game is limited at best at this point. He is a low-post banger who is undersized with a limited jump shot range; this is not the best situation for a player who is 6'8". Stokes is not likely to see much playing time this season anyway, as he is behind Wright and more than likely JaMychal Green at this point.
So, Hollins fits the roster more in terms of size and potential contributions this season whereas Stokes could be more of a contributor in the future. Which way should Memphis go? Give me Hollins, who can fill in in spot minutes where Marc Gasol gets in foul trouble and not force Wright too far outside of his comfort zone. Stokes could be good, but the fit just isn't in Memphis at this point and unless another season in Iowa is in the cards his time back home with the Grizzlies may be coming to an end.
Is Everything Cool with Memphis' Point Guards?
It has been a rough preseason for the three Grizzlies Point Guards. Don't believe me? Check out the numbers.
|Mike Conley||Beno Udrih||Russ Smith|
|3-Point Shooting %||28.6||16.7||20|
|Assists Per Game||4||2||2.8|
|Turnovers Per Game||2.2||2.3||2.8|
Now make no mistake, clearly there have been some successes. Russ Smith's net rating especially jumps out, and Conley has had flashes of his "Captain Clutch" self, especially in the last preseason game in Atlanta against the Hawks. However, all three players are struggling with their shots this preseason, all three players can't shoot threes right now and all three are having difficulties protecting the basketball. Smith especially is turning the ball over way, way too much- it comes with the territory to an extent, given how he plays the game, but giving away possessions is never good for this Grizzlies team who struggles to score with consistency.
Beno of course is coming back from ankle surgery and hurt an ankle again earlier in the preseason. Conley also is recovering from injury, as has been well documented, and also put on about 10 pounds or so of muscle this off-season. That body adjustment takes time to get used to, and Mike is likely just finding his game speed again at his new size. Smith is a young player who is bound to make mistakes, and the preseason is the best time to test the limits of your ability to play with speed within your team's schemes.
Memphis' point guards will likely be fine. If these issues carry over into the first two weeks of the season, however, it could create some early problems that the Grizzlies don't want to deal with considering how tough their early schedule is.
What Will the Grizzlies' 2015-2016 Record Be?
In preparation for this prediction on both GBBLive this week and The Friday Three, I did some schedule analysis. Here is some basic info on how the season shapes up for the Grizzlies.
|Month(s)||Total Games||Home Games||Away Games||Longest Home Stand||Longest Road Trip||Games Against 2015 Playoff Teams||Predicted Record|
|OCT/NOV||18||9||9||2 Games||5 Games||12||10 and 8|
|DEC||16||8||8||3 Games||3 Games||5||12 and 4|
|JAN||14||9||5||6 Games||3 Games||4||9 and 5|
|FEB||11||4||7||2 Games||3 Games||4||7 and 4|
|MAR||16||8||8||3 Games||3 Games||8||11 and 5|
|APR||7||3||4||1 Game||2 Games||6||4 and 3|
So what jumps out?
- October, November and April are going to be BRUTAL. Between tho 25 total games that take lace in those three months Memphis will play 18 playoff teams from the 2015 NBA postseason, including Golden State four times and the LA Clippers twice. The Grizzlies must play Houston twice and San Antonio once in that stretch as well.
- Memphis will play 26 of their 41 home games by the end of January, a month that includes their longest home stand of the season at six games.
- The Grizzlies have one month where they are away more than they are at home, February, which will include trips to Portland, New Orleans and Brooklyn, among other places.
This record, while a drop back from the 55-27 of last season, should not be seen as regression. The West got tougher, healthier, and the Grizzlies appear to be making an investment in managing players and minutes more. Considering all of that, only dropping two more games should be seen as a positive. 53 wins still likely puts Memphis in a prime spot to get home court advantage in at least one playoff series come April.
Could the Grizzlies win 55 or so games? Lots has to break right, but sure. Could Memphis win less than 50 games for the first time since the 2012-2013 season? One injury and the Grizzlies could go in to a free fall. So is life in the Association; health and a little bit of luck can make all of the difference.
Will 53-29 stand up when we revisit these predictions in a future Friday Three? Time will tell. Until then, the journey towards finding out just how good team 15 of the Memphis Grizzlies is starts on Wednesday with King James and his merry band of Cavaliers as they visit the friendly confines of the Grindhouse in Memphis.