Here's a question for you- who is Memphis' current fourth big man?
Hell, who is their third?
Is it JaMychal Green? He comes off the bench in that role, but he is undersized to be a true big man at roughly the same size as Jeff Green.
If it can't be him consistently, who is it? Matt Barnes? The aforementioned Jeff Green? Surely these two players are "4's" in stretch/small-ball terms alone, right? When Memphis plays a team like Chicago, with multiple traditional, healthy bigs, they need an answer. They did not have that answer on Wednesday night, and players like Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah made them pay for it on the glass (45 to 41 rebounding advantage).
Brandan Wright, who just underwent knee surgery, is out until at least late January. Memphis is currently ranked 27th in the NBA in rebounding, which is very bad for a team that boasts one of the game's best all-around glass cleaners in Zach Randolph. Marc Gasol is not a dominant rebounder, and JaMychal Green is not that type of player either.
So, how do you fix it?
Hope Jarell Martin Can Ball
The Grizzlies' 2015 First Round pick is active and preparing to make his debut...the question is, whether or not it will happen in Iowa or Memphis. All signs point to a D-League stint with the Grizzlies' affiliate the Iowa Energy being where Martin gets his first taste of NBA "action"...but he may be called in to service sooner that Memphis would like with the big league club. Cutting a player does not make sense at this point in the season, as it will only hurt cap space, and Martin is a face-up four who can potentially perform on the roster as-is.
Martin grabbed 9.2 rebounds per game in 35 minutes per game at LSU in 2014-2015 according to basketball-reference.com, and his athleticism and size could allow for him to at the least come in and grab a couple of boards in limited service. He also showed the capacity to defend the four at a high level...at least at the SEC level...and if he is in shape his physicality could have some value.
The end result of this would likely be an underachieving run, and because of this (and the fact that Dave Joerger seems to dislike playing younger players) Martin is more than likely not the answer. But if he is healthy, and if he can come in and be aggressive, he can make up for lost time and make the most of opportunity.
See If Anyone Is Interested in a Deal
In a recent Friday Three I detailed a variety of players who may be potentially available for Memphis if they wanted to trade for a big. Miles Plumlee is the main name from that piece that has become officially available, and Memphis would be wise to kick the tires and see what the Milwaukee Bucks want for the young big.
Plumlee has size and understands positioning under the glass. He is behind several small-ball "bigs" and John Henson in Milwaukee, and minutes are simply not consistently there for him. Plumlee would allow for Zach to play and not worry as much defensively while setting sound picks and screens on offense, allowing for other players to have some success.
A Plumlee brother is but one (potentially cheap) example. Taj Gibson, who showed his defensive prowess against Memphis Wednesday night, could be had for the right price more than likely...but Memphis may not be willing to pay that price. Kris Humphries of the Washington Wizards could also potentially be had as a bargain. A bigger body who can rebound and defend in spots where necessary would be a nice insurance policy as the movement toward small-ball in Memphis continues.
Let Matt Barnes Hunt
In the event that you do not have access to an actual big, plug in an undersized, crazy guy. It happens across the country in the undersized high school football nose guard who almost everyone knows an example of. Often a wrestler, even more often just the least bit crazy, this kid will play, and fight, with just about anyone regardless of size. His will and determination, as well as aggressiveness, allows for his lack of build to not hurt him.
Enter Matt Barnes.
Head Coach Dave Joerger has already shown flashes of putting Barnes on these bigger dudes, with mixed results. Barnes has an understanding of positioning and leverage, and because of this he can get under a post player and be able to keep him from having his way. However, despite this there will always be issues at times when an offensive player is able to sink his hips, move his feet and drive Barnes back toward the rim.
A great example? Barnes against Taj Gibson and the Chicago Bulls this past Wednesday night.
Barnes is a lot of things. Soft is not one of them. What he lacks in size, he will make up for in physicality.
It's important that Barnes is not left on an island. This type of help is especially effective because it makes Gibson predictable. He must turn toward the baseline, or pass out of the post.
Barnes uses his veteran smarts and a little help from his friends to make Gibson predictable, and able to be had. Now, Gibson recovers the block here and still scores, but the point is clear. Barnes can play this role when necessary, as long as help is provided.
Joerger can double in the post with the opposing big (Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, JaMychal Green), forcing a pass away from Barnes. He can also have Barnes use some of the tricks up his sleeve that a wily vet almost certainly has, such as pulling the chair out. Allowing for Barnes to utilize his...unique...skill set of getting under his opponent's skins could also make a player get out of their game and not take advantage of a mismatch as he should.
Barnes is a special kind of guy. Just the type to put in this undersized role, while playing on the perimeter on offense. His versatility is a gift in this role.
Is there a big on Memphis' bench who can fill this void? Perhaps- Barnes has rebounded well at times, and Martin has that dreaded "potential". However, if it becomes clear that the lack of size is negatively affecting Memphis (it may not, given the new direction of the team), a trade may be needed. One of the surplus wings can bring in a big that helps the Grizzlies protect the rim and help to even out the roster.