The Memphis Grizzlies currently sit at 15-14 through 29 games, and Dave Joerger looks like a clairvoyant for saying in the preseason that he would be fine with a 14-11 record through the team's first 25 games.
Joeger knew how difficult the early-season schedule was going to be, featuring seven games against the Warriors, Cavaliers, Spurs and Thunder in the team's first 25 games.
But even beyond just the schedule Joerger clearly knew this season was going to be one of transition. One where they've got an eye on the future while also attempting to maintain their half-a-decade long prowess in the meat grinder that is (was?) the Western Conference.
Here are six things I like and don't like as we near Christmas (shouts to Zach Lowe; I'm absolutely stealing his 10 likes/don't likes section of his column).
I wrote back in the preseason that Grizz fans who have long clamored for Courtney Lee to shoot the ball more just might get their wish. It's a contract year for Lee, and as we all know, there are open shots available in the offense. This led me to believe that Lee, who could have (and, I guess still may) cashed in on a rising cap in 2016 in a shooter friendly market, may be more willing to hoist shots he seemed reluctant to in the past.
This, actually, has sort of been the case.
Despite playing his fewest minutes per game since arriving in Memphis, Lee is averaging his most field goal attempts per game.
The problem? They're not going in like the used to.
Lee is shooting just 30.8 percent from three and 42.8 percent from the field overall; both are career lows. He's had a career low plus/minus so far this season (-8 per 100 possessions) and his PER is the lowest since his rookie season.
Even though he is technically shooting more, Lee looks as hesitant as ever to pull the trigger on open shots. (Ford breakdown alert)
Yo, this dude has been good. Like, best wing not named Tony Allen or Rudy Gay in the GNG-era good (which, when you say it out loud and really think about it, isn't saying a ton).
The front office has been praised plenty for landing Barnes for essentially the rights to Janis Timma, but I'm going to praise them some more: That was elite-level front office work. *tips cap*
Since being inserted into the starting lineup and effectively beginning the small-ball era in Memphis, Barnes has averaged 13.2 points, seven rebounds, 2.2 steals and 1.4 blocks while making 12 of his 27 threes.
The team has gone just 2-3 since inserting Barnes into the starting lineup as a stretch-four, but it is not because of the efforts of the former villain-turned-hero.
To be blunt: it really sucks that he's hurt. It would be fun to see young Jordan Adams get ~15 minutes per game on the wing with the direction Joerger is taking the offense.
Obviously, there's no sense in rushing back a 21-year-old who has seemingly had complications or, at least, trouble recovering from minor knee surgery. But he would be playing so much right now.
Initially, when the Grizz pulled the trigger on the Mario Chalmers deal, it appeared as though that may have doomed any potential minutes for Adams. But with the way the team has changed their lineup over the last handful of games by taking some of their regular wings and playing them at stretch-four, it now opens the door for Adams to slide right into a rotation spot.
The Grizzlies went into the season with six bigs on their roster: Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Brandan Wright, JaMychal Green, Jarell Martin and Jarnell Stokes.
One of them has been traded (Jarnell), one of them is hurt indefinitely (Brandan), and one of them is a rookie just coming off of injury (Jarell), leaving three healthy and ready to play real minutes.
This isn't as big of an issue as it appeared to be early on in the season thanks to the switch to smaller lineups, but it is still worth keeping an eye on.
The Grizzlies have a surplus of wings, and when Adams is ready to play, that could render one or two wings expendable, paving the way for a trade to net another big.
The season has not been one that most expected from Mike Conley. It started out especially rough, but lately the needle has been pointing up.
Before Mario Chalmers arrived, Conley was averaging 12.5 points with 35-27-88 splits. His numbers are more of what Grizz fans have come to expect of Conley since Chlamers joined the team, averaging 15.8 points with 43-37-86 splits while seeing his turnovers go down and his +/- rating go up.
The numbers still aren't exactly where many expect them to be, but they are trending up.
Tony Allen and Zach Randolph and Grit and Grind
I won't spend tons of time on this because this is not the time nor the place for a eulogy of what has been a 30-for-30-worthy era of Memphis Grizzlies basketball.
But I will say this: Many are quick to want to blow stuff up or completely overhaul the roster in favor of a more modern version of basketball because that's just what you'e supposed to do, right?
When the Miami Heat won back-to-back Finals in 2012 and 2013, everyone said that you have to create super teams in the modern era of basketball.
When the San Antonio Spurs beat the Miami Heat in the 2014 Finals, everyone was hellbent on saying that resting players was the key to winning the Finals.
When the Golden State Warriors won the Finals in 2015, the narrative had switched to the pace-and-space style of basketball with stretch-fours and fives and velociraptor lineups.
There's no right way.
If had a walked up to you after the 2012 Finals and told you that entering 2016 the Oklahoma City Thunder had 0 championships, you'd have told me I was crazy. But it's true.
It's hard to win titles, and the way you do it is by having an organizational plan that starts at the very top and executing it to the best of your abilities.
That's what the Grizzlies did.
Their style of play of the last six years is the last of a dying breed.
It's not fun watching Zach Randolph and Tony Allen age with diminishing skills. But they've taken to the change seemingly as well as anyone could ask them to do.