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GBB Roundtable: Reviewing the Grizzlies at the All-Star Break

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Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

What a way to start a season.

The Memphis Grizzlies hold a 39-14 record as the All-Star Break comes nearly to a close.  Even though our beloved Grizzlies do not get the second "half" of the season started until Sunday, let's take a look back on the year this has been and make some predictions for the rest of the season.  Joining me to do so are GBB's very own Joe Witherwax, Kevin Yeung, Grace Baker, Joe Mullinax, Andrew Ford, and Craig Fielder.

1) Have the Grizzlies exceeded your expectations with their pre-All-Star record??

Joe Witherwax @BluesCityJoe Yes. The Grizzlies were overlooked (again) heading into the season, but I still believed they would be a 55+ win team if everything went well.   This team is on pace for 60 wins, even with the mini-slide they experienced when Z-Bo was out.  That's impressive.

Kevin Yeung @KevinHFY Hell yeah. I don’t know how many people saw a Grizzlies team on pace for 60 wins and the second seed, but if those people exist out there; shouts out to them. Ever since Marc Gasol returned from injury midway through last season, following the Grizzlies has been exhilarating. Our little team is really good now!

Grace Baker @GBthenextauthor Yes, just barely. At the beginning of the season, I had Memphis at 57 wins. They need to go 18-11 to meet that now. 60 wins seems attainable, but Memphis has some rough stretches coming up that are extremely crucial if they want to get to 60. I didn't originally envision the Grizzlies sitting at the second seed in the West going into the break. I had them around the 3-5 seed this season, so I'm pleasantly surprised at where they are now in the standings. I've been beyond impressed with Marc Gasol's transformation and aggressiveness this season, and Zach Randolph is having an incredible season as well. The fact that Zach is playing like this right after signing a contract makes it even more impressive. I did have Mike making the All-Star team at the beginning of this year, so that was sort of a disappointment. Getting snubbed again is not indicative of the year he's having, though. Mike has indeed been "Captain Clutch" and deserves a lot of credit.

Joe Mullinax @JoeMullinax Yes. I had them at 54-28 this season, and they are currently on pace for about 60 wins, so they have been truly remarkable so far. The emergence of true superstar Marc Gasol, the continued development of Mike Conley, and Zach Randolph's ability to thrive in a slightly reduced role have all been hopes of many, and seeing them realized is great. They are in a position to win the Southwest Division for the first time and have home court for at least one postseason series. All good things.

Andrew Ford @AndrewFord22 Absolutely. I certainly didn't expect the Grizzlies to jump out to the hot start they did before losing Zach Randolph to injury. After winning fifty games last year, I suspected they might surpass that number by three or four games this season. With 29 games remaining after the break, it's not inconceivable to think the Grizzlies could top the fifty-five win mark, lock down a top four spot in the playoffs, and win the Southwest Division. They've never done two of those things before. I don't think the Grizzlies could have done anything else before the break to impress me more.

Radio Sensation and Across-the-Pond-er Craig Fielder @craig_fielder I didn't give a prediction for number of games the Grizzlies would win this season. But around 3-4 games into the season I did tweet that the Griz(z) would be the 1st or 2nd seed in the West (I'll dig the tweet out when the time comes). Therefore I would say that the Grizzlies have matched my expectations.

Matthew Bishop @TAismyhomeboy My sports fandom lies on three completely unrelated teams:  The Grizzlies, The Texas Longhorns, and the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Two of those teams have won championships in the last ten years.  I have had the most pride in the Grizzlies since becoming a fan when I moved to Memphis in 2004.  They have also caused me the most heartache.  If you had told me in 2008 after the Pau trade that 39-14 would be a possibility I would have never believed you.  And I'm not totally sure if I do now. 

2) Which player(s) has had the biggest effect on that record??

Joe W.  It's tough to single out one guy or even 2 or 3.  Marc's playing the best offensive ball of his career.  Z-Bo's been a double-double machine and quietly has been having a good defensive year. Conley's been deadly efficient and clutch down the stretch.  Courtney Lee's been burying daggers from outside (and pretty clutch himself).  TA's been maximum TA, playing tough D and generally playing like a man possessed.  Beno's been steadily productive and playing the most efficient ball of his career.  I think Marc is the most obvious candidate because of the spike in his numbers, but there are so many contributors.

Kevin Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, and Zach Randolph. Dunno who else – these guys have been incredible. Gasol’s defense has fallen off a touch, but only because he’s taken the reins of the offense and run with it. Conley and Z-Bo are chugging along effectively, with one carving up the paint and drilling the outside shot with newfound efficiency and the other the same old dominant manchild.

Grace I'd have to say Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, and Mike Conley. Marc is having a career year overall and has really taken a new role on this team. However, Zach Randolph has been quite a surprise to me. His impact on the team's record is evident by that 4-5 stretch when he was injured. With Zach, the Grizzlies could be 43-10 right now. Z-Bo is averaging a double-double and his rainbow jumper was on fire when he came back from his injury. Mike Conley has carried this team on his shoulders countless times this season and hasn't been afraid to take the big shots.

Joe M. It has to be Marc Gasol. Whether it be his offensive explosion earlier in the year or his renewed defensive commitment recently, he has been a revelation and has truly embraced his role as "The Franchise". Just in time for him, too, as a max contract is almost assuredly in his future. Honorable mention goes to both Zach Randolph and Mike Conley, who have played great for long stretches. Gasol is the centerpiece though.

Andrew The trio of Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, and Zach Randolph have dominated all season, and that's why the Grizzlies are sitting pretty heading into post-All-Star play. Gasol was the only one named an All-Star, but an easy case could have been made for all three of them to be in New York for the festivities. There's nary an offensive possession where at least two out of the three guys don't touch the ball, and the Grizzlies play so much better defensively with the three of them on the court together. When Randolph sat for an extended stretch due to injury, the Grizzlies'  defense faltered. Their skills blend so well, and the chemistry between them is awesome. With that said, my pre-All-Star Grizzlies MVP is 1/3 Conley, 1/3 Randolph, and 1/3 Gasol.

Craig Marc Gasol - at the beginning of the season, he was fantastic and has been all season. Then Mike Conley had a stretch where he had the biggest impact on the team. Then following his return from injury, Zach Randolph has been an absolute beast.  I can't pick out any individual player for this question. At various parts of the season each of the big 3 have carried this team towards the impressive record.

Matty B. Man do I ever ask tough questions.  I am going to go with Z Bo for this one, mostly because we remember how tough those games were when he was out.  Since his return from injury, we have been getting top shelf Z Bo.  Special shout out to Tony Allen for his acceptance of being the team's sixth man during the games before the All-Star break, most of which were wins.   

3)  Which player(s) needs to step it up in the second half??

Joe W. Vince Carter - this is not so much about the second half, but rather playoff time.  By the time April and May (and hopefully June) roll around, I'd love to see 40% 3-point shooting Vince Carter back.  As it is, he's struggling to hit 30% of anything.  Hot-shooting VC can come off the bench and turn a 15 point deficit into a 3 or 4 point deficit in the blink of an eye.  Unfortunately, there have been far too few sightings thus far.

Kevin Because I still haven’t given up on this old dog, Vince Carter is a guy who I strongly believe can be better. Just last year, he was a lights-out marksman for the Dallas Mavericks. This season, he’s shot 30.6% on open 3s (open being with at least 4 feet of space between him and the nearest defender). Injuries have nagged him all season long, and I’m hoping the All-Star break can help him find some of that not-so-old magic.

Grace Jon Leuer, AKA Jonny White Baller, needs to step up his game. He's shooting less than 30% from beyond the arc this season and, for 2015, he is averaging just 3.5 points. He needs to make his minutes count in the second half of this season by knocking down some jumpers to spread the floor, and grabbing some valuable boards. He's made only 7 threes this season; it'd be nice if he could knock them down a little more consistently, as the Grizzlies are desperate for outside shooting lately.

Joe M. This is a bit of a cop out, but I am going to say any wing that is depended on for outside shooting. Jeff Green can be the main focus here; he was not brought in to be a three-point specialist, but his lack of touch from beyond the arc can certainly be a hindrance. This is especially true when the guys you depend on for that spacing, like Mike Conley and Courtney Lee, are struggling as well. In 16 games since Jeff Green has become a Grizzly, Memphis is shooting 29.4% from three-point range. Let that sink in...a 13-3 record while shooting an abysmal percentage from three-point land. If the wings can get the scoring from range going, it will open up the offense even more and allow for Green to play to his strengths more as a transition scorer and athlete at the rim.

Andrew Vince Carter has had a brutal season so far, and that has to change before the playoffs. The Grizzlies don't need him to be Vinsanity, but they do need him consistently knocking down threes in order to keep defenses honest. The question right now is, can the Grizzlies make the run they want to make with Conley, Courtney Lee, and Jeff Green as the Grizzlies' major three-point threats, or do they need more than that? Given the streakiness of Lee and Green, I'm inclined to say they need more perimeter shooting. I think another trade is unlikely, which means Vince will need to step up to help this team fulfill its potential.

Craig Vince Carter needs to step up when he returns from injury. We need him firing on all cylinders come playoff time. It'll be vital in the playoffs that we have someone who can come off the bench and hit the three when needed.

Matty B. I feel like we can't go an entire column here and not mention Jordan Adams, right? #jordanadamscomin

There...he was mentioned.  The answer is Courtney Lee.  L33zus does not need to be the guy he was at the start of the season, although it would be really nice.  But he does need know...shoot the every game.

4)  What on earth are the Grizzlies going to do with the last roster spot? 

Joe W. I think they'll look for an energy PF who can rebound.  The Grizzlies were exposed as a pretty average rebounding team when Z-Bo was out, and I think they'd love to find another rebounder as insurance.

Kevin Trade for Thad Young.

Grace With the new affiliation with the Iowa Energy, I expect a lot of 10-day contracts with D League guys. Ray Allen seems hardly attainable, but I would like the Grizzlies to find a pickup who can shoot from the outside and come in with the second unit to give some meaningful minutes. A power forward backup seems likely, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Grizzlies signed someone who could stretch the floor via the D League. I don't see the Grizzlies trading away anyone unless a really great offer comes along.

Joe M. I would expect the Grizzlies, as a good organization, to kick the tires on every possibility heading into the deadline. This is probably Memphis' best shot at a title in the Grit and Grind Era, and no stone will be left unturned, nor should it be. I also expect, given the strength of the front office, that they will be patient; they understand how the league works. Several players with expiring contracts on bad teams will be bought out or waived who could potentially be brought in and thrive in reduced roles on good teams (see Udrih, Beno). These players are the ones most likely to be Grizzlies, outside of D-League 10-day contracts. Kosta Koufos and Nick Calathes, the most likely trade pieces for the Grizzlies, are just too vital to this title run to be shipped out at this point.

Look for a buy-out or waiver pick-up. Outside of that, start scouting the D-League.

Andrew I have no idea when the last roster spot gets filled, but you have to think the Grizzlies are inclined to use it on a backup power forward. In other words, someone who can guard the paint and protect the rim better than Jon Leuer. Jarnell Stokes is simply not a realistic option to fill the backup power forward role at this time because he's a rookie, and rookies are prone to making mistakes that cost a team because the NBA has a pretty darn steep learning curve. The Grizzlies have already given two power forwards (Tyus Thomas, JaMychal Green) 10-day contracts this season, and they are giving Green a second one. They have also been rumored to have interest in Andray Blatche, who has been playing overseas. By reading between the lines, it's safe to assume the Grizzlies would like to bolster their frontcourt rotation with that last roster spot.  

Craig I'd love to see Ray Allen sign, but it isn't gonna happen. In reality the last roster spot will go to a power forward. I'm not sure who this will be, maybe JaMychal Green, maybe Andray Blatche, maybe someone else. My money is on a power forward though.

Matty B. Five words: Aaron Afflalo is an assassin

No way they get him...but wouldn't it be fun to have an unconscious scorer to put the ball in the hoop every now and then?

5)  Make a bold prediction:  How many Grizzlies will make the All-NBA team?

Joe W. 1. I think Marc will make it if his numbers stay where they are.  The Grizzlies style doesn't lead to gaudy numbers and they aren't going to win a popularity contest, so getting anyone else seems unlikely when neither Conley nor Randolph made the All-Star team.

Kevin There are far too many thrilling players in this league, and that shouldn’t detract from what other deserving players have done, but the argument for Conley and Randolph to make it is a tough one when you have 24 year olds doing the same or better with more street cred. Gasol, at least, should be a lock. His MVP candidacy from earlier in this season has mostly submerged, but all the same, he’s been borderline dominant this year.

Grace Honestly, I expect Marc Gasol and Mike Conley to make the All-NBA Team. I imagine Mike Conley will come out of the break healthy and back to his old self. I think his shooting from beyond the arc will go back up. I think Conley getting snubbed from the All-Star team again just adds another chip on his shoulder that can fuel him. I expect Marc's numbers to remain about where they are now, which are All-Star quality.

Joe M.  I am going to say one...Marc Gasol. Again, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley are having great seasons. But so are LaMarcus Aldridge, Boogie Cousins, Pau Gasol, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, John Wall, etc...too many names out there. Marc should be First Team All-NBA, and Tony Allen will likely be First Team Defense, but other than that it will be team honors in June that will (hopefully) have to be enjoyed by the Grizzlies.

Andrew It will be laughable if Gasol doesn't make the All-NBA Team after his superb play this season. He is the anchor of everything the Grizzlies do defensively, and the offense flows through him as much as any team's offense flows through a big man in the entire league. A case can be made for Conley and Z-Bo, but you get the sense they will be overlooked for flashier toys.

Craig One, Marc Gasol.  Mike and ZBo should be in this conversation, but I doubt they will make it.  Marc definitely deserves to be here though.  He is the best center in the league by far, and it isn't even close.

Matty B.  Let's get this All-Star appearance should not mean what it actually means.  Its like deciding who is good at their jobs based on if they were elected Prom King/Queen.  All-NBA is where its at.

(Puts on Tin Foil Hat)

The NBA has conspired to commit acts of snubbery against the Grizzlies during the sham-mockery that is the All-Star Game.  Now it's time for  payback.  The All-NBA team should have not one, not two, but three Grizzlies on it.  Marc Gasol is the best center in the league, and you can run and tell Shaq "the Boogie lover" that I said that.  Zach Randolph is having one of his best seasons, which is causing guys like Bill Simmons to compare ZBo with Hall of Fame players with similar numbers.  Mike Conley is amazing and he makes the team with the third best record in the league go.

(Removes Tin Foil Hat)

Ehh...but they will probably only get one.