SB Nation's "Breakout Player" theme day is upon us! It was a tough pick for the 2015-16 season. The Memphis Grizzlies have not done a spectacular job at developing young talent and draft picks over the past ten years. This track record makes it fairly difficult to predict which players are on the verge of having breakout seasons because there's very little "verge" being approached most years.
For example, look at last season: Marc Gasol would widely be considered the Grizzly to have made the biggest jump in performance, but it's a little ridiculous to say a guy who'd already won Defensive Player of the Year and been named an All-Star had a breakout season. This led many a GBB writer to go with Brandan Wright or Matt Barnes as their pick for breakout player for the Grizzlies, veteran players who might flourish in a new role on a team with a strong identity.
But the lure of youth won over the majority of my GBB staff when it came down to it. Our pick for the Grizzlies' 2015-16 breakout player is point guard Russ Smith AKA Russdiculous. This guy was something to behold during the Grizzlies' Summer League play. Make that the 2015 Summer League Champion Grizzlies' play. A title won in very large part to the heroics of Russ Smith ... twice!a possible small-ball PF solution. These scenarios have things pointing towards Russ Smith and the point guard rotation. Mike Conley has missed 19 games over the past two years, and you could argue that he probably shouldn't have played another 10-15 games during which that he soldiered through physical pain. Beno Udrih is 33 and beginning to see some of the wear and tear show on his body. The Grizzlies have a capable young gun in Russ Smith who can shoulder some of the load this year. From GBB's Austin Reynolds:
Russ Smith is my breakout player for 2015-16, but mostly only because it's more likely that he gets playing time than Jordan Adams. With the log jam on the wings it's pretty unlikely that Adams plays much unless Joerger is willing to move Vince Carter to the bench. Smith on the other hand should be the team's third point guard, and is going to have to be called into action whenever Conley or Udrih get banged up or perhaps on back-to-backs.
He's probably not going to be a huge surprise that comes in and puts up massive numbers, but he's super quick and can give the second unit an extra gear or two that Udrih just can't reach. He's also really active on defense and has super high defensive potential, so if he can tap into some of that and attack the basket on the offensive end he should be a valuable member of the Grizzlies bench in the coming season.
And another exciting aspect to Russ Smith is that he actually has some star potential. Something the Grizzlies haven't had in a backup point guard since the discovery of Pluto.
From GBB's Matt Bishop:
Reasons to be excited about a possible Russ Smith Break Out Season as a back up point guard:
1) Marko Jaric
2) Javaris Crittendon
3) Kyle Lowry with a bad attitude
4) Marcus WIlliams
5) Jamaal Tinsley
6) Allen Iverson for about seven games
7) Acie Law
8) Ish Smith
9) An old Jason WIlliams
10) Gilbert Arenas
11) Lester Hudson
12) Josh "Summer League Showtime" Shelby
13) Jeremy Pargo
14) Jerryd Bayless
15) Tony Wroten
16) Nick Calathes
17) Darius Morris
18) Seth Curry
19) Keyon Dooling
20) Beno Udrih
These are the twenty back up point guards for the Grizzlies since Mike Conley was drafted in 2007. The best fit on this entire list has been Beno, and he was born while the Beatles could have reunited.
Very few players have had the scoring ability that Russdiculous has. Having a change of pace point guard should help the Grizzlies sometimes stagnant offense.
Plus he follows me on Twitter... Which makes him awesome.
He will indeed follow you back on Twitter. Russ Smith is an interesting and accessible fellow, and he could very well end up being a valuable commodity for the Memphis Grizzlies if he gets in a position to consistently contribute.