It is time for another roundtable! This time, we tackle first quarter of the season for the Memphis Grizzlies review topics. Breaking things down for us are Site Manager Joe Mullinax and Senior Features Writers Kevin Yeung and Brandon Conner.
- Who is your quarter season MVP?
Joe Mullinax (@JoeMullinax)- Here’s the kick in the pants...”if healthy”, it would be Mike Conley. He was an absolute stud before his injury. He led the Grizzlies in True Shooting Percentage (59.9%), PER (23.2), win shares per 48 minutes (.220)...you name it, Conley was likely at the top of the list. But that dreaded injury bug bit him again, and Marc Gasol has been there to catch the Grizzlies before they fell. There is no way in the world Memphis is 6-1 over the last seven games without Marc Gasol. He has led this season saving run of unlikely success. It has to be him.
Kevin Yeung (@KevinHFY)- Wish I could say Mike Conley, but, ahh, yeah. From there, it defaults to Marc Gasol, who has been every bit as great in his own right. Because of him, the Memphis defense is back in full force, even through the injuries. His rebounding numbers are actually pretty low, but the team's doing well overall on the glass, so if we're going to worry about it, we can worry about it later. Obviously, the three-point shot has opened up so much for the team. It's a good time to feel the Marc Gasol love.
Brandon Conner (@BallFromGrace)- I don't see how you can go with anyone but Marc at this point. Since Mike has gone out, he's doing everything the Grizzlies need: being a defensive stopper inside, carrying the offense, facilitating looks for his teammates. He's been willing to take three point shots, and I've loved how aggressive he's been. He's carrying a roster of young players right now.
2. On a scale of 1-10, how concerned are you about the Chandler Parsons signing?
Mullinax- 1. Wait, .5. This remains a point of frustration with me with some fans. If you logically argue you are concerned about his health, I can work with that. Totally makes sense. But to say he never should have been signed? People forget that Parsons chose Memphis over Portland. Two NBA franchises, with some of the best sports medicine minds in the world on their staffs, had to have signed off on his knees. People tend to forget that Evan Turner is in Portland becuase Chandler Parsons is in Memphis. Evan Turner is not a good basketball player. Chandler Parsons is (“if healthy”). It isn’t even Christmas yet in the first year of a four-year contract.
Yeung- From here on out, let's say about 3. The lingering nature of his injury is concerning, the infrequency of updates frustrating, and all it takes is one Sportando report to send me for a downward spiral. I'm a little anxious, sure. But it's early into his contract, and I don't want to overreact. It's not like we're being blindsided, either. We knew this was risky, but by and large we thought it was a necessary risk, so I'm not going to flip from that before we even hit 2017.
Conner- 6, and that's me trying to be optimistic. I'm (very mildly) encouraged by the fact that the bone bruise isn't in the surgically repaired knee, but it's still a concern. I think the team is handling it correctly by being cautious, but I still doubt you're ever going to get a full healthy season out of Parsons, and for the type of money he got, that's discouraging.
3. Does this team need to make a trade to improve its chances in the Western Conference? If so, who should they target?
Mullinax- Yes and no. Will this Memphis Grizzlies roster, if healthy, beat the Golden State Warriors or San Antonio Spurs in a seven game series? Probably not. But will a trade that doesn’t involve any “key” Grizzlies (Gasol/Parsons/Conley/Randolph/Allen) move the needle that much? Probably not. Memphis is in a tough spot in that regard- with health comes a more dangerous team, but still quite not enough come playoff time.
So if Memphis does make a trade, it should be with an eye to the future. Send JaMychal Green to Cleveland or Boston for a 1st (probably wishful thinking) or a high 2nd round pick. Send Vince Carter home to Toronto for one last playoff run for a pick or young prospect. The opportunities these injuries have given younger players make guys who have value in the here and now, but not likely beyond this season, that much more valuable.
If I had to make a call? Brandan Wright should be on the market. Otherwise, stand pat unless someone overpays for JaMychal. We still have no clue what a healthy Grizzlies team looks like this season.
Yeung- A trade doesn't hurt. I don't think one is necessary, and the Grizzlies should be keeping one eye on the future since the present is going to be shaky. They don't have much trade ammo, although the one guy they don't need that could really help somebody else win is Brandan Wright. I guess JaMychal Green would also be available since he hits RFA after this season, but he's in that perfect place in his development where he's contributing but still improving. The Grizzlies need more guys like that, not less.
That in mind, maybe it makes sense to buy in on no-name guys in that 23-26 sort of 'early prime' age range, where they could still grow while playing backstop to Memphis' current 20-23 year old back-ups. Some guys I like, off top: Jeff Withey, Delon Wright, Hollis Thompson, Kyle Anderson (STILL), Seth Curry, Mike Muscala.
Conner- I'd like to see them add someone else on the wing considering their lack of depth their right now, but I don't know that I have any specific targets in mind. I'm pretty happy with the way the young players have played, but I still think they need another piece to make a playoff run. I just don't want to see the team make a move for this year that does anything to harm them long term. That's all I'm really looking for.
4. Assess David Fizdale as a Head Coach. Where is he strong, and where can he improve?
Mullinax- Again, we have no idea what this guy’s offense looks like at full strength. We do know that Mike Conley was having a career year before injury, and Marc Gasol is back to All-NBA form on both offense and defense under his direction. His ability to develop new wrinkles in the games of veterans seems clear, and players like Andrew Harrison are out-performing expectations. He needs to watch the minutes of Marc Gasol- that is a major critique, injuries or no injuries.
But for me, where Fizdale shines is in his attention to culture. He has come to Memphis and changed things up in a way Dave Joerger never could have dreamed of. Zach Randolph comes off the bench and is happy. The offense emphasizes space, if not pace, and the defense is coming along quite nicely. He has been a breath of fresh air, a shot of life that this complacent team needed. I said that when he was hired, and it remains true now. His biggest contribution has been that establishment of a new standard of play.
Yeung- The offense hasn't performed well, but there are a lot of encouraging signs there. The entire big man depth chart has collectively migrated its shot chart outward towards the three-point line, and that's helped Mike Conley's 20 p.p.g. slashing game There's more pass-and-cut action in the offense and the ATOs look good, no drop-off there from Dave Joerger. Minute management is what I could be most critical about at the moment, but I'm not too bothered.
Conner- Fizdale should be a frontrunner for coach of the year at this point. He's gotten the team to buy in to his coaching philosophy, and though it's taken some time to adjust to some of his defensive schemes, the Grizzlies currently have the league's top defense. And that's without some of their best players. Plus, look at what he's managed to do with players that some thought were lost causes. Fizdale has lived up to his reputation as a coach who's able to develop players, and that's a great sign for a Grizzlies team that's about to move into its next era.
The improvement area for Fizdale is obvious: Stop playing Marc (and when he gets back, Mike) so many minutes in games that are out of reach. That's the only knock I have so far. Otherwise, I'm thrilled with the job Coach Fizdale has done.