By most any measurement, the Grizzlies have had a very successful offseason. They made their biggest free agency splash ever in landing small forward Chandler Parsons, then followed that by re-signing Mike Conley to the biggest contract in NBA history. They've also filled out the roster with a number of lower-profile multi-year signings: James Ennis, Troy Daniels, Andrew Harrison, and Deyonta Davis.
With that, we can begin to guesstimate what the depth chart and minutes might look like. Here's a very early guess:
Those guesses are based on recent minutes averages (Conley/Allen/Parsons/Wright), and in some cases adjusted slightly based on recovery from injury (Gasol), slight decline (Randolph), and a crowded front court (Green/Davis). The wings and back court are pure guesses with so much roster turnover since last year. I suspect either Baldwin or Harrison will assert himself over the course of the year, so likely the minutes will be more skewed to one or the other. They project pretty similarly statistically - lots of free throw attempts, solid rebounders, solid distributors, solid shooters - so I suspect it will have little impact on these guesstimates.
The next step is to try to project what kind of numbers the Grizzlies would produce with this sort of rotation. One large caveat: this fairly well assumes no roster changes and no injuries, which is highly unlikely. What this could do, however, is provide some insight into what the players bring to the table and what we might see from the team. I'm simply using career or recent per-36-minute stats, then projecting those over the number of minutes I'm guessing the players will play above. Sounds pretty scientific, huh? Here goes:
Since this is all hypothetical, what does it tell us? Well, it tells us that if players play near their career averages and the team stays healthy, this will likely be the best offensive model of the Core 4 era. Also, none of the free agents added to the roster (Parsons, Ennis, Daniels) are particularly strong defenders, so I don't see much defensive improvement forthcoming from this group.
The Grizzlies gave up 101.3 points per game last year, and this year, based on my projection of pace (a slight increase from 93.6 to 95) and player historical plus/minus weighted over the minutes played, I would guesstimate about the same 101 points allowed. Essentially, projecting a full season of healthy Gasol and Conley while adding some average or less than average defenders seems like the team won't be significantly better on that end.
Where they should be significantly better is in putting the ball in the bucket. This projection puts the Grizzlies at 105.9 points per game, which would have ranked 5th in the NBA last season. Can you imagine having a top-5 offense? Chandler Parsons brings shooting, ball handling, and playmaking to the wing with the first unit, and as a small-ball 4. Troy Daniels is a lights-out shooter - 48% from 3 last year and 43% career. James Ennis also takes and makes a lot of 3's in his time on the court - 45% last year and 37% on his young career. With these offensive threats, the Grizzlies project to take and make 3-pointers at a higher clip than we've seen over time.
Getting back to Daniels, reports are that his defense has been a liability in the past. If new Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale can use some of his lauded player development skills to make a workable team defender out of Daniels, the Grizzlies could come away with one of the steals of the offseason. If you can play Daniels 24 minutes a night (pretty unlikely right now), his line jumps up to:
Imagine having a guy coming off the bench to get 12 points on seven 3-point attempts in 24 minutes a game. Based on career averages, this is in the realm of possibility for Daniels. Finding some way to make him serviceable on defense would be the big question, but if Fizdale can, Daniels would turn into an absolute steal for Memphis.
In case you're wondering why I'm talking about 3-pointers so much, take a peek at this:
|League Avg 3PA||18.0||18.4||20.0||21.5||22.4||24.1||22.0||25.5|
|League Avg 3P%||35.8%||34.9%||35.9%||36.0%||35.0%||35.4%||35.6%||35.6%|
For years, the Grizzlies have been well below the league average for 3 pointers attempted and percentage. So when we watch a team like Utah - who is nearly exactly average in 3-pointers and percentage - we think they shoot the ball really well. It's largely because the Grizzlies don't take and make that many 3-pointers. 3-point shooting around the league, on the other hand, is escalating at a pace of 1.4 attempts every year.
The Grizzlies also lost 56% of their 3 point attempts from last season between Matt Barnes, Courtney Lee, Mario Chalmers, P.J. Hairston, and Jeff Green. Offsetting the loss of their attempts by adding a few high volume shooters should help the Grizzlies to somewhat move in tandem with the league, even if it is still a few rungs below the league average. If Daniels can somehow be playable for 20+ minutes a game, taking those minutes away from Vince, the Grizzlies project to efficiently make a near-league-average number of 3's. I'm not sure Grizz Nation would know what to do with that.
Again, this is all idealistic, highly presumptive, and way too early to be accurate. I expect that roster changes, production fluctuations, and injuries will affect these numbers. I doubt the Grizzlies will actually score 106 points a night. Hopefully though, it provides some idea of what the Grizzlies could be in 2015-16 if everything falls right for the team: a solid but not elite defense with a *gasp* well-rounded, efficient offense.