I think we can all agree, the roller coaster that we are calling the Memphis Grizzlies season has been unexpectedly awesome and unfortunately familiar at the same time.
A 5-1 start with two wins versus Houston and one against the mighty Warriors, no way, that can’t be true. Losses to Dallas, Los Angeles Lakers, and 0-4 versus the Eastern Conference? That sounds about right.
But let’s just call these first 14 games a wash, considering the Grizzlies are .500 anyway. With that said, there are a few unexpected truths about this Grizzlies season that no one could have predicted, especially this early in the season. Below are a list of three that are important now, and perhaps even more important as this season matures.
Mike Conley is currently broken
He has already missed games due to a “sore Achilles”, but his struggles seem more significant than just nagging soreness in his left leg/foot. He is shooting his worst field goal percentage of his career (38%). He is also shooting a career high 46% of his shots from three-point range. The shot selection has been rough, but likely stemming from him just not being 100%. If you watch complete games, Conley simply can’t get by people this season. He is settling for long threes when a big man switches onto him; every drive to the rim looks a step too slow, often ending a tough, off-balance layup attempt.
He is still averaging 17.1 points per game, turning the ball over at the lowest clip of his career (1.5 per game), and getting to the free throw more than he ever has (5.5 attempt per game). The fact is, he looks off, nothing looks significantly different, but there is obviously something wrong. Mike Conley could benefit from a few days on the bench, taking some time to rest whatever semi-injury is bothering him, or just to separate from basketball and get his mind right. The Grizzlies need the Mike we have come to love back, this team is steadily struggling without him.
Tyreke Evans is the best Grizzly right now.
Let’s not get carried away and expect this ungodly scoring streak to last forever. Evans is playing out of his mind, and I’m so flustered by it that every time he shoots a three I yell “No, no, no!....Good shot Reke.” He is playing the most minutes he has since the 2015-16 season (28.1 per game), scoring at his highest clip since his rookie year (18.5 per game), and shattering his previous shooting percentages (52%).
Tyreke Evans has generated the ninth-most-efficient set of shots of any guard in the league — and he’s truly generating them. https://t.co/VUTuYlvzn7— FiveThirtyEight (@FiveThirtyEight) November 14, 2017
Also, don’t start Tyreke. The beauty of this surprising rise of Tyreke Evans is because he is coming off the bench. The Grizzly bench is, dare I say, elite, and most of that is because Evans is the leader. Starting him will likely give him a different rhythm, different priorities on the floor, and frankly less shots. ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ The starters are ‘broke’, but Evans is not, and the bench is not. Leave the bench alone, and most importantly, continue to let Evans do his thing. An important trend to observe as this season continues, if Evans’ hot streak starts to simmer, is he capable and willing to defer to teammates to get better shots?
Chandler Parsons is back.
Considering the minutes (or lack of) that he is receiving (19.1 minutes per game), his per game numbers are actually on par to what he has produced in his ‘prime’ seasons. His per game averages as of now are (7.9/2.8/1.8). Now double those numbers based on approximately the same number of minutes he used to receive. In other words, Parsons deserves more minutes. Coach David Fizdale has said there is no minutes restriction on Parsons, but Fizz’ actions have not proved that true.
As of today, Parsons is averaging 5.0 minutes per game in the 4th quarter, a number far too low for a player of his capability (and need I say, compensation). In the limited minutes he has been given, namely with bench players, he has shown serious play making ability.
Parsons is shooting 51% from three and 61% of his shots are coming from behind the arc. He is playing his role right now, finding a groove with the bench unit as the knock down shooter every team needs. But he is capable of more than that. He is getting paid to be a real contributor, a shot maker, and a player to rely on in the fourth quarter. Of course, the season is still young and protecting Parsons’ health is a priority, but its time to test him with more minutes, he has earned it.
There are more unexpected truths that could be highlighted, some honorable mentions:
The shooting guard position is so weird and undetermined.
This team is better than what ‘experts’ said they would be.
As previously mentioned, the season is still young, with many story lines still to develop. The Grizzlies are always interesting and definitely unexpected. Strap in, this roller coaster is just taking off.