The Memphis Grizzlies are 2-6 in their last 8 games and appear to have cooled off considerably since they started the season 5-1. This slide has shown the vulnerabilities of these Grizzlies, from issues with defensive switches and fighting over screens to the team’s overall inability to score at times. Many had Memphis as a .500 or worse team before the season began - is this just who the Grizzlies are, or are better days ahead?
We talk about that and more in this week’s GBB Roundtable. Joining me are GBB Associate Editors Jack Noonan and Brandon Conner, as well as GBB writer Mac Trammell.
On a scale of 1-5, 5 being extremely and 1 being not at all, how worried are you about Mike Conley?
Joe Mullinax (@JoeMullinax) - I’m going to put it at a 1. Mike has gone through stretches of cold play before, and this is likely just another of those. Chris Vernon of Grind City Media saying that it’s Conley’s ankle (and not his Achilles) is good to hear, but it clearly is still impacting his game. Mike needs the threat of his quickness off the dribble, that little hesitation move that relies on explosive movement, and other tools in his tool belt to be effective. He doesn’t have them right now, which is leading to poor shot selection and all-around underwhelming play.
My vote? Sit him, at least through the weekend. See how he’s feeling Monday, as the Grizzlies begin a week with four games, and go from there. Houston just scored 90 points in a half. There’s no point in trotting out a gimpy Conley in November for a game that would be tough to win anyway.
Brandon Conner (@BallFromGrace) - I'm actually glad that he's taking time off to let the injury heal. The Grizzlies need him at full strength if they want to maximize their chances at even making the playoffs, and playing just means the injury lingers longer. As for what the Grizzlies will do in his absence, I think Marc should be able to carry the team. Heck, he did it last season, and that was with a much more underwhelming supporting cast than what he has around him now.
Tyreke Evans is playing so well that Memphis probably won't be able to afford him next summer. Should the Grizzlies entertain the idea of trading him as the year goes on?
Mac Trammell (@Mac_Trammell) - They absolutely 100,000 percent should not only entertain the idea of trading him, but just do it. Period. My opinion on this has nothing to do with my evaluation of Evans. It’s evidently that he’s been the best player on this team by both the eye test and statistically (he leads the team in every advanced stat except win shares per-48 according to Basketball Reference). Without him this team surely does not make the playoffs.
Thing is, I’m not sure this team makes the playoffs with him. His value is as sky high as it can get (he’s top-15 in the league in several advanced stats). Why not try to get a good return on that value if you cannot re-sign him in the offseason? There are teams that could implement his cheap-o contract and use his services more effectively than the Grizzlies (the Cavaliers immediately come to mind). If Memphis could get a first rounder or a young guy plus a second or something like that back in return, I’d pull the trigger.
Jack Noonan (@jnoonan1307) - Unless the Grizzlies get a king’s ransom, there isn't a point in trading Evans at this point in the season. Now, if the season goes south, then it would be smart to trade him for picks and a salary match. I doubt they would get much for him. Either way, trading Tyreke would be a very telling sign on which way the front office wants to go. They can potentially contend with Evans playing at this level. If the team is competing, they should not trade Evans.
Chandler Parsons is playing as close to his old self as one can hope for. Should he be re-inserted in to the starting lineup?
Mullinax - I think it’s close to time. James Ennis III has done better as a starter than I thought he would, as has Dillon Brooks, but Parsons was brought here to start and lighten the load both scoring and facilitating for Gasol and Conley. The argument can be made that Parsons’ great start is because he’s playing against bench players and as a stretch four, and there would be some truth to that. But he’s also shown the ability to defend elite wings like Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden of late.
The Parsons process is working, so I’m fine with remaining patient. But I would like to see Chandler get an opportunity within the next month with the starters.
Conner - For the time being, I'd say no, but as his minutes are increased, assuming he continues to feel healthy, I wouldn't be against moving him into the lineup as the starting three in place of James Ennis. I can see the argument against it: Parsons will likely not play any back-to-backs this season, and keeping Ennis as the starter ensures at least some continuity when Parsons doesn't start.
I think the more important issue, though, is Parsons’ role in crunch time. He played in the closing minutes during Wednesday's game, and the bigger question for me will continue to be not whether Chandler starts, but whether or not he closes.
Memphis is 7-7, going 2-6 over their last eight. How much of the blame for cooling off should fall on David Fizdale?
Trammell - As a percentage I’ll go with 20%. Fizdale isn’t the issue. It’s the players who are not executing with any sort of consistency, especially the two premiere guys. The defense has been a rocky experiment, and the effort doesn’t seem to be there on a nightly basis. Defense is on the coach, except J.B. Bickerstaff is the mastermind on that side of the ball, and I tend to put effort squarely on the players’ shoulders.
Noonan - The blame is close to falling on Fizdale. This starting lineup is not producing. It’s clear that the bench is carrying the team. If he doesn't switch some pieces in the starting lineup, then yes the blame will fall on him. He needs to change up the starting lineup now that the team is healthy. This team can't afford a long slide. Coach Fizdale needs to right the ship soon.