The Grizzlies currently sit mired in the midst of an 8-game losing streak. Their star center held an extended press conference voicing his frustration with being benched. And the team fired their second-year head coach for [SHRUG EMOJI]. To say things aren't going well in the Bluff City right now would be like saying the Titanic was taking on a little water.
But while all of this has grabbed most of the headlines lately, it should not be forgotten what's causing a massive amount of the Grizzlies' issues: With Mike Conley out, the Grizzlies have no point guards.
Everyone knew Conley's absence was going to be an issue. Memphis started the season hot in spite of a rough start from a point guard who looked primed to set a new per game scoring record for the Grizzlies. Unsustainable bench play propped up a starting unit that was struggling mightily.
So when Conley was finally shut down and the reins of the offense were handed over to Mario Chalmers, the team's regression was fait accompli. On Sunday, Shane Young tweeted out this graphic, showing the worst effective field goal percentages among players who have taken at least 100 shots:
Out of all players who have taken 100+ shots this season, here are the worst Effective Field Goal %’s pic.twitter.com/oXJzEaA8zw— Shane Young (@YoungNBA) November 26, 2017
Listed there, among rookies and known poor shooters, is none other than Memphis’ own Mario Chalmers.
It’s undeniable how bad Mario Chalmers has been. His numbers across the board have been career lows, and in some cases, they’re the worst by miles. Right now his FG%, 3 point %, effective FG %, and true shooting percentages are all one giant dumpster fire.
When Chalmers was able to outplay former first round pick Wade Baldwin out of his roster spot, it was expected that Chalmers would provide something positive—even if marginally so—behind or (in case of injury) in place of Mike Conley. Instead, Grizzlies fans have suffered through a complete mess.
If you want to try to find a silver lining, it’s possible to delude yourself into thinking that this is simply a slump, a player who hadn’t seen live NBA action in a year and a half attempting to get back to the speed of the game. You’d probably need a few illicit substances to actually buy that, though.
The truth is that Chalmers just doesn’t look the same. Watching him against Denver last week, I was struck by how easily he was getting blown by. It looked like whatever athleticism he’d once possessed had been sapped by age and the Achilles injury. That loss of athleticism is undoubtedly at the root of his offensive struggles as well. I find it hard to believe at this point that Chalmers is going to get much better than he is now. He may piece together a positive performance now and then, but those will be few and far between.
It doesn't help that Andrew Harrison, after finally showing something resembling competence last season, took a step backwards before forcing David Fizdale to relegate him to the bench.
I’ve been one of Harrison’s staunchest supporters during his time in the league, and toward the end of last season he showed what I thought was going to be his role in the league: above average defense paired with an ability to hit spot-up shots from the perimeter. He’d likely never be able to run the offense, but he’d be able to contribute without being a massive liability.
I don’t know what happened between the end of the preseason and the start of the regular season, but Harrison’s confidence looks shot, and even fans who’d bought into his growth quickly jumped ship when things went downhill. As soon as Harrison goes to check in, most Grizzlies fans are holding their breath.
Just look at this. This is a disaster.
"SIRI: what does it look like when a man completely loses his confidence?" pic.twitter.com/yLMNcLpU3x— Fastbreak Breakfast NBA Podcast (@fastbreakbreak) November 6, 2017
And while I doubt that Harrison was part of the dark cabal that forced Fizdale's ouster, Harrison's benching and basic removal from the rotation could not have done much to help Harrison keep faith in himself.
Right now, the second best point guard on the team isn't even a point guard; rather, it's a ball-dominant wing whose best trait is getting buckets. That's helpful when you need scoring, but less so when you want to run a set offense.
The problem is that the Grizzlies don't have any reliable options to replace Chalmers and Harrison. They don't have the assets to trade. There are next to zero options that would represent much of an upgrade from what they've got out on the roster. I guess they could call up Kobi Simmons for a couple of days, but Simmons is: 1. raw; and 2. A rookie. There's a very good chance he is a downgrade. But at least he'd be something new to watch. At this point, that's kind of what I want.
The fact is that until Conley is back—and who knows when that will be—the Grizzlies will continue to struggle barring some miracle improvements from Chalmers or Harrison. But this is the bed the Grizzlies made, and now they'll have to lie in it.