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The GBB Mailbag returns with some terrific Memphis Grizzlies questions from our great Facebook followers. If you haven’t already liked our Facebook page (run by Matt Preston aka Grizzlam), what in the world are you doing? Like us here.
Today’s GBB Mailbag participants are Site Manager Joe Mullinax (me), Senior GBB Features Writer Kevin Yeung, and three of our newest writers making their GBB debuts - Features writer Emeka Bakari and Game Coverage staffers Jack Noonan and Ross Jarrar.
Let’s get to it.
Will Andrew Harrison see any more playing time as the playoffs get closer? - from Steven Stone
Joe Mullinax (@JoeMullinax) - Seems like that ship has sailed for now. Toney Douglas is in the middle of his 2nd 10-day contract and has replaced Harrison as the team’s lead backup point guard. That doesn’t mean that decision is final, or that Memphis has given up entirely on Harrison. It means that Head Coach David Fizdale gave Harrison an opportunity, and he struggled enough offensively that they felt it was necessary to bring in help. If Douglas does get signed for the rest of the season, Harrison almost surely will only see time on nights when guys are being rested.
Kevin Yeung (@KevinHFY) - It feels like they've moved on to Toney Douglas as their backup point guard, and they might still trade for one. Who knows? Douglas isn't going to be difficult to supplant, I don't think. All it takes is a couple poor games from him and a nice few minutes from Harrison and things can change. Neither player does that much for me.
Ross Jarrar (@asaprockytop) - I don’t think Andrew Harrison will get more playing time. If Toney Douglas is brought on for the remainder of the season, I believe he’ll eat into a lot of the available backup PG minutes. While Andrew Harrison plays the majority of his minutes at shooting guard, he hasn’t been good enough to warrant more minutes at SG either. An important factor in this question will be if and when Chandler Parsons gets off his minute restriction. If Chandler Parsons is able to play 30 minutes a game, that will likely put Vince Carter and possibly James Ennis on backup SG duty, which might leave Harrison on the outside looking in.
Jack Noonan (@jnoonan1307) - Barring an injury, I don’t see a scenario where he’ll get an increase in playing time. Currently, Andrew Harrison is averaging 21.9 minutes per game which is on the higher side for a rookie guard in the league. This number was, of course, inflated when Mike Conley went down with his back injury in late November, before Tony Douglas returned. It was a big spot for Harrison to be thrown into and his shooting suffered. Also, Troy Daniels made a large impact on the team with his increase in minutes as well. In January and February, Daniels is averaging more minutes, points, and three-pointers - both made and attempted. Since neither player can create much on their own, and both seem to be getting a majority of their minutes as “shooting guards” now, Coach Fiz will be looking at the numbers to see who will be getting playing time. This may not turn out in Andrew Harrison's favor.
Emeka Bakari (@EmekaB_) - I don’t believe Andrew Harrison will see much more of the floor the rest of the season. The 1st half of the season was the experimental phase for Fizdale and company. The 2nd half of the season is for solidifying the rotation and getting ready for the playoffs. Poise and shot-making are why Toney Douglas was brought in. It allows Mike Conley to play more effectively off-ball and provides a natural boost to the team's play overall.
Will Mike Conley average at least 20 ppg this season? Do you think our system would allow it? - From Ahlen Desoyo
Mullinax - It’s possible, but unlikely. Mike is currently averaging 19.4 points per game, and while he’s shown the ability to go off on any given night, he still is the 2nd option behind Marc Gasol (as he should be). Add on to that the fact that (hopefully) Chandler Parsons will continue to round into form, and I don’t see Mike having the prolonged stretch of scoring outbursts needed to get over the 20 points per game hump. I do see him staying around where he is, however - no dips down. Conley the scorer is here to stay.
Yeung - Yeah! I was saying this before the season, and I'm still saying it now. Marc is taking more shots than I thought he would, but it works out because when you put the ball in his hands, he's still always got eyes on Conley. And Conley, who we don't often think of as a scorer for whatever reason, is always a scoring threat. Our system likes to send him, specifically, on the attack and coming off screens, and I think we'll only continue to see more of that. Conley is just decimal points from 20 points per game! He'll get there.
Jarrar - I don’t think Mike Conley will average 20 PPG for the season. First off, he’s never done it before. Secondly, for Mike Conley to average 20 PPG for the season, he’ll have to average 21 per-game for the rest of the season. It would only be 2 extra points per game for Conley, which isn’t impossible, but he’s only passed that mark 7 times since January 1st. Third, our system wouldn’t allow it to happen. The Grizzlies still play at a very slow pace, and the offense is too reliant on screen-and-rolls with Conley and Gasol. If Conley were able to play off the ball and create for himself more often, he’d be more likely to reach that mark.
Noonan - I do see Mike Conley averaging 20 points per game this season. He’s averaging 19.4 PPG right now, so he only needs a small bump up in point production to accomplish this. Conley has never averaged 20 points per game, but that’s mainly because of how few threes he took. However, this year according to NBA.com, Conley attempts a three-point basket 39.8%, and a two-point bucket 60.2%, of the time. This compared to his 30.9%-69.1% split from last year. This year's system is setting up perfectly for the guys to take more threes, and it’s showing in Conley's points per game.
Bakari - Definitely. He's very close right now, as Joe and Jack stated. But over the last 10 games or so, there's been a noticeable uptick in his scoring aggression. He's shooting the ball with more confidence (I wrote a fanpost about this), playing more of an off-ball scoring role via Toney Douglas, and even getting to the free throw line more.
Do you think Chandler Parsons will start to regain his form when he gets off the minutes restriction? - From Zach Johnson
Mullinax - This is the $94 million question. Well, not quite that much as far as this season goes...but you get the point. There are two main sides to the argument on this - the optimist (he did this in Dallas, there’s nowhere to go but up, he still has time) and the pessimist (his shot still is extremely flat, he’s not explosive, he’s even worse now defensively). The truth, as always, is somewhere in the middle. I believe and I’m hopeful his minutes restriction will be lifted around the middle of March, and he’ll settle around 28-30 minutes a night. I also think he will not be the player he was signed to be this year - but 80%-85% of that player can still space the floor and create off the dribble. Hopefully that will be enough to get Memphis on a playoff run.
Yeung - Well, I don't think he'll get off the minutes restriction until he regains his form, and nobody can really say if that will happen, much less when. But hey, on the bright side... anything can happen!
Jarrar - I think Chandler Parsons will be able to regain his form. Chandler Parsons is having statistically one of the worst years of his career, so any improvement will be appreciated, but Parsons has been able to get good looks on the perimeter. He’s done a good job rotating and finding the right spots when Conley sucks in the defense with his penetration, but the shots just aren’t falling. When Parsons is 100% healthy with his legs under him, I think his shooting and defense will be remarkably better as they revert to his pre-injury norms.
Noonan - Chandler Parsons has to get better, right? Right? Grizz Nation keeps begging to see any improvement to Parsons since he came back from injury. We sit watching the highlight film of him back in Dallas averaging 18 a game and looking like he would be worth every penny. The guy is an athletic force that has raw talent; that cannot be forgotten. However, watching him in games does give cause for some concern. He just doesn’t look anywhere even close to 100% in his jumping and cutting. I do think he’ll find his form, even if it’s longer than fans want. Everyone just has to remember he has the talent at 100%.
Bakari - The minutes restriction is keeping him from gaining a rhythm. The most prominent example of this that's on my brain right now is Curry and GSW. It's a tad different, but with less workload, you would imagine Steph being super-effective, right? Wrong. The more he's had the ball in his hands, the more responsibility, the better. It's a rhythm thing, and I believe it applies to Chandler Parsons here as well. So I'm itching to see him come off this minutes restriction as long as his body allows it.
Could we possibly finish at least 4th in the Western Conference? - From Jeff Aminu
Mullinax - The Grizzlies are just a game back of the four-seed Clippers as of this writing. Memphis has a favorable schedule ahead of them and should only improve as Parsons gets his legs under him and Brandan Wright gets solidly into the rotation. Barring some major trade (unlikely in my opinion) or injury (gulp), this team is as low as they’l get in the Western Conference as the current six seed, and will only go up. The four seed is a realistic settling point, but anything between four and six wouldn’t surprise me now.
Yeung - It's possible. If we all gather in a circle and join hands in prayer for more Clippers injuries, it could even become likely.
Jarrar - I do believe the Grizzlies can finish 4th in the Western Conference. The Clippers are without Chris Paul for another month or so, which should negatively impact their win-loss record soon. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies and Jazz are almost neck-and-neck record-wise and seem like the biggest threats to each other’s #4 seed aspirations. The Grizzlies own the head-to-head tiebreaker 3-1 (there are no more games between them, so this is one lead it’s impossible to blow), and are the more experienced team, so the Grizzlies have a great chance to finish 4th.
Noonan - The team is rolling right now coming to the All-Star break. The Grizzlies are currently the 6 seed and are .5 game back of the Utah Jazz for the 5th seed and 1 game back of the 4th seed held by the Clippers. The Jazz are on a three-game losing streak and may not have the team built to sustain their record to date. The Clippers were in a free fall right after the injury to Chris Paul, but they’ve found a formula without him, winning their last three. For the Grizzlies to get the four seed, it’s all going ride on the Paul injury. If they can pass the Clips and gain enough ground, I see a good chance the Grizzlies will have home court in the first round of the playoffs.
Bakari - It could happen tonight. A win against NOLA, a Clippers loss against the Hawks, and a Jazz loss against the Trail Blazers would do it, I believe. With the way the Grizzlies have been playing over the last 10 games, beating the teams they are supposed to and whatnot, it’s definitely sustainable, because you know they’ll get up to play the "better teams". A better question is, "could we catch the Rockets and avoid the Warriors until the Western Conference Finals?" I think the answer is no, but the Grizzlies have been surprising me lately, so maybe!
Thanks to all who submitted questions, and thanks to our staff for participating!