The Memphis Grizzlies are in good position at the All-Star Break with a record of 34-24 which would make them the 6 seed if the playoffs were to start today. Although a match-up against the Houston Rockets isn’t the worst scenario, a relatively easy schedule until mid-March should allow the Grizzlies to climb up the standings considering they are only 2 games back from the 4th seeded Clippers. It hasn’t been easy for the Grizzlies to be in this position so let’s take a look at the roster and see who is responsible (or to blame) for the Grizzlies season so far.
The Core Four
Marc Gasol – A+
It is amazing what Marc Gasol has done this year for the Grizzlies. Coming off last year’s season ending foot injury, Gasol is averaging a career high 20.6 points and 4.3 assists to go along with 6.2 rebounds this season. He gets the A+ not just for how he’s played, for for the circumstances he has overcome with his injury from last season. Gasol has been more of a leader this year, and has shown how dangerous he can be when he takes over a game. In the eight games Gasol played in while Mike Conley was out with his broken back, Gasol lead the Grizzlies to a 7-2 record. Gasol’s all-around game makes him arguably the best center in the NBA, and the Grizzlies best player.
Mike Conley – A+
Conley’s play this season has been All-Star worthy. If Conley hadn’t broken his back and struggled the first few weeks in his miraculously quick return, he likely would have been an All-Star. His play when healthy this season has been spectacular, averaging 19.3 points to go along with over 6 assists per game. He’s controlled the flow of the offense, knowing when to push the pace and when to slow things down and feed the big guys down low. Mike Conley has truly been “The Conductor” when on the court for the Grizzlies this season, earning every cent of his record breaking contract last summer. You can read more on Conley’s season in this feature by McCarty Maxwell
Tony Allen – B
TA is still very much “trick-or-treat”, but luckily for Grizz fans he’s been more treat than trick this year. TA has single handedly come in to multiple games and changed their outcome. In typical TA fashion, he creates impactful moments by forcing turnovers and getting the Grizzlies out in fast break situations with opportunities at easy buckets. TA’s defense, once again, is good. He hasn’t been quite as good as he normally is on the defensive end, but TA’s good is still better than many other NBA players at “turning off the water”.
Zach Randolph – B+
Z-Bo has embraced the 6th man role for the Grizzlies. His numbers are slightly lower than his career averages, but he’s also playing nearly 10 minutes less a game. He’s picking on opposing teams backup big men, and has done a great job closing out games alongside Gasol. Z-Bo has played well so far this year, giving the Grizz bench the “go-to” scorer it’s needed the last few years.
JaMychal Green – B
JaMychal’s stats don’t jump out at you but he’s been a big presence in the Grizzlies starting lineup this year. His spacing has allowed the Grizzlies offense to flow more smoothly. Green’s biggest impact has been on the defensive end and on the boards. The duo of Green and Gasol has been a major problem for opposing big men. The only knock I have on Green is that it seems he mentally checks out of some games and can play lazy at times.
Vince Carter- B
The Grizzlies are finally getting the play from Vince Carter they were looking for when they signed him two years ago. At 40 years old, VC isn’t the high flying dunker he used to be, but he’s given the Grizzlies a solid veteran player who does all the right things. Occasionally Vince forces shots and has his off nights, but VC has been a steady contributor and facilitator off the bench for the Grizz this year.
James Ennis – B
Ennis started out the year playing great, but ever since Chandler Parsons came back from injury Ennis has been a bit inconsistent. Ennis is a solid defender and a capable enough 3 point shooter than defenders have to respect him. The best thing about Ennis is that when he’s on the court, he’s always giving it 100% and wreaking havoc. Overall, Ennis has been a solid role player for the Grizzlies, doing whatever Coach Fizdale asks of him.
Troy Daniels – B
Daniels struggled to start the season, then broke out in a big way when Conley got injured. Daniels was on fire during that stretch and has been a bit inconsistent since Conley (and Parsons) returned. When Troy is on fire, he’s a solid player but when he’s cold, he’s difficult to play since he is not great at much other than shooting. Daniels has played his best ball when he’s been given a consistent workload. Hopefully Parsons can get off that minutes restriction soon so Daniels can get more comfortable in his role...whatever that may be.
Toney Douglas – B-
I’m not a huge fan of Douglas, but I can see why Griz fans like him. He plays hard, has a more reliable jumper than Andrew Harrison, and plays well at the point allowing Conley to get more minutes at the 2 guard position. I don’t think the Douglas is nearly as good as Grizzlies fans make him out to be, but he’s a solid backup point guard comparatively speaking. The Grizz 11-4 record with Douglas has to mean something, even if mostly against weaker competition.
Chandler Parsons – D-
Parsons has been a huge disappointment for the Grizzlies this season. He started the year in a suit on the bench and hasn’t played great when on the court. He’s lost a little confidence in his jump shot and pump fakes about 17 times a game, but he’s gotten more familiar with the offense the last few weeks and although the scoring hasn’t been there, he’s been a solid rebounder and sometimes facilitator for the Grizz. He hasn’t remotely lived up to the big contract last summer but he still has 3 and a half years to change that. The only thing keeping Parsons from an F is his improvement the last two weeks.
Brandan Wright – B
Wright wore a suit for the first 50 games of the season, but Grizzlies fans have to be pleased with what they’ve seen the 8 games since he’s been healthy. He’s great around the rim, and solid enough defensively to play with any of the other Grizz bigs. It’s a small sample size so take it with a grain of salt, but Brandan Wright has played way better than I expected. Wright will be key for the Grizzlies in the second half of the season as a player or trade candidate. Emeka Bakari takes a further look into what Wright can bring to the Grizzlies (or another team via trade) in this feature.
Andrew Harrison – C
Harrison cannot shoot, he commits bad, lazy fouls and plays a lot like the rookie he is. Harrison is at his best driving toward the basket and drawing fouls. It looks like Fizdale has settled with Douglas as the backup point guard, but I expect Harrison to get minutes down the stretch of this season when Conley rests. His season so far has been very rookie-esque.
Coach Fizdale – A
Coach Fizdale has changed this Grizzlies team a good bit since his hire. He has Marc and Z-Bo shooting 3 pointers, Conley pushing the Grizzlies to a faster pace, and it can’t be overemphasized how great he was in handling putting Z-Bo into a bench role. He’s been quite successful for a rookie head coach, and if Mike D’Antoni hadn’t completely turned the Rockets around, Fiz would have a great chance at earning Coach of the Year honors.