Welcome to another installment of the GBB Mailbag! We have three terrific questions about the Memphis Grizzlies from Facebook for us to tackle this week, and I have assembled a great crew of GBB rookies to help me answer them. Joining me for the mailbag this week are GBB Features Writer McCarty Maxwell and Game Coverage Writers Jack Noonan and Brandon Abraham.
From Debra Langston- Is it too late to get some of the key starters some rest before the playoffs begin?
Joe Mullinax (@JoeMullinax)- I don’t really think so- it depends on your goals. If you have the Grizzlies going 48-34, meaning they will go 12-9 over their last 21 games, that leaves plenty of time to rest guys (and Chandler Parsons certainly will, as will probably other role players). Perhaps that starts this weekend with the Mavericks-Rockets back to back set. David Fizdale has stated, though, that his goal for the team is to get the four seed, which would not lend itself to resting Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. So is it too late? No. But it may not necessarily matter.
Brandon Abraham (@bcabraham)- I would be very surprised if Coach Fizdale doesn't give the older guys at least a few games off towards the end of the season. The Grizzlies play 5 games in 8 nights in late March. I wouldn't be surprised if the veterans rest at San Antonio or Golden State during that stretch. I'd also expect Fizdale to sprinkle in a few games where Gasol rests one night and Conley the next, similar to what he did going into the All-Star Break.
Jack Noonan (@jnoonan1307)- I would say it would never be a good time to rest any of the starters. The Grizzlies are still very much fighting for home court in the first round. They are only a couple of games back of the Jazz, who are the four-seed. This is the ultimate prize for Memphis. They are currently sitting at the six-seed with room to grow or fall. Only teams that have clinched their specific seed should think about resting players. It will definitely be a dog fight until the end of the season to sort out the Western Conference seeding.
McCarty Maxwell (@McCartyMaxwell)- It’s never too late to rest starters before the playoffs- ask Gregg Popovich. But I don’t think Fizdale should rest starters. The Grizzlies have shown over and over this season that too much rest causes issues. They have not played well in games after they have had more than 3 days rest. I also think these last 20 or so games are important for the final seeding in the playoffs. There are certain match-ups that the Grizzlies should avoid, and getting a higher seed in the Western Conference is a top priority. Every win counts, and resting starters gives us a smaller chance to win each game. I’m not opposed to Fizdale resting one starter at a time, but not multiple key players at the same time.
From Erick Albert Erickson- Should the Grizzlies have waited until the buyout deadline before committing to Toney Douglas for the rest of the season?
Mullinax- It would be nice to be linked to players like Brandon Jennings, Jose Calderon, and Deron Williams, wouldn’t it? Hindsight is 20/20, though, and lets be honest- would any of those guys have chosen Memphis over Golden State, or Washington, or Cleveland? Maybe the Wizards, but you could argue Jennings is the most surprising guy available on the market. There’s no way the Grizzlies could have known he’d be there. They chose to go Douglas, and while I don’t think he’s that much better than Andrew Harrison I do thing that that is amplified by the fact that the team overhyped keeping him. You think Douglas is better than Harrison? Fine. Just don’t call a guy who wasn’t on an NBA roster at the start of the regular season a “midseason acquisition”.
Abraham- I'm not big on Toney Douglas so I would have liked for them to test the buyout player market, but doing so would have allowed another team to potentially sign Douglas. Guys like Brandon Jennings and Jose Calderon will more than likely follow the path of Deron Williams and sign as an end of bench guy with a championship contender. Signing Douglas was the safe move. The Grizz can still gauge interest from players around the league, but I suspect they'll be content with Douglas to end the year, and I'm okay with that.
Noonan- Absolutely, 100%. I feel that the Grizzlies should have waited later than they did to sign Toney Douglas. Yes, Toney Douglas may end up being the best fit down the road, but there is no reason not to try and attract a seasoned veteran. Names like Deron Williams and Brandon Jennings, are both guards that will be bought out and available (and possibly even Derrick Rose). Both of these options are better than Douglas. Williams is averaging 13.1 points as a starter and Jennings 8.6 points off the bench. Douglas is only averaging 5.3 points. Memphis should have at least gotten in contention with some of these guys. Toney Douglas would have been there later.
Maxwell- We can all agree that perhaps the signing of Toney Douglas was a little premature now that we see which point guards are potentially available. Toney Douglas played well for the team in his 10-day contracts. That is what the team had to base their decision on, and when the decision was made, it made sense. Deron Williams would have been a huge pick up, and a cheap option for sure. But we can’t blame the front office of the Grizz for deciding on Toney Douglas. At the time, they didn’t have much to work with. Back up point guards haven’t been given much responsibility for the Grizzlies historically anyway, so I believe Douglas will play his role effectively.
From Zach Johnson- Do you think the Grizzlies could move up in playoff seeding? And would you rather them play the Rockets, Jazz, or Clippers in the first round?
Mullinax- I think they could move up, sure. The Jazz are young and are going to perhaps start playing a bit more nervous as the playoffs come. They feel like the most likely to fall back to the 7 seed with Oklahoma City being the most likely to move up. But it isn’t like the Grizzlies without a full-go Chandler Parsons are that much better than the Jazz, Clippers, and Thunder, so it really depends on Fizdale’s plans to prep for the playoffs and resting guys. Personally, I would love to see the Jazz. I think they will be good (if they can keep everyone) eventually, but this first season will be a shock to their systems. The Rockets are elite offensively and the Clippers have a legit “Big Three”- if getting out of the first round is the goal, give me the Jazz.
Abraham- I think the Grizzlies could end up anywhere between the 4-7 seed depending on how the other teams end the season, but I ultimately think they end up as the 6 seed with a matchup against the Rockets. A matchup with any of these teams would be winnable. Utah would be the most favorable matchup (and least likely) since we've fared well against them this season and they are mostly inexperienced when it comes to the playoffs. I think we would have a decent chance on beating both the Rockets and Clippers and a series against either one of these teams would be very entertaining.
Noonan- Yes, I could see Memphis getting up all the way to the four-seed. I am not sure how likely that is, though. Utah played well lately, winning seven of the last ten games, and the Clippers being back at full health are two factors they’ll have to overcome. However, as mentioned, the Grizzlies are still a couple games back from the Jazz.
The Grizzlies should want to play the Jazz in the first round at either the four or five seed. They are 3-1 against them this season and they match up remarkably better against them. Both teams slow it down and grind out possessions having two of the slowest paces in the game. This compared to the Rockets, who just gained Lou Williams and will shoot even more threes than before. The Clippers will also be a tough match-up at full strength, plus the season series thus far is 1-2 against them.
Maxwell- I wrote an article about this question specifically. Check it out for a longer answer. But to summarize, I don’t think the Grizz could move up seeding. There would have to be a serious fallout by the Rockets or Clippers. Both teams are healthy and playing well, so that is not likely. Best case scenario, the Grizzlies move up to the 5th seed and the Jazz make a run for the 4th seed. That is the best match up based on the regular season series and playing style. The Rockets are scary good, and when they get hot from three-point range, they are tough to beat. The Clippers are a good team too, any team led by Chris Paul has a chance to win. So in my mind, I want to play the Jazz. But the chances of making that happen is pretty small.