On the eve of the start of the 2017 NBA Playoffs, Grizzly Bear Blues is kicking it in to high gear to preview the series between the Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs. What better way to look at the two teams and how they match up than a GBB Roundtable? Joining me for this special playoff roundtable are GBB Game Coverage Editor Grace Baker, GBB Video Content Editor Mark King, GBB Senior Features Writer and GBBLive co-host Brandon Conner, and Host of the You Like Hoops? podcast Chase Lucas.
No one seems to give Memphis much of a chance in this series. On a scale of 1-10, 1 being "no chance" and 10 being "will happen", how likely is a Grizzlies upset of the Spurs?
JOE MULLINAX (@JoeMullinax)- I am at a solid 4. Speaking with folks smarter than me and hearing the confidence they feel about this matchup for Memphis has made me slightly more optimistic that the Grizzlies can make this interesting. The absence of Tony Allen, however, does loom large over the series. How David Fizdale responds in terms of coaching and schemes to slow Kawhi Leonard will be fascinating to watch, especially in game one Saturday night. `But a healthy Mike Conley and Marc Gasol give Memphis a fighting chance to compete.
GRACE BAKER (@GraceBaker901)- I give the Grizzlies a 6. At first, I would've only given them like a 4, but after some time I've convinced myself that they have more of a chance than that. If Mike Conley continues to produce like he has, and Marc Gasol plays at his best, I believe the Grizzlies have a real chance. They need role players like Vince Carter and Zach Randolph to each have a game where they scored like 20+ points to add an X factor to this series for Memphis.
CHASE LUCAS (@deepfriedcouch)- I’ll go with 3.2. I would say a series victory is highly unlikely. I think they have a chance to make a couple of the games competitive. If you can get to a coin flip situation in crunch time and get lucky a couple times maybe the Grizz can take it to six games. My biggest hope is that they somehow pull off a win in one of the first two. That will provide at least a couple days of the exhilarating playoff vibe that makes the regular season slog worth it. Otherwise this is going to turn into a pile of columns and tweets about goodbyes and the offseason before the series is even complete.
In order for Memphis to win the series, what must they do to slow down the Spurs?
MULLINAX- I’m paraphrasing here, but it’s Kawhi, stupid. Kawhi Leonard is an All-NBA First Team, MVP-esque player. He is the straw that stirs the Spurs drink, and he is almost as good offensively now as he is defensively...which is horrifying, considering Kawhi is arguably the best defensive player in the NBA. Without Tony Allen, the Grizzlies are going to have to find a new way to get Kawhi to expend energy- maybe by running him off screens when he is defending players like Mike Conley, or double teaming him. Easier said than done.
BRANDON CONNER (@BallFromGrace)- The biggest obstacle is likely Kawhi. When the Grizzlies are on the offensive end, the focus needs to be from keeping Kawhi from being able to lock onto Conley. Whether it's using screens or using other ball handlers to allow Conley to move off the ball, it's imperative that Mike (who's been the Grizzlies' best player over the last few weeks) to be able to get his.
Outside of Leonard, I'd like to see the Grizzlies try to exploit Pau, who doesn't have the sort of foot speed necessary to guard out on the perimeter. If the Grizzlies can use their newfound three-point shooting to get Paul out of the lane, that should open up offensive opportunities inside.
MARC KING (@king_producer)- The first thing on offense is to make sure that Zach Randolph is scoring and rebounding off the bench. The Spurs are one of the teams that Zach has been able to score well against the second unit. Defensively, the Grizzlies need to keep LaMarcus Aldridge away from his right hand and more importantly the left side of the court. This season, out of the 62 shots that Aldridge took against the Grizzlies, 47 of those came from the left side of the court.
Which Grizzlies player not named Gasol or Conley must play their best for Memphis to have a shot?
MULLINAX- It has to be Vince Carter now that Tony Allen is out for the foreseeable future. Vince is the closest thing this team now has to a starting-caliber wing (insert single tear emoji here) and considering back to backs and four game in five night sets are now a thing of the past, they are going to need Vince to be a real threat. And that’s not just as a shooter- he must attack the rim. He must be able to defend. He has to step up and go beyond what is realistically within his means. Thankfully, he is half-man and half-amazing, so perhaps he can do it one last time in Memphis for the Grizzlies.
BAKER- I really think Zach Randolph needs to have a solid series and average a double double. All season, he's been pretty consistent off the bench, and he really provides a boost to the second unit. Him producing in this series is crucial, especially as he won't be facing Tim Duncan like he has in years past.
LUCAS- UGHHHHHH. A PREVIOUS VERSION OF THIS RESPONSE WAS ABOUT TONY ALLEN. TONY ALLEN IS A 35-YEAR-OLD BASKETBALL PLAYER KNOWN FOR RESPONDING WELL TO REST. HE WAS INJURED IN A MEANINGLESS GAME AT THE VERY END OF THE SEASON. THIS WAS AVOIDABLE AND SUUUUUUUUCKS. DAMN IT ALL TO HELL.
Breath in. Breathe out.
Vince Carter. Vince’s shooting is obviously valuable, but the team will need his poise and ball handling more than anything. Of course poise is a bit abstract but it’s safe to say experience has to count for something given the alternatives. When the inevitable Kawhi on Conley matchup happens the Grizz will need people who don’t go into total body freakout when forced to dribble the basketball. They are currently in short supply of such individuals and Vince fits the description.
What do you expect the playoff rotations and adjustments of David Fizdale to look like?
MULLINAX- I would expect James Ennis III or Troy Daniels to fill Tony Allen’s starting spot, and whichever one doesn’t start will surely see a larger role. Conley/Carter/Green/Gasol/Randolph are rotation locks beyond those two. Add in Andrew Harrison and Brandan Wright, and I think that will be the rotation. Wayne Selden Jr. will get opportunity, but he will not have many opportunities in this series if he does not play to his strengths when his number is called.
CONNER- I expect the starting five to be Mike/TA/Ennis III or Daniels/JaM/Marc. Harrison will see some time. Ennis and Daniels will both definitely get wing minutes. As for the big men, Z-Bo's definitely going to get his, but I have a hard time seeing where Brandan Wright fits in here. Herrington, Hrdlicka, and Zach Lowe have all touched on how Zach and Wright don't fit well together, and Wright and Marc have played a grand total of 88 minutes together. I just don't know that the playoffs is a place where you want to start experimenting.
As far as adjustments, I think Fizdale may have a short leash with Harrison. I'm also really curious to see how Selden fits in here. I've seen other people projecting him to get playing time, but I don't really know that I see a path for many minutes.
KING- I don't anticipate the rotations changing too much in the series against the Spurs. I think we will see Andrew Harrison as the backup PG, like we have most of the year. His leash will be shortened quite a bit and Mike Conley will have a heavy workload. The Grizzlies are probably looking at a 9-10 man rotation with Zach, Daniels, Wright, and Harrison coming off the bench. The most interesting part will be to see how well Fizdale adjusts his rotations from game to game.
Prediction time- who wins the series in how many games and why?
GBB OFFICIAL STAFF PREDICTION- SPURS IN 6
Too much Kawhi, not enough fire power for the Grizzlies. The series will have its competitive moments, but San Antonio will advance and Memphis will head in to a massive offseason with major questions.