Site Manager Note: Now that the season has had a chance to settle a bit, we at GBB are ready to talk end of season awards. Not the boring NBA kind - the Memphis Grizzlies-centric kind, of course. Who was the best newcomer to the Grizzlies this season? Which game really stood out for Memphis? Which Grizzly was most improved, and who was the MVP of this season? That and more was discussed by our latest group of GBBers participating in one of our roundtables. Today’s Part 1 focuses of “rookie” of the year and most improved player.
The roundtablers this time around are Game Coverage Editor Grace Baker, Senior Features Writer Brandon Conner, Features Writer Mac Trammell, and Game Coverage Writer Brandon Abraham.
Who was the Grizzlies "rookie" of the year (player either in their first NBA season or in their first season with the Grizzlies)?
BRANDON ABRAHAM (@bcabraham) - I think the Grizz "Rookie" of the Year should go to Troy Daniels. For the first time in a long time, the Grizzlies had a player whose presence on the court opened up space for Marc Gasol and Mike Conley to work. He finished 3rd in the NBA in three-pointers off the bench with a franchise record 134 treys. He helped carry the team with his hot shooting during the time Conley was out with injury. There were games where it seemed like everything Daniels put up would find the bottom of the net. With not much competition, Troy Daniels gets my vote for Grizz "Rookie" of the Year.
GRACE BAKER (@GraceBaker901) - I'd say Memphis' "Rookie" of the Year was Troy Daniels. He provided the Grizzlies with a pretty consistent shooting weapon, and we got to watch him explode from three point range on multiple occasions. He was a positive surprise this season for Memphis, and during Chandler Parsons' inconsistent season he provided a much-needed boost from the outside to help spread the floor. Coming into this year, I don't think anyone expected this kind of production from Daniels, but fortunately he surprised everyone.
Who was the Grizzlies’ most improved player this season?
MAC TRAMMELL (@Mac_Trammell) - I think a sneaky good pick here would be Vince Carter, who had what appeared to be his best season as a Grizzly. But looking at per-36 numbers and advanced stats on Basketball-Reference doesn’t totally confirm this notion. These stats, as well as the eye test, do however confirm Mike Conley’s ascendance. His scoring was up nearly 5 points per game from last year while shooting better percentages from the floor and from three (as well as career highs in effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage). He also recorded a career high in rebounds per game. Per-36 and per-100 possessions, his numbers are up or even across the board, and he posted his best offensive rating ever by far. He also posted career highs in pretty much every advanced statistical category (more on this tomorrow).
Hats off to Carter and JaMychal Green, but Conley was the Grizz’s most improved player.
BRANDON CONNER (@BallFromGrace) - I suppose you could make a case for Vince Carter, given that he was a key piece in the Grizzlies’ rotation during the season after struggling with injuries the first two seasons. But really, there's only one true candidate for Most Improved, and that's Mike Conley. Under Fizdale, who made Conley a focal point of his offense, the Conductor saw career highs across the board: in points, shooting percentages, and win shares. Pick any stat and it's almost guaranteed that Conley had his best season.
And beyond just pure statistical production, Conley also took on an increased leadership role. While Marc Gasol balked at Fizdale's demand for increased input, Conley appeared much more willing to fill those shoes. Based on what he's done, I wouldn't be surprised to see Conley made team captain next season.
Check back tomorrow for Part 2!