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. What was the best Grizzlies game this season? Which Grizzly was most underappreciated, 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 2 focuses of the MVP and much more.
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 most underappreciated player for Memphis?
BRANDON ABRAHAM (@bcabraham)- I think Andrew Harrison was the most under-appreciated player on this Grizzlies team. Harrison quickly became the team scapegoat when things would go wrong once fans got tired of blaming Chandler Parsons for everything. Was Harrison a good backup point guard? Not necessarily. But he wasn't awful either, especially considering he was a rookie. He had his ups and downs but played well when Conley was out with injury, and he even performed relatively well in the playoffs. Instead of appreciating the good Harrison plays, most everybody was waiting to criticize his next mistake. That makes him my most under-appreciated Grizzly for the season.
GRACE BAKER (@GraceBaker901)- I would say that JaMychal Green was Memphis' most underappreciated player. At the beginning of the year, Green came out strong and many took notice, but as the year wore on he faded into the background, all the while producing at a pretty consistent rate. His role throughout the season shifted, but he continued to be a reliant force on both ends of the floor. He had the best season of his career in points per game and rebounds per game, and he made a career-high 55 three pointers. With others like Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, and Tony Allen around, his role sometimes went too underappreciated in my eyes.
What was the Grizzlies game of the year?
MAC TRAMMELL (@Mac_Trammell)- Three games stand out to me: the recent Game 4 game winner by Marc Gasol was electrifying and intense and arguably the team’s best, grittiest win of the year. The team’s early enormous come-from-behind victory at the Staples Center against the Clippers behind another Gasol game winner, this time on a designed corner three, was also a highlight.
But for me the game of the year was the Golden State victory in which the Grizzlies surmounted a 24 point second half deficit to defeat the defending champions 128-119 at Oracle Arena. It was a classic Grizzlies game: go down early against a team they should probably lose to, claw their way back into contention against the odds, then actually win that dang thing outright (and deservedly) in the final minutes of the game. I actually stayed up for the entirety of this game on the east coast, and I was jumping over my couch and running around, flexing, stifling yells (unsuccessfully) so as not to awaken my already slumbering roommates (who gave up on the game at the half, much to their chagrin).
This was my favorite game, the game that gave me the most hope that the Grizzlies could do something special and crazy this year.
BRANDON CONNER (@BallFromGrace)- I think you can go two different ways. In terms of absolute best game from a viewer standpoint, I'd have to go with Game 4's win over the Spurs. That game had everything: teams trading blows, a superstar player in Kawhi who couldn't miss, and a last second basket in overtime to win it. From the casual fan's standpoint, that's the absolute best game.
From a Grizzlies performance standpoint, I think I'd go with the 110-89 win over Golden State on December 10. The Grizzlies trotted out a starting lineup that featured Andrew Harrison and Troy Williams (R.I.P. Troy the Younger) and played Toney Douglas and Jarell Martin significant minutes. And they still managed to beat the socks off the NBA's super team at full strength. Marc Gasol was in the midst of his best stretch of the season, and Tony Allen was in peak form. While the comeback against the Warriors was also impressive, I think this performance was just so much less expected, and that's what makes it all the more special.
Who was the MVP for the Grizzlies this season?
ABRAHAM- I'm probably cheating, but I'm gonna give Co-MVP honors to Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. Gasol struggled mightily since March but we can't forget how he single-handedly carried this Grizzlies team early in the season when Mike was out with injury (and when Mike played but was obviously still recovering). Mike was awesome all year but seemed to turn it up even more after he was snubbed from the All-Star Game for the 100th time. He carried the Grizz into the playoffs and was the main reason the Grizzlies took the Spurs to 6 games in their first round playoff series.
If I had to pick one, I'd say Mike Conley because he stepped it up when the games mattered the most, but Gasol at least deserves a First Half MVP trophy or something.
BAKER- Overall, Mike Conley was Memphis' MVP this year. Marc Gasol could be considered a heavy contender, but with his slightly declining play over the final stretch of the season and playoffs, Conley had the upper-hand...even though he was snubbed out of an All-Star spot again and Marc made the team. Rather, Conley cranked it up when it really mattered and carried the Grizzlies in the playoffs. Undoubtedly, Conley had the best season of his career in PPG. Also, he's a great player on and off the court, as I always admired his attitude and words when I was covering the games this season.
While Gasol had a strong start to the year, Conley proved himself clutch down the stretch and laid it all out on the floor every night. It's no contest for me. Mike Conley deserves MVP honors for Memphis.
TRAMMELL- The MVP is also Mike Conley. Many of the same reasons he was my Most Improved Grizz are why he’s my MVG. But not only did he post career highs in a number of statistical areas, these were All-Star caliber numbers. 20 points, 3.5 boards, 6.3 assists and 1.3 steals on .460/.408/.859 shooting are great stats to boast. And not only did he post career highs in advanced statistical categories, he was a top 20 player in the league in player efficiency rating, win shares and value over replacement player as well as top 15 in win shares per 48 minutes and box plus/minus. He carried the team when Marc Gasol was on the bench, and without Conley on the floor the Grizz were -3.6 points worse offensively, the largest mark of any player on the team.
Marc Gasol is instrumental, but Mike Conley runs this team.
CONNER- I'm going with Mike Conley, but I'd also like to point out that Marc Gasol has a really strong case for the award. Mike missed nine games with the back injury, and Marc carried the team to a 7-2 record during that stretch. Not to mention the fact that Mike wasn't himself when he first returned. Given the Grizzlies struggles down the stretch, it's not unreasonable to say that, had Gasol not put the team on his back, the Grizzlies might have missed the playoffs this season.
But I think Mike's performance once he was fully healthy, and the way he did everything in his power to will the Grizzlies to even two victories in the playoffs, is enough to earn him the team MVP award. Mike has evolved into the sort of leader that Fizdale is looking for, and I think this is his team to lead now.