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The Grizzlies’ Shooting Guard Dilemma

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Breaking down the options for the Grizzlies at shooting guard.

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The Memphis Grizzlies’ lineup for the upcoming season has two certainties.

Mike Conley will start at point guard, and Marc Gasol will anchor the front court. Outside of that, there are an abundance of question marks.

The future of the power forward position depends on what happens with JaMychal Green in restricted free agency.

Chandler Parsons will start at small forward, but it is unknown what version of Chandler Parsons we are going to see.

Both of the examples above are pressing issues, and must be solved by the Grizzlies organization, but they have solutions that are feasible and predictable (Green re-signing and Parsons performing up to par). A problem that doesn’t have a simple fix, but rather has a few different possible outcomes, is who is going to get minutes at shooting guard.

It isn’t that the Grizzlies have no options at shooting guard, it’s that there is no way to predict what kind of production those players can provide. Wayne Selden Jr., Ben McLemore, and Troy Daniels are all unproven but show flashes of potential, while Tyreke Evans is a trustworthy secondary ball-handler and playmaker, but has had injury issues recently.

No matter how this situation pans out, it is very likely that none of these players will take all of the minutes at the shooting guard spot away. Tony Allen is moving on (as far as we can tell), so let’s take a look at how the 2-guards currently on the roster can help this Grizzlies team, one by one.

Tyreke Evans

Evans is a player who has proven himself in the NBA as a dribble penetrator, passer, and ball-handler in his eight year career thus far. He uses his craftiness and size to get into the lane with ease when healthy, and has good finishing ability. Although it is fair to describe him as a good passer by looking at his career assist numbers (5.2 APG), it is important to take that with a grain of salt. He is excellent at penetrating and dumping the ball to his big men by drawing their defenders or hitting open cutters, and racks up assists while doing so.

However, he is a player who needs the ball in his hands for a few dribbles in order to be productive. You won’t see Tyreke Evans catch and make a quick extra pass very often, or hit his teammate on the wing so that there is a better passing angle for a post-entry pass. He isn’t that type of player. He wants to create plays, make them out of nothing. And that’s fine, as long as he is the focal point of the offense.

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His ball-centric style of play is why he is very often used as a spark plug off of the bench, and why the Grizzlies (most likely) plan to use him in that way as well. He is a guy that will improve the Grizzlies’ second unit drastically, finally providing them with somebody that can create for himself and others without needing to draw something up. It is also very possible that he can be utilized to let Mike Conley play off the ball as a scorer in various situations.

I don’t see Evans as a starter next year, even though he is probably the most talented and proven off-guard on this list. The reason is simple. He needs the ball to be productive, and that simply isn’t what the Grizzlies need in their starting lineup right now. No matter who starts at shooting guard next year, they will be the fourth or fifth scoring option, so it makes much more sense to play somebody who guards, moves the ball, and makes open jumpers when needed rather than Evans, who needs the ball in his hands to add offensive value.

Conley and Gasol will control the ball in the starting lineup. They need Evans to make plays when less talented lineups are out on the court. Expect Tyreke Evans to spearhead the second unit this year and give Mike Conley some relief from his ball handling responsibilities, and expect him to do it with some flair and style.

Ben McLemore

McLemore signing with the Grizzlies was a topic of much debate. Those for it argued that it was a low risk, high reward deal. While those against it claimed that he has not proven anything as an actual basketball player yet, and that if he had so much potential, he could have shown it in his first four years in the league with Sacramento.

It likely will turn out that both camps are right to a certain degree. McLemore has been a bust thus far. Much more is expected of the number seven overall pick in the draft than what he has produced up to this point in his career. The most puzzling part about his lack of production is that he has all of the tools to become a good NBA player. His size, quasi-freakish athleticism and pure shooting stroke basically scream elite “3 and D” wing.

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I think his underwhelming career has a lot to do with the situation he was in, as well as his overall mindset towards the game. It is very hard to find a rhythm on a team that runs through a different coach every year and has DeMarcus Cousins as the team leader. In saying that, there was still nothing stopping McLemore from motivating himself to get better, and attacking every opponent night-in, night out. It is impossible to really know exactly why his career has played out the way it has, but all we can do is hope that David Fizdale (known for his focus on player development) gives McLemore an environment and a drive that he couldn’t find in Sacramento.

The best case scenario is that Ben McLemore thrives under Fizdale and starts for the Grizzlies this year. If he fills some of his untapped potential, he will prove to be a good shooter and hopefully (fingers crossed) a better defender than he has been in the past.

Wayne Selden

Selden is a new fan favorite due to his impressive performances at the NBA Summer League in the past two weeks, and rightfully so. He was truly a man among boys, it seemed like if he decided to drive to the rim and finish, he could do just that every single time.

Of course, the Summer League is one thing, and the NBA is another. Don’t expect the “bully ball” that was put on display to work to any degree in an actual NBA game, the defenders will be bigger, stronger, faster, more experienced, smarter, etc.

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The importance of Selden showing his physical dominance in the past two weeks is that now we know he is more than capable of becoming an above average defender at his position. His size, strength, and quickness are enough alone for him to get by on the defensive end, all he needs is an attitude adjustment to take the next step.

The most promising aspect of Selden’s game in the Summer League was his consistency from the three point line. If he wants to play significant minutes this year, or possibly start, he needs to be a threat from deep. His performances recently showed that he is improving in that aspect of the game.

I expect Wayne Selden to compete for the starting job along with McLemore in the beginning of the season. And in the end, I think that the player who is shooting a better percentage from three will most likely end up with the spot.

Troy Daniels

You know what you are going to get from Troy Daniels. We saw last year how dangerous he can be from deep. He can flat out stroke it. Unfortunately, that is really the only value he adds to the team. He is not a good defender, and can’t create his own shot offensively.

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Daniels is the definition of a three point specialist, and those types of players can always find a role on teams in the NBA because of the spacing they help create on offense. He will have a role for Memphis, but it will most likely be pretty small because of the amount of somewhat capable off-guards on the roster. He can be utilized in special situations, such as end of game out of bounds plays or when the team desperately needs an offensive spark to get back into a game.

The Grizzlies currently need to offload a couple of players from their roster if they plan to sign JaMychal Green, Dillon Brooks, and Ivan Rabb, and of the players listed in this article, Daniels seems to be most likely to be packaged off in a trade.

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