Opening night for the Memphis Grizzlies is 33 days away, and as we approach one of the most interesting (frightening?) seasons in Grizzlies history, lots of questions need to be answered. Some of GBB’s finest came together to try to tackle some of these topics. Joining me in our preseason roundtable are GBB Gameday Editor Grace Baker (@GraceBaker901), GBB Associate Editor Jack Noonan (@jnoonan1307) and GBB writer McCarty Maxwell (@McCartyMaxwell).
With the departure of franchise cornerstones Zach Randolph and Tony Allen, who has the most to prove this season for the Grizzlies?
Mullinax- For me, it’s a tie. No doubt Chandler Parsons has a lot to do to earn back some goodwill from Grizzlies fans. Injuries suck, but beyond that Chandler just can’t seem to get out of his own way with regard to his social media use. He’s a young man and can live his life as he sees fit, but the combination of inappropriate Instagram comments and his bad first year have left him with a very short leash.
The surprise to some may be my other selection, David Fizdale. I wrote back in July about how this is now his team and his vision in year two of the Fizdale Era, and while I think he’s up to the challenge, it could be a tough year in multiple ways for the outspoken coach. If Tony Allen starts hot on that veteran minimum contract in New Orleans, for example, how will the fan base respond?
Maxwell- Chandler Parsons. Easy. He has to earn at least a fraction of the salary he’s raking in.
Baker- Chandler Parsons. After his disappointing performance last season that was cut short by injury, he now needs to have a bounce-back season. His numbers were pretty abysmal across the board last year. Parsons needs to prove his worth on offense this season after starting off his career on the wrong foot in Memphis.
Noonan- We know Mike Conley and Marc Gasol will do their part, but now the burden falls on others to step up and take the role Zach Randolph and TA left. I see the two additions of Tyreke Evans and Ben McLemore (when healthy) having a lot to prove with their new team in Memphis. However, as is becoming the tradition, Chandler “The Bandit” Parsons has the most to prove this season. He only played in 34 games averaging a measly 6.2 points a game.
Only time will tell if he can prove his massive contract and average his 15 points a game like we saw he could do in Houston.
Marc Gasol has been performing well in Eurobasket for Spain. What kind of a season should we expect from the now eldest Grizzly?
Mullinax- What a difference a year makes. From 40 year-old Vince Carter and two veterans like Zach and Tony to Marc at 32 now being the oldest player on the roster, change is most certainly in the air. Marc shouldn’t show too much regression from what he’s been in the past, since his game is becoming more and more perimeter based. Perhaps he shows that he’s lost a half-step on defense, but as long as he remains healthy he should still be one of the top bigs in the NBA.
Maxwell- More of the same. He hasn’t shown any distinct signs of deteriorating, and now that he isn’t the focal point on both ends, he can just play his game. I predict career highs in assists and rebounds.
Baker- We should expect much of what we saw last season from Marc. Gasol has probably peaked performance-wise, but he should be able to nearly repeat what he accomplished last season. He expanded his range last season, and I would like to see him shoot even more from deep this season.
Of the three "true" back-up point guards on the roster (Wade Baldwin IV, Andrew Harrison, Mario Chalmers) who is the most likely to not be on the Grizzlies' opening night roster?
Mullinax- For me, it has to be Chalmers. Wade Baldwin was the 17th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, and unless they trade him it’s hard to see the Grizzlies letting him go for nothing. Andrew Harrison played more minutes as a rookie than any Grizzlies player in a long time, so it wouldn’t make a ton of sense to cut ties there unless Fizdale and company think they’ve seen enough of Harrison.
Chalmers, while certainly the best player of the three (when healthy), is coming off an injury that has cost him an entire season of his career. Can he really come back fully at 31 years old and be that same player he was? I need to see it before I’ll believe he can beat out two players much younger than him.
But if he can? He makes Memphis that much more dangerous.
Maxwell- I have to say Wade Baldwin IV. Though he may have the biggest upside of the three, he also has the least experience. The Grizzlies didn’t trust him enough to play last season when the back-up PG position was wide open, and bringing in Chalmers proves they weren’t happy with the options on the roster already.
Baker- Andrew Harrison. Chalmers will will surely find a place in the rotation, and Wade Baldwin has shown flashes of being a solid backup point guard. With the current construction of the roster, I'm afraid Harrison won't find a solid spot, but it'll be a tight race between him and Baldwin.
Noonan- It’s an honest toss-up between Baldwin and Chalmers. I can easily see neither of these two making the roster. Baldwin, however, is just not good enough to cut it in the NBA. His three point shooting has never gotten to where it was in college, and some of his decision making with the ball had fans everywhere scratching their head. Memphis may just have to chalk him up as a loss and move on. Harrison, as bad as he has looked, looks to have Fizdale's confidence to at least play some minutes behind Conley. He shouldn't have a problem making the roster.
What do you expect to be the biggest difference for Memphis this season now that the roster has been revamped?
Mullinax- Aside from game tempo, I really believe you’ll see even fewer isolation plays than you have before. With Zach Randolph off the roster (I will miss #Feed50, though) there is now one less player who needs the ball in his hands for a prolonged period of time to be effective. Ball movement should be even better than it was last season, and that should lead to more lanes and openings on the perimeter to attack and shoot.
Mike Conley and Marc Gasol should also both see an uptick in production, since Memphis now has several players who can facilitate offense aside from them (Parsons, Tyreke Evans, Chalmers, or Harrison).
Maxwell- I expect the pace of play to be significantly faster. Last season was a step in the right direction towards playing in this generation of basketball, but with the oldies shipped out, the team is now younger and faster. After averaging only 100.5 PPG last season, I expect that number to increase by at least two points.
Baker- Memphis' speed. The Grizzlies have added some more athletic pieces, which should fit well into Fizdale's system. The Grizzlies are moving away from the slow, grinding style of play into a fast-paced style.
Noonan- The biggest difference for Memphis will be the expectations of this season. Regrettably, the team just does not have the talent it’s had over the past decade of Grizzlies basketball. Without anyone making a major jump up (still looking at you Chandler), this team will be hard pressed to make the playoffs within the much-improved Western Conference.
The fan base may have to adjust their expectations before entering into this new season.