The NBA has officially reached the halfway marker for the 2017-2018 season. Some teams are as good as expected (San Antonio Spurs, Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics) while others are surprisingly good/decent (Indiana Pacers, Detroit Pistons).
Then, there are the Memphis Grizzlies, who I would argue are the biggest disappointment of the NBA season so far. Philadelphia’s process was never going to be a top team in the East this year. The Clippers and Jazz lost major pieces in Chris Paul and Gordon Hayward, respectfully. While Memphis parted with Zach Randolph, Vince Carter, and Tony Allen, those players are not of the Paul and Hayward variety. The Grizzlies lost some culture, but they didn’t lose superstars...
At least not to free agency.
Mike Conley’s injury looms large over this season. Memphis started the season 6-3, but almost directly connected to the Conley injury is the 7-24 record since that time. Some NBA prognosticators saw Memphis’ decline coming (they’ve been calling for it for years, they were going to be right eventually) but very few saw them being this bad.
Despite all this, there have been some bright spots among the darkness. With that in mind, several of GBB’s staffers came together to give out Memphis Grizzlies midseason awards. Below you will find our Most Valuable Player (not named Tyreke Evans, because that feels pretty obvious), Least Valuable Player, Most Memphis Moment, Defensive Player to this point, and Most Improved Player so far, along with brief explanations as to why they were selected.
Let’s start at the top.
GRIZZLIES MVP (Not named Tyreke Evans)- MARC GASOL
No offense to Tyreke obviously. He is clearly the real MVP of these Grizzlies, and without him Memphis would be far worse off. He has earned, to this point at least, a nice raise on his next team, whoever that will be. But for this exercise, I wanted to gauge just how good folks thought other players were doing outside of the offensively dominant Evans. Marc gets the nod, but it isn’t like it was a landslide victory- multiple other players received votes, including Mike Conley, who our Mac Trammell explained is truly the most valuable Memphis Grizzly in his eyes-
I’m going to read MVP not as best player, but as the team’s most valuable player. It seems pretty clear that without Conley this is one of if not the very worst team in the league. Last year he added 10 WINS to the Grizz. Take just half of that now and the team is 17-22, five games under .500 and 3.5 games back of the playoffs. I’m not sure that’s fair, but it’s incontrovertible that this team would be better with Captain Clutch.
Marc is having probably the worst season of his career and is the MVP (not named Tyreke). That tells you just about everything you need to know about the current state of the Grizzlies.
THE FINAL WORD-
I guess if it’s not Tyreke it’s gotta be Marc Gasol because he’s the only actual NBA player who isn’t injured.- Brandon Conner, GBB Associate Editor
OTHERS RECEIVING VOTES- James Ennis III, Dillon Brooks, Mike Conley
GRIZZLIES LEAST VALUABLE PLAYER- MARIO CHALMERS
Injuries suck. There was a time where Mario Chalmers was a vital piece of this roster...but those days are gone. He clearly is not the player he was before his Achilles injury two seasons ago. Among players who have played at least 600 minutes for Memphis this season he has the worst net rating (-14) and his win shares per 48 minutes according to basketballreference.com of .018 is one of the worst in the NBA among key rotation players.
There were other contenders for this “honor”, but sadly Rio takes this. Here’s to hoping the decision to say goodbye to Wade Baldwin IV doesn’t hurt these Grizzlies long-term.
THE FINAL WORD-
Mario is having by far, his worst season in the league, which can be attributed to any number of things including his health, his age, and what he’s been asked to do. But still, there’s only 4 point guards in the NBA that have a lower Wins Above Replacement than Mario (-.3). Demetrius Jackson (-.4), Jawun Evans (-.8), Tyler Ulis (-.9), and Jameer Nelson (-1.0). Yikes. - Greg Ratliff, GBB Writer
...has the worst shooting numbers of anyone on the team, and has made countless boneheaded plays and fouls.- Brandon Abraham, GBB Writer
...he does zero things well, despite Mario Chalmers thinking he does all things well. - McCarty Maxwell, GBB Writer
OTHERS RECEIVING VOTES- Ben McLemore, Marc Gasol
MOST MEMPHIS MOMENT- Ben McLemore’s “Dunk”
Grizzlies bench reaction to Ben McLemore trying to show off easily the best highlight of the night so far pic.twitter.com/XbIuWnlQyD— Wobby Nance Jr. (@World_Wide_Wob) December 9, 2017
Yeah...this sums up the season pretty well.
McLemore has been a disaster for Memphis, and while one could argue that injury has impacted him (he missed training camp due to a foot issue) he has never been good. That is simply continuing in Memphis. The Grizzlies ruined full use of their mid level exception to get him, and that investment looks awful right now.
But hey, at least he tried, right? Right? Guys???
OTHERS RECEIVING VOTES- Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant ejections, Grizz and DeAngelo Williams defeating Jeff Jarrett.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE (MID) YEAR- Brandan Wright
Is it sad that a guy that has played 326 minutes (the minimum accepted would have been 300) won player of the year? Kind of. Does it explain part of where the team is currently? You’re surely noticing a trend here with these awards.
But Wright does boats a team-best 104 defensive rating, and win share per 48 minutes at .187. He has helped Memphis in his minutes. Those minutes are too few and far between, though, and that will likely be the dominant story of Wright’s time with Memphis.
Now, the Grizzlies will hopefully be able to get a 2nd rounder for him in a trade. But if they can’t? He will at least help the bench when he is able to be on the floor.
THE FINAL WORD-
He leads the Grizzlies in block percentage and second in steal percentage behind Rio. He’s also the best rim protector the Grizzlies have. He’s second on the team in defensive field goal percentage for shots at the rim, only behind Jarell Martin who faces far fewer opportunities to do so. - Ross Jarrar, GBB Writer
OTHERS RECEIVING VOTES- Chandler Parsons, Dillon Brooks
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER OF THE (MID) YEAR- Chandler Parsons
The trend continues.
The most improved Memphis Grizzly cannot play back to backs and is on a minutes restriction. He has also missed the past several games due to knee soreness, and he likely will not be back for several more. We now have 1.5 seasons worth of evidence to suggest that this will be the norm for the player who was supposed to be the bridge between eras.
How much credit does Chandler Parsons get for getting “healthy” enough to play in 26 of 40 games for the Grizzlies? A fair question, but by definition he needs to be at the top of this award list. Parsons has gone from a complete basketball black hole last season to a good player this one. Parsons is shooting 41% from three, above his career average, and his per-36 numbers from basketball-reference.com look damn good. 21.5 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals (a nod to his improvement defensively) are nothing to stick your nose up at.
He is playing to as close to what he was supposed to be for Memphis as we can probably expect from him moving forward. This is depressing, as he still is not quite THAT player who was so good in Dallas and Houston at times and he cannot play consistently. Getting good, but limited, production from Parsons is progress that hopefully can be sustained the rest of his (now clearly terrible) contract.
OTHERS RECEIVING VOTES- Andrew Harrison, Deyonta Davis
The way the votes worked out is a direct reflection of where this team is and why, as I wrote about earlier this week. The players Memphis needs most (Wright, Parsons, Conley) are not able to be there to make the Grizzlies a consistently competitive NBA team. That leaves you with a platform for Tyreke Evans to have a great year (on a bad team yet again, hopefully he gets traded to a good one) and for Marc Gasol’s basketball mortality to truly be on display.
The second half of the NBA season is officially upon us. For the Grizzlies, it looks like it will probably be a continuation of the first.