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The perfect Memphis Grizzlies rotation

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Giving J.B. Bickerstaff the help he doesn’t need and didn’t ask for.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Indiana Pacers Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

So you’re angry the Memphis Grizzlies got curb stomped last night.

I get it.

You spend your day parading around in Beale Street Blue, saying “Merry Grizzmas!” to random folks and radio hosts who either laugh politely or stare at you as if to say, “cool”, in John Oliver fashion. You spent hours thinking about how this season would be different because of a healthy roster, a smart offseason, and the hiring of a coach who had the respect of the players. Then you rushed home after a long day at work, ready to see the fruits of their labor, and...this happens.

“Cool”.

So maybe I detailed how my night went, but it surely isn’t that different from the viewings of every other Grizzlies fan. While there are varying levels of surprise - I picked Memphis to win by four, but them losing is by no means shocking - everyone can agree that considering the good vibes and positive energy coming in to the season, that was a major buzzkill. All the issues that were expected to be there were indeed present - a lack of rebounding (57-28 Indiana!) and offensive struggles (29.8% shooting!) dominated the night, as did horrific paint defense from the Grizzlies (60 paint points for the Pacers!)

But...there was one thing that is apparently an issue that shouldn’t be an issue.

The rotation, and the distribution of minutes.

There are 240 minutes to be handed out in any given NBA game. Last night, for whatever reason, J.B. Bickerstaff did the following things-

  • Played Shelvin Mack 30 minutes. Wayne Selden Jr., Dillon Brooks, and Kyle Anderson played a combined 31 minutes. Mack played almost as much as three promising young players COMBINED.
  • Played MarShon Brooks 22 minutes. Now there’s an argument for giving MarShon a look due to his propensity for instant offense. Once it becomes clear that he doesn’t have it, however? He needs to be sat down. Period.
  • Gave Chandler Parsons the start. You will find no bigger Chandler Parsons stan than me. Yet even I was taken aback when I saw he was in the mix to be a starter. Here’s a player that has yet to string together successful seasons as a reserve due to health. Putting him out there against NBA starting-caliber players may not be the best idea.
  • Made both Andrew Harrison and Jevon Carter inactive. Having only two active point guards makes sense to an extent, but it would’ve been nice to not watch Shelvin Mack play 30 minutes when you have two younger, arguably higher-potential options unable to participate.

Now were the minutes thrown off some due the the blowout nature of the loss? Of course. But don’t worry coach. I am here to give you the advice and counsel you did not ask for and do not need. Here is the perfect Memphis Grizzlies rotation for Friday night’s home opener against the Atlanta Hawks - you’re welcome in advance.

First, the inactives- Omri Casspi and Jevon Carter

NBA: Preseason-Memphis Grizzlies at Houston Rockets Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Omri is going to be disappointed, for sure. But when it comes down to it, Andrew Harrison has more versatile skills on the perimeter and you need Ivan Rabb in case a 4th big has to play. Jevon Carter was always Andrew Harrison’s eventual replacement next season to me, so him spending more time with the Memphis Hustle than the Grizzlies this season is fine.

The Starters- Mike Conley, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, JaMychal Green, Marc Gasol

NBA: Preseason-Memphis Grizzlies at Houston Rockets Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Dillon Brooks may not be better than Garrett Temple.

I am not at practice every day. I don’t see how the guys prepare, or who watches film the most. Dillon may not fully comprehend the offensive style change from pick and roll to ball movement, and he may be struggling with the concept of defensive switches.

I do know, though, that Dillon Brooks will likely be on this team next season. And Garrett Temple, barring a veteran’s minimum type of deal, will not.

Dillon played 82 games last season and was arguably the best value pick of the 2017 NBA Draft. He scored well and showed progression in his game as the campaign grinded along. He got better in spite of the crap he had to deal with last spring. Yet he doesn’t start?

Not only does he not start, he gets SIX MINUTES????

This is egregious. And must be corrected. As must the benching of my beloved Chandler Parsons - he can help this team...just not as a starter. You brought Kyle Anderson here to be a swiss army knife of sorts. Let him do his job, defend, and he and Dillon can progress together through the season.

Minutes breakdown

Mike Conley- 33 minutes per game. He is the captain and the team goes as he goes.

Dillon Brooks- 26 minutes per game. Let the kid run. He can score the ball, and his skill set will mature with experience alongside a lineup actually trying to win.

Kyle Anderson- 28 minutes per game. They shouldn’t all come at the small forward position. But they should be there every night, because he can do so much for you that Chandler Parsons simply cannot do right now on the defensive end.

JaMychal Green- 28 minutes per game. Here’s a fun fact - JaMychal led the Grizzlies in rebounding last night at 7 rebounds in 25 minutes of play. He is probably your best guy on the boards, for better or worse. He also is the most experienced guy in terms of rotations defensively and playing off of Gasol and Conley. This may not last long - Jaren Jackson Jr. comin’- but for now, this still makes sense.

Marc Gasol- 33 minutes per game. See Conley, Mike.

That is 148 minutes between the starters. Now, the reserves-

Bench Unit- Jaren Jackson Jr., Chandler Parsons, Garrett Temple, Shelvin Mack, MarShon Brooks

NBA: Preseason-Houston Rockets at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s a crazy idea...

Let’s have veterans, who may be more able to run what Coach Bickerstaff wants run but may not have the foot speed or athleticism to stay with starting-level NBA wings, have success as a reserve unit! That way, any lead the starters get can be maintained, and any time the starters struggle the bench can help stop the bleeding!

Also, let’s let Chandler Parsons, who hasn’t played consistent meaningful basketball in two years, find his footing as a competent professional player again before asking him to defend at a high level. Yes, at times Chandler looked good even last year as a defender, and yes, he has looked much improved as a player this preseason. One game does not a season make.

But patience should be a virtue here with regard to him being “back”. Let him find his way to a starter’s role through playing well off the bench...or let him stay as a reserve. He is more likely to succeed in that role at this stage of his career due to the unfortunate health problems he has faced with his knees. When you’re lacking explosion, it’s usually best to play against players with similar levels of explosion - reserves, and stretch fours.

Minutes Breakdown

Jaren Jackson Jr. - 26 minutes per game. There are 35 minutes to be had at the power forward and center positions. Jaren should eat up almost all of them. As he finds himself as a pro, he will feast on most reserve bigs, preparing him for the eventual call-up to the starting lineup. He can also benefit in this scenario from the steadying presence of Temple, Parsons, and Mack - they can facilitate for and through him on offense and benefit from his defensive ability as well.

Chandler Parsons - 24 minutes per game. Here is the wheelhouse for Chandler. Consistent playing time, emphasis as a scorer with the second unit, some minutes (five-ish) as a stretch four...it is the best possible way for him to be successful for the remainder of his contract.

Garrett Temple - 22 minutes per game. Temple is a jack of all trades, but he is a master of none. He is malleable and can fit alongside most, if not all, the lineups J.B. Bickerstaff could utilize. As a reserve, he can maximize the skills he has and also serve as a facilitator of offense at times, leading to not needing to use Shelvin Mack as much (more on that next). On a good team, this is probably the role Garrett should be filling. Even if Memphis simply isn’t good, this should be the way he is deployed.

Shelvin Mack and MarShon Brooks/Wayne Selden Jr. - 10 minutes per game. Shelvin Mack is a necessary evil at this stage. Andrew Harrison is not a point guard, apparently, and Jevon Carter isn’t ready to eat these minutes at the NBA level. He should not, under any circumstances, lead the team in minutes. His job should be to keep the thing afloat, not to run the show for extended periods.

Between MarShon and Wayne? Go with the hot hand. Giving MarShon the first opportunity makes sense in that he has shown explosive offensive ability more often than Wayne. But Selden is younger, and in theory can be the better defender/all-around player. It’s almost a certainty that at least one of these two guys isn’t on the roster next season - let that battle play out nightly on the back end of the rotation.

So what does it all mean?

  • It should be a ten man rotation...but really an eight man rotation. Temple, Parsons, and JJJ should be getting almost 80% of the reserve minutes.
  • Garrett Temple should run the point some. Think of a Temple/Brooks/Anderson/Parsons/Jackson unit. For short stretches (since neither Mike nor Marc should be off the court for long), you can do all the switching you want defensively while having numerous facilitators of offense on the floor.
  • MarShon Brooks will not save you. That never should have been the expectation anyway.
  • Going younger doesn’t mean getting worse. J.B. trotted out veterans on the perimeter that he probably trusts more than the young Dillon Brooks and the new-to-the-team Kyle Anderson. Those guys are the ones who will both raise your ceiling for improvement this season and be on the team in the future, though. So they should be getting the first run with Mike and Marc.

Can you give or take some minutes here? Probably. Will JJJ be the starter at power forward by Christmas? Maybe. But in the here and now, this rotation allows for you to maximize your youth while keeping veterans part of the success you hope to have.

There is plenty of basketball to be played. The players need to perform better. But it is the job of the coach to put them in the best positions to be successful. Here’s to hoping that process improves Friday night against the Hawks.

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