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The Top-10 Grizzlies of the Decade: Part II

Role players and square pegs.

Indiana Pacers v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

If you missed part I, check it out here.

Welcome to Grizzly Bear Blues’ top-10 Memphis Grizzlies of the decade! Here in Part II, we are going to take a look at three players that all were within 12 points of one another in the vote, and then one at #5 that almost doubles up the player behind him at #6.

First, some background. Through my seven years in the blogging business I have made lots of friends and worked with plenty of people who know all about the Memphis Grizzlies. I reached out to many of them, asking for help constructing this list through an official vote ballot. Those that opted to participate then submitted 10 names, with the only rule being that the player had to participate in the past decade for the Memphis Grizzlies, starting January 1st 2010 and ending December 31st, 2019 (the day of this posting). Players then got points for the position they were put in by the voter - 1 point for 10th, 2 for 9th, all the way up to 10 points for a 1st place selection.

  • 25 total people, including myself, took part in the polling. Only my ballot will be public through the revealing of the top-10. The panel was as follows-
  • GBBers Parker Fleming, Nathan Chester, Shawn Coleman, Ed Memphis, Greg Lubiani, Lauren Harvey, Greg Ratliff, and Justin Lewis.
  • From 92.9 FM ESPN Memphis - Gary Parrish, Mark Giannotto, Jeffrey Wright, Connor Dunning, and John Martin
  • From Sports 56 WHBQ Memphis - Peter Edmiston, Greg Gaston, and CJ Hurt
  • GBB Alumni Matt Hrdlicka, Mark King, Andrew Ford, and Chris Faulkner
  • Podcaster extraordinaire Keith Parish of Fastbreak Breakfast
  • Grizzlies blog (Three Shades of Blue) alums Jonathan May and Jason “Fletch” Rosselot
  • David Cobb of the Commercial Appeal

Here is the list so far-

Honorable Mention- O.J. Mayo (15 votes, 36 points

Tied at #10- Vince Carter and Tayshaun Prince (11 votes, 37 points)

#9- Ja Morant (11 votes, 40 points)

Now, we get to a misunderstood - or perhaps under-appreciated - wing that was at least appreciated by this panel.

#8: Courtney Lee (52 total points, 15 total votes)

Orlando Magic v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Grizzlies stats: Parts of three seasons played in Memphis (2014-2016). 177 regular season games played (158 games started), 10.3 points per game on 45.9% shooting (37.7% from three), 2.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 12.1 PER, .097 win shares per 48 minutes

Courtney Lee got a bad reputation during his time in Memphis with the Grizzlies.

If you wanted him to be the wing savior? You were bound to be disappointed, because that’s not what Lee was about. He was the three-and-D wing that was so en vogue during this time in Grizzlies history. He could shoot from range, and did so successfully in Memphis, and he could play multiple perimeter positions and fit alongside all sorts of lineups. Did you want him to shoot/score more? Probably...and that frustration was often times warranted.

But Memphis doesn’t make the playoffs enough for him to play in 18 postseason contests as a Grizzly without his shooting acumen and defensive versatility on the perimeter. He’s a contender for “greatest role player of the decade” - dominant scorer was never going to be his thing. If only there was a perimeter player that was acquired during Lee’s time in Memphis that was supposed to be that “answer” to the question of who would lead the perimeter player charge next to Mike Conley after Rudy Gay...

Damn it, Jeff Green.

Point your frustration towards Green, if necessary. Courtney was his best self in Memphis. That’s all Grizzlies fans could ask for.

#7: JaMychal Green (61 total points, 19 total votes)

San Antonio Spurs v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Grizzlies stats: Parts of five seasons played in Memphis (2014-2019). 271 regular season games played (149 games started), 8.5 points per game on 47.8% shooting (36.2% from three), 6.2 rebounds, 1.0 assist, 14.1 PER, .102 win shares per 48 minutes

The (arguably) greatest role player of the decade for the Memphis Grizzlies gets his due.

No disrespect to the guys that have been on the list so far, but there’s a reason I had JaM #6 on my personal ballot. Green simply did whatever Memphis needed him to do, to the best of his ability, on a nightly basis. He scored the ball from range. He attacked the glass. He utilized his 6’8”, 225 pound frame as a defender to play off of screens and switch when necessary. He was aggressive, he was self-made from the G (then D) League, he fit the Memphis puzzle in more ways than one.

So when he was traded to L.A. somewhat unceremoniously as part of bringing Avery Bradley to the Grizzlies earlier this year, it was disappointing in a way many missed because of the exit of Marc Gasol at the same time to the opposite coast. Marc is the better player, and the more important one in Memphis history, but Green’s role in Grit and Grind and Grizzlies success deserves more acknowledgement. He did his job well longer than anyone else on the Memphis roster that wasn’t expected to be a “star”.

He is the definition of a role player. Go get a ring, JaMychal. The Clippers are lucky to have you.

#6: Jaren Jackson Jr. (64 total points, 18 total votes)

Charlotte Hornets v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Grizzlies stats: Parts of two seasons played in Memphis (2018-present), 91 games played (89 games started), 15.2 points per game on 49.1% shooting (38.1% from three), 4.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 16.6 PER, .099 win shares per 48 minutes

Again...feels a bit premature, right? But at least Jaren is different from Ja Morant in that he has played one full season’s worth of games.

Jaren Jackson Jr., while younger than Morant, has logged enough miles for the Memphis Grizzlies at this stage to have a pretty consistent understanding of exactly what kind of player he is at this stage. The answer? Besides being a first-team All-NBA rookie last season, he’s unlike any player in the NBA except for maybe Kristaps Porzingis and Karl-Anthony Towns. He is a guard in a big’s body. He’s a rim protecting, beyond the arc threatening, real life mythical creature.

The term “unicorn” gets tossed around a lot these days. But Jackson Jr.’s combined defensive and perimeter offensive game at his size helps him more than live up to the title. He, alongside Morant, has the potential to usher in the next great era of Grizzlies basketball, perhaps even greater than the one that dominated to departing decade.

Potential isn’t real until it manifests, however. Jaren still has flaws to his game. The good news is, there’s plenty of time for him to grow into the player and person the Memphis Grizzlies need him to be. Considering all that, being the 6th best player of the decade for this franchise at the age of 20 is a testament to his special ability. Or...it’s a reminder that Chris Wallace butchered a lot of deals.

Jaren is here because of Wallace, though...at least in part. So...thanks?

#5: Rudy Gay (127 total points, 24 total votes)

Indiana Pacers v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Grizzlies stats: Parts of seven seasons played in Memphis (2006-2013), 479 regular season games played (443 games started), 17.9 points per game on 45.2% shooting (34.4% from three), 5.8 rebounds, 2 assists, 16.1 PER, .081 win shares per 48 minutes

It’s pretty crazy that one of our panelists - who will remain nameless - did not include Rudy Gay on their ballot, leading to him missing being an unanimous selection by one single vote. Despite your own personal frustrations regarding how Gay’s time in Memphis ended, he is most certainly a key piece of the Memphis story and worthy of his place at #5 on this list.

Rudy vs. Zach Randolph became quite the debate in some circles before Gay was moved in 2013 as it became clear both players couldn’t co-exist stylistically. Rudy was seen as the younger player with more upside in an NBA that was prioritizing versatility more and more. He was the hybrid forward scorer, the potential alpha that wanted the ball in the final moments of a close game. Zach Randolph was special, and still building upon his Memphis legend, but he was older and more limited in terms of potential. Rudy should stay...

Said dumb people. In no way, shape, or form did I have that opinion in 2012-2013.

Sad sarcasm aside (I was wrong), it was Gay that was moved along for essentially Ed “I wasn’t the future” Davis and Tayshaun “hey, it kind of worked” Prince. Rudy has carved out a nice career for himself, now a key contributor to the San Antonio Spurs machine whose wheels just recently appear to have come off (except for dropping 145 points on the young Grizzlies recently). He was a massively important part of what the Grizzlies established here in Memphis, and even though he wasn’t here for the Western Conference Finals run his fingerprints were all over that team.

He just didn’t fit what the Grizzlies needed him to be to get there.


Part III will be here before you know it! Stick with GBB for the remainder of the list through the three-part series, as well as a special episode of GBBLive breaking down the list, all New Year long!

Stats provided by basketball-reference.com

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