As could be expected, much has been written about the Memphis Grizzlies and the deals they made at the 2019 NBA trade deadline. The Marc Gasol trade has certainly grabbed the headlines, and the players Memphis received in return have made significant impacts. However, in the eyes of Grizzlies’ fans, it was another deal, on a much smaller scale, that arguably is still viewed with even higher favor.
The deal specifically was Shelvin Mack for Tyler Dorsey. And the specific reason why so many were excited about this deal for Memphis was more about who was being traded away than who was being acquired. In 29 games before the deal, Mack had averaged a -7.7 plus/minus when on the court per game. Yet, despite his obvious ineffectiveness, J.B. Bickerstaff continued to use him in critical situations.
As a result, it was considered a miracle the Grizzlies actually got another living, breathing NBA player for Mack from the Atlanta Hawks. This is especially the case when you consider Mack was waived by the Hawks a few short hours after the trade occurred. Dorsey instantly became a fan favorite.
Not due to his own efforts, you see, but simply because he was not Shelvin Mack.
For his first month in Memphis, Dorsey split time between the Memphis Hustle and the Grizzlies. While he did show some promise in Southaven, he was used sparingly in Grizzlies’ games. However, that quickly changed in the middle of March, when what proved to be season-ending injuries to C.J. Miles and Avery Bradley opened up playing time.
To Dorsey’s credit, he immediately took advantage of his opportunity. Back on March 22nd in Orlando, Dorsey played 42 minutes, and scored 29 points with 5 threes and 9 assists. Two games later, in an unexpected yet much needed upset win over Oklahoma City, he contributed 21 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists. Out of nowhere, the guy labeled as “not Shelvin Mack” suddenly became known as Tyler Dorsey.
The effective offensive play and scoring was very much needed to replace the production lost with the injuries to Miles and Bradley. In fact, Dorsey scored double digit points in 8 of the 10 games since his breakout performance in Orlando. However, while the immediate results have been surprising and viewed as a positive, underlying numbers suggest they are likely a result of quantity rather than quality.
Overall, since Dorsey arrived in Memphis, he has shot nearly 42% from the field and 37% from three. Beyond his ability to score, Dorsey has contributed 5.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists per 36 minutes of play. His scoring versatility has mainly been in the form of jump shots, with nearly two-thirds of his field goal attempts coming beyond 16 feet. He has shot 47% percent on long two-point attempts.
Dorsey has shown a bit of an ability to get to the rim, with nearly 20% of shots coming within three feet of the basket. However, he has only converted a little half of his attempts, a less than ideal percentage on such a close shot. Basically, with over half of his shots being threes, and 90% of them being assisted, Dorsey has simply been a catch and shoot option on the Grizzlies’ offense. And while he has had his moments of production, he has been significantly less effective than Bradley or Miles.
Beyond his offense, Dorsey simply is nonexistent on defense. While he will get a few rebounds each game, Dorsey simply is a liability against the opposition. In fact, he is only the second Grizzlies guard in franchise history to have played more than 400 minutes in a season and average less than 1 steal and have a defensive rating higher than 113 per 100 possessions. He simply contributes nothing of positive value on the defensive end of the court.
The overall value Dorsey has provided Grizzlies’ lineups also displays his overall ineffectiveness. In his time in Memphis, Dorsey averaged 6 minutes per game in February, 22 minutes in March, and 29 minutes in April. He has seen his offensive rating decrease from 127 to 112 to 89. This has made his ineffective defense more impactful than his offense.
During that stretch, when Dorsey is on the court Memphis has had an offensive rating of 107.5 versus an Off. Rating of 106.4 when he is on the bench. Memphis’s opponents have had an offensive rating of 113.5 when he plays versus an Off. Rat. of 108.8 when he is on the bench. Overall, while Dorsey slightly improves the Grizzlies’ offense when playing, his presence makes the defense significantly worse.
Dorsey has simply been over-matched and his flaws have been exposed as his usage has expanded.
And at the end of the day, that is why Dorsey likely is the latest example of fool’s gold. He very much is in the same mold as Wayne Selden Jr. and MarShon Brooks. Just last year, both Brooks and Selden displayed an ability to score that Grizzlies’ fans had been hoping for all season.
However, the scoring output distracted attention from the lack of defense and overall lack of impact each player made. Dorsey, Selden, and Brooks simply took advantage of expanded playing time against weak competition. In comparison, Dorsey can neither shoot as well as Brooks nor get to the basket as effectively as Selden.
The career arcs add validity to the true talent level of these three players. Brooks and Selden had to have two future second round picks added to them just to acquire a slightly better version of each of them in Justin Holiday. Another rebuilding team traded Dorsey simply to acquire an ineffective veteran who was cut mere hours after the trade.
Overall, while Dorsey has produced a few good highlights in Memphis, it is very unlikely he will make a significant impact in the team’s future. With a $1.8 million option for next year, keeping him or releasing him is not a huge financial decision. If the Grizzlies were to convey and rebuild, perhaps they could keep him to fill out the roster. They could value the idea of seeing him play with former college teammate Dillon Brooks. However, if they want to compete, and if the front office were to change, there is a good chance he could be released.
The biggest positive for Tyler Dorsey remains the fact that he is not Shelvin Mack. That fact alone makes it highly unlikely that he is a priority for the Grizzlies’ future.
Stats provided by basketball-reference.com.