BY THE NUMBERS (in Memphis):
53 games played (3 starts), 19.9 minutes-per-game, 7.9 points-per-game, 41.4% field goal-percentage, 35.9% three-point percentage, 102 offensive rating, 112 defensive rating, 11.0 PER, .045 win shares per-48 minutes
I can’t believe Shelvin Mack played 53 games as a Grizzly for several reasons.
1) It feels like 5 years ago.
2) I can’t believe Memphis let it go on that long.
It started off rather well, in fairness. His first 20 games as a Grizzly? 9.9 points per game and 3.6 assists-per-game on 48.1% shooting from the field and 41.8% on three-pointers, with a 0.1 average +/- per game. Legitimately great shooting numbers considering the usage he was getting. No one was asking him to be a world-beater, just be a serviceable backup point guard. He did that in the beginning stretch of the season.
I’m not sure exactly, why, but things went downhill and downhill fast. The remaining 33 games were a master class in what not to do as a backup PG: make things worse. In those final 33 games as a Grizzly, Shelvin’s numbers dipped to 6.8 ppg, 3.3 apg, 37.0% from the floor and 31.5% on three-pointers. His average plus-minus per game was a staggering *-6.2*. The equivalent of subbing into the game and giving up 2 threes.
Shelvin Mack definitely isn’t the worst player in the world. He’s probably good in the right situations, but maybe this just wasn’t one of those situations. Memphis asked him to be our main scoring off the bench. Dillon Brooks missed most of the year with injury, MarShon Brooks turned out to not be the same scorer he was in the small sample size from a year ago, someone needed to step up. That someone was not Shelvin Mack.
According to basketball-reference, the Grizzlies were 8.3 points per 100 possessions worse with Mack on the court than with Mack on the court. Memphis has had a horrible experience with backup point guards since Mike Conley came into his own. When Mike went off the court, the offense usually struggled. That was especially the case this year. Memphis’ net rating with Mike Conley on the court? +0.4. The net rating of a .500 team, give or take a few wins. Memphis’ net rating with Conley off the court and Shelvin Mack on the court? -13.8. The worst net rating in the league this year was -9.9 courtesy of the Cleveland Cavaliers. No one is expecting a seamless transition from borderline All-Star to bench player when they make that substitution, but that is quite the steep drop off. And it went on for 53 bleepin’ games.
I’m sure Shelvin will find a roster spot next year. Veteran point guards will almost always have a home in this league, even if they don’t get much playing time.
Mack will also be just 29 next season. He should have several opportunities next year to get his play back on track and get some consistent playing time. Just because it didn’t work out in Memphis doesn’t preclude Shelvin Mack from playing well anywhere else. It isn’t exactly the most surprising thing in the world for someone to crater offensively in Memphis.
This was no doubt a bad year, but a bounce-back year is definitely possible. Whether it’s on a contender as the third PG or on a bad team where he can be given free reign to put up numbers, next year can get Mack back on track.
Next year is about getting on an NBA team first and foremost, and preferably signing with a contender. He can rebuild his stock and get a long-term deal before it’s too late in his career. 2019-20 is the first step in doing that.