In 2009-2010, the Memphis Grizzlies (40-42) ended the season fourth in the Southwest Division and ninth in the Western Conference. For most teams a sub-500 season would be considered a failure, but the Grizzlies considered it a success. This season should be worse for what is one of the worst managed franchises in the NBA.
Center Marc Gasol (.581 FG%, .000 3PT%, .670 FT%, 9.3 RPG, 2.4 APG, 14.6 PPG) starts his third NBA season. Gasol has a fine inside game that includes an accurate shot and some topnotch offensive rebounding. He’s also an accomplished defender who can block shots and steal the ball. Backup center Hasheem Thabeet (.588 FG%, .000 3PT%, .581 FT%, 3.6 RPG, 0.2 APG, 3.1 PPG), who is now in his second NBA season, showed a decent inside game but did poorly shooting from the outside.
Power forward Zach Randolph (.488 FG%, .288 3PT%, .778 FT%, 11.7 RPG, 1.8 APG, 20.8 PPG) is a sound rebounder, especially on the all-important offensive boards. He’s got a good inside game and a fine shot from the charity stripe. There are also some decent defensive skills in the nine-year NBA vet.
Small forward Rudy Gay (.466 FG%, .327 3PT%, .753 FT%, 5.9 RPG, 1.9 APG, 19.6 PPG) is a good player on offense and a decent defender. But he’s nothing to write home about. The small forward spot, although four-deep, lacks true quality depth.
Shooting guard O.J. Mayo (.458 FG%, .383 3PT%, .809 FT%, 3.8 RPG, 3.0 APG, 17.5 PPG) is yet another young talent that the Grizzlies can develop. Mayo is an excellent shooter, average defender and fine ball handler who will continue to get better with experience. There’s very good news when it comes to his backup—Tony Allen (.510 FG%, .000 3PT%, .605 FT%, 2.7 RPG, 1.3 APG, 6.1 PPG). Allen can give quality minutes, bringing some fine scoring chops to the floor.
Point guard Mike Conley (.445 FG%, .387 3PT%, .743 FT%, 2.4 RPG, 5.3 APG, 12.0 PPG) may not have the speed he needs to excel at his spot, but he does have an accurate three-point shot. Conley is starting his fourth year, which could be a breakthrough one for him. But for him to be a premium contributor, he’s going to have to show a lot of improvement rather quickly.
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With an Offensive Efficiency of 104.8 (17th) and a Defensive Efficiency of 107.6 (24th), it was difficult for Memphis to sport a winning record last year. However, they did come close. One reason was power forward Randolph who had the highest PER on the team (21.21). Also, the Grizzlies were 8th in Pace Factor, coming in at 96.1.
Although the team’s Pace Factor indicates that they managed to get the ball in play and up the court relatively quickly, their low percentage of assisted field goals indicates that their was very little ball movement once they got into the offensive zone. Memphis had the lowest percent of assisted field goals in the league (47.9). What also hurt them was the fact that they were 22ndin “first shot” offensive efficiency. The one area that they were tops was in offensive rebound rate, where they led the league with a rate of 31.3%. The frontcourt is a big positive for this team but the point is a real weakness.
Coach Lionel Hollins (71-114) has yet to have a winning NBA season. He’s coached the Grizzlies a total of one and three partial seasons. He was first with the team as head coach for about one season in 1999 and then for four games in 2005. He became head coach again in 2008-2009 and covered 39 games. Last season was his first full season as a NBA and the Grizzlies’ main man.
It’s funny but a team like the Grizzlies always has some young, talented players that make people feel optimistic. It’s sort of a form of misdirection in terms of how people should be thinking. The positives, because there are so few, always seem magnified in these types of clubs. They afford fans false hopes for the future. The truth of the matter is that Memphis will finish well below 500, end up fifth in the Southwest Division and 11th in the Western Conference.
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