COMMENTARY | NBA basketball is finally here. Well, at least preseason.
For Memphis Grizzlies fans, it's been a long and anxious wait to see how the team will follow up its greatest year in franchise history.
With the first two games of the exhibition season now behind them, the Grizzlies look forward to improving chemistry and continuity between the new coaching staff and the players. There are several positives fans can take away from these first two live-action appearances, as well as a few negatives.
The good: Many of the supporting players that will be crucial to the team's success have looked strong overall. One of the Grizzlies' main offseason acquisitions, Nick Calathes, has looked particularly promising thus far. The 6-foot-6-inch guard has averaged 10 points and 5 assists on 50-percent shooting from the field. He has some improvements to make, but he has definitely made a good first impression. This is certainly a good sign for the Grizzlies, who have struggled for several years to find a backup to starting point guard Mike Conley.
Another role player who has had a strong showing is big-man Jon Leuer. Under the Lionel Hollins administration, Leuer often found himself on the bench (with the exception of "garbage time" action). With a new man in charge now, he is hoping to prove himself and has definitely looked impressive thus far into the preseason.
In 57 minutes of total action over the first two games, Jon Leuer has posted 26 points, 15 rebounds, and 9 assists. Leuer also consistently plays with a level of hustle that is respected by fans and fits well with Memphis' "grit and grind" motto. With consistent production over the preseason, Jon Leuer may be on his way to finally earning a regular place in the rotation.
The bad: Now, first and foremost, it is important to note that citing negatives in preseason games is a bit unfair. More often than not, teams will not have securing a win as the main priority. Even "looking good" is not very high on the agenda, thus some aspects of the game may be less than appealing but should not be concerning. Even so, there is one element that the Memphis Grizzlies must be concerned with: free-throw shooting.
Over its first two exhibition games, Memphis has shot a truly disgraceful 63 percent from the free-throw line. Regardless of what a team's focus may be during an exhibition game, it never tries to intentionally miss free throws. Missing shots at the charity stripe arguably cost the Grizzlies multiple games last season (including some playoff games). With that in mind, improving this stat must be a priority for the team moving forward.
A second potential concern for Memphis fans is 3-point shooting. This has been a consistent and occurring problem for the Grizzlies for several seasons. Many would argue that the team's inability to complement its powerhouse interior offense with effective perimeter shooting is its greatest weakness.
This certainly hasn't changed thus far into the preseason. The Grizzlies have attempted a total of 34 3-point field goals over the previous two games and have made just 7 (20-percent shooting). Now given, the Grizzlies have chosen not to play one of their stronger 3-point shooters in Quincy Pondexter, and perimeter specialist Mike Conley has seen limited minutes, but these numbers are still worrying.
While both the free-throw and 3-point field-goal shooting percentages may be concerning to some Grizzlies fans, there is still plenty of time for improvement. In addition, the strong showing from role players such as Calathes and Leuer is a good sign. Overall, Memphis fans need not be overly worried yet. Now is the time to be optimistic -- or cautiously optimistic at least.
Nicholas Naveiras is a lifelong Memphian, college student, and diehard Memphis Grizzlies follower. He has followed the franchise's on- and off-court progress since 2001.
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