October 13, 2009
Once again back is the incredible ... Ball Don't Lie's NBA previews, outlining off-season moves, projecting win totals, spinning tracks and much, much more. It's a fun, hot mess. Up next, the Memphis Grizzlies.
2008-09 Record: 24-58, fifth place in Southwest Division
Head Coach/Facial Hair: Lionel Hollins/None
Key Additions: Allen Iverson(notes), Zach Randolph(notes), Hasheem Thabeet(notes), DeMarre Carroll(notes), Sam Young(notes)
Key Losses: Darko Milicic(notes), Quinton Ross(notes), Greg Buckner(notes)
The 2009-10 Memphis Grizzlies will be an awful, awful basketball team.
Sure, they'll win some games. Honestly, it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if the Grizzlies flirted with .500 for good chunks of the season. Why wouldn't they? The talent is there.
Allen Iverson has major issues, and his forte remains a low-efficiency brand of scoring, but he can create shots. O.J. Mayo(notes) can't drive to save his life, but he can shoot with the best of them; or, at least he could for the first chunk of his rookie year. They have one of the best young big men in the game in Marc Gasol(notes), a huge leaper in Rudy Gay(notes) who could turn into the ultimate garbage man scorer if his ego would let him, and a given 19-and-9 guy in Zach Randolph.
OK. There are the pluses.
The minuses? Everything else. Every bit of on-court, tangible point-em-ups and karmic-based cosmic hoo-ha.
The biggest frustration has to start at the top. Every bit of me wants to rail against the man who thought this would work, who thought a roster like this would be a good idea. On most teams, that's the GM. And while Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace has his (prominent) detractors, who probably wouldn't be wrong in detractin' away, this all starts with the owner, Michael Heisley.
He bought a team he couldn't afford, moved it from a city he didn't deserve, to a city that didn't deserve to be lied to, acted every bit as penny-wise and pound-foolish as he could in getting the Grizzlies to the playoffs from 2004-to-2006, and immediately cried poverty as soon as Pau Gasol's(notes) broken foot gave him the chance.
No, he didn't rebuild with loot taken from the Celtics or Bulls when he had the chance. Heisley left his GM out to dry, turned the team into dust, and (while we're at) essentially rebuilt the team around a contract not unlike Gasol's in Zach Randolph's for 2009-10.
Sure, Heisley saved some money in the process, but it was money he could have saved in so, so many other, smarter, ways. Too many to get into. All while letting Wallace take the brunt of it.
This isn't letting Wallace off the hook (Kyle Lowry(notes) for DeMarre Carroll?). We've no way of knowing who decided to draft Thabeet with Marc Gasol already on board (OK, we kind of do), or Conley. For all I know, Wallace has a Cru Thik tattoo hidden somewhere under that suit. With all that said ... naw, it's Heisley.
Still, at this point, with the regular season about to tip-off, and the obvious already shoring itself up in the form of blog headlines, it doesn't matter. What matters is this team. This awful, awful team.
The Grizzlies are the sort of team that you'll watch, as they win, and you'll hate them for winning. Hate the chances they take. Hate how luck somehow favors the daft. Hate how those terrible shots went in. They'll remind you of those Knicks teams from the last few years, and how you couldn't stand it when Jamal Crawford's(notes) fadeaway 21-footer somehow made it OK for him to run, cackling, into Isiah Thomas' open arms as New York pulled out its 22nd win.
Gay hasn't appeared to care about anyone else on the court during his short turn in the NBA. Randolph hasn't appeared to care about anyone else on the court during his long turn in the NBA. Mayo was only really on last year when he was allowed to dominate the ball, and Iverson's only been on throughout his career when he's able to dominate the ball. And AI dominating the ball isn't the biggest problem behind acquiring the former All-Star.
It's not about AI taking grasp and acquiescing to a secondary role. The problem isn't him appearing humble, even though he's shown nothing over the course of 13 NBA seasons that would allow us to assume that it would be in him.
No, the problem is actually helping a team while in that role. Even if AI's heart is in the right place, what in his past tells us that he can be an efficient, helpful player off the ball? How does that work?
And that's just assuming he does. The guy wouldn't slow down for John Thompson, Larry Brown, or George Karl; you think he's slowing down for Lionel Hollins?
Maybe this is his finest come-uppance. Stuck on a team nobody watches with a roster full of players that did nothing but watch Allen Iverson while growing up. Zach Randolph, who never passes. O.J. Mayo, who is named after two of the greatest passing big guards ever, but who turned in an assist ratio barely better than Kenyon Martin's(notes) last year. And Rudy Gay, who somehow managed to play over 37 minutes a game in 2008-09, and average 1.7 assists a contest.
There's your lot, AI. Now tell us again what you can do for a team.
Will Zach Randolph's penchant for being a ball hog ruin any hope for offensive chemistry before the Grizzlies even get started?
There's no question that Randolph is as mismatched in the Grizzlies lineup as a pair of old sneakers work with an evening gown at the prom. Everything about what Memphis has been building is about young talent — Rudy Gay, O.J. Mayo, Marc Gasol, Hasheem Thabeet — blending smoothly. But the addition of the me-me-me-me-me Randolph promises to deliver far more problems than points.
— Fran Blinebury, Yahoo! Sports 2009-10 NBA Preview magazine
• 3 Shades Of Blue: "What are the goals for this team? Victories. I know it sounds simplistic but that seems to be the one and only directive the team has heading into the season. The fans and the owner are sick of losing. Who wouldn't be after three successive seasons of losing? The Grizzlies have won only 68 games in the last three years combined! Even when the Grizzlies win they have lost as their 0-12 playoff record can attest to. Owner Michael Heisley has brought in two players who are offensive stars in Allen Iverson and Zach Randolph to pair with O J Mayo and Rudy Gay to give the Grizzlies enough firepower to compete with anyone in the league. He then added defensive hustle players like Hasheem Thabeet, DeMarre Carroll and Sam Young to bring some controlled mayhem to the bench. The combination may start slowly but it can't collapse under the difficulty of the opening month." [more]
• Straight Outta Vancouver: "Sometimes I feel like the experts spend so much time watching the good teams that they lose perspective on just how bad your team needs to be to only win 27 games. Last year the Grizzlies barely had three NBA caliber starters. They had Conley and Kyle Lowry in a platoon, both playing fairly effectively but providing no leadership. They had Gay and Mayo; these two were starters, but aren't ready to be focal points of an offense, and certainly aren't ready to face consistent double teaming. Darrell Arthur(notes) was not a starting caliber player. Gasol was solid on offense and decent rebounding, but useless defensively. This season Conley, Mayo, Gay, and Gasol have all not only matured but also improved tangibly. Conley clearly shoots better. Mayo is moving the ball more often, though he's turning it over too often. Gay is stronger and better prepared to drive consistently, which is necessary for a team's best slasher. Gasol dropped weight, presumably to play the pick and roll better." [more]
• HOOPSWORLD: "The Grizzlies will be different this season, but how much better will they be? Hasheem Thabeet was a bit of a gamble with the second pick in the draft, though DeMarre Carroll and Sam Young seem are unquestionably great additions to the young core in Memphis. Randolph will fill the boxscore, but has never been a winner. Iverson, of course, brings a whole load of questions. It will be an interesting year in Memphis. Probably not a good year, but an interesting one." [more]
The Cool Kids, "Pennies"
First, the Grizzlies cut their amateur scouting ranks from five to zero. Then they did what they could to circumvent the minimum salary requirements by trading for Zach Randolph. After that, they went out and signed Allen Iverson to increase ticket sales, even though their best player is also a volume-shooting two guard. It's quite obvious that the Grizzlies are well aware of where each and every cent they control is going. In the event you visit FedEx Forum, watch your pockets.
— Trey Kerby, The Blowtorch
What happens when you take a talented young roster and interject two veteran alpha dogs into the mix? I'm not exactly sure, but I'm having trouble coming up with anything positive from a fantasy perspective. The team traded for Zach Randolph, a shocking 15th all-time in usage rate, to fill a "need" at power forward. Then, Allen Iverson was brought in after the rest of the league had declined his services for some more veteran leadership. What it means is universal downgrades. O.J Mayo was solid as a rookie, but he's not likely to match his 38 minutes per game with Iverson as the team's sixth man and he'll lose shots as well. Let someone else pay premium for him in the fifth, which would necessitate a major improvement on his line, let alone avoiding a regression of any kind. Z-Bo and AI are just the types of players to bring Rudy Gay's more passive tendencies to the forefront. The fifth round may feel like a discount, but the defensive stats need to come back in a big way if he can't avoid being marginalized on the offensive end. Mike Conley made a huge progression in the latter half of 2008-09, but Iverson takes a but of the shine off that — Conley could be the one who gives up the most to keep "everyone" happy. You still have to take a chance in drafts if he falls to you in the 10th, though.
Marc Gasol could be in for a double-whammy: he'll lose production to Randolph when they share the court and gets pushed to the bench when the team runs "small" with Z-Bo at center. The positives: Randolph has been known to miss a game or two and Gasol can be had in most drafts at a good discount (124 ADP). That brings us to Randolph and Iverson themselves. Both need significant amounts of possessions to get their "numbers," so draft them relative to how much you are downgrading everyone else. Randolph has registered some 20/10 seasons, but his career percentages are average, he turns the ball over, and doesn't offer much in the way of defensive stats. Iverson is scheduled to return from a partial hamstring tear somewhere around the start of the regular season, meaning the on-the-court acclimation will have to take place while the games count. Sure, his 07-08 season was huge — he also led the league in games and minutes played to arrive at the numbers, and he's a reserve for this team (for now?).
Sign up now for Fantasy Basketball '09.
Herzog: I believe the common character of the universe is not harmony, but chaos, hostility, and turnovers. #Grizz #NBA
1:11 PM Sep 19th from Echofon