Coach: Lionel Hollins
2008-09 Record: 24-58
Pythagorean Record for 08-09: 26-56
Offensive Rating: 103.5 (28th in the league)
Defensive Rating: 109.5 (21st)
Possessions per 48: 90.1 (20th)
|Offensive||48.6 (23rd)||.148 (27th)||.258 (20th)||.249 (9th)|
|Defensive||51.5 (26th)||.141 (7th)||.735 (16th)||.247 (19th)|
Roster (Red indicates new acquisition, Blue indicates rookie) Click to enlarge
Where to begin with this team? Should I start with the over-the-hill superstar (Iverson), the overpaid forward (Randolph), or the bust waiting to happen rookie (Thabeet)? Lets start at the top of the list, shall we?
I love Allen Iverson. I really do. There are few players in the league I enjoy watching more. I began following the NBA in 2001, after watching Iverson carry a thoroughly mediocre team to the Finals. As a statistics nerd, I know he’s inefficient and was overrated most of his career, but he’s just such an electric player and fascinating personality, I love him anyway. So, it was hard to watch him fall apart so completely last year. I actually think he’ll be better this season. Iverson’s best attribute is that he can always create a shot, so he’s an asset to bad offensive teams (which the Grizzlies certainly are). Why Memphis would bring him in just so he could steal minutes from O.J. Mayo and Mike Conley is beyond me, though, since it’s not like they’re going to be good either way.
Along the lines of “why the heck did you do that?” why would anyone trade for Zach Randolph? Did you know that Randolph’s contract is almost identical to Pau Gasol’s? Didn’t Memphis trade Gasol away because they wanted to cut costs? Ugh. Oh well, whenever you can swap out a top 15 player for a head case in the span of a year in a half, you’ve got to do that, right? Everything you need to know about Randolph is featured in this magnificent clip, which I will continue to link to until Z-Bo retires, because it is hilarious.
I was a little bit harsh with Hasheem Thabeet in that first paragraph. He’s actually got a chance at being a serviceable big man, and guys who can protect the rim are always valuable. Sadly, the track record for super-tall, kinda-awkward big men is, to put it lightly, not good. Guys that tall need to have good lower-body strength or coordination to make up for their higher center of gravity, and Thabeet doesn’t have that. He’s going to get pushed around a lot this year, and I don’t see any way he’s going to be a competent offensive player.
I was really disappointed with Rudy Gay last year. I thought he was due for a breakout season, but he regressed in almost every facet of his game. I think the arrival of Mayo had a lot to do with it, as Gay went from being unquestionably the main scoring option to having to play off another high-scoring wing. I still think there’s potential for Gay, and he certainly should be better this year, but he and Mayo are going to have to gel better if this team wants to have any success. Of course, adding two black holes like Iverson and Randolph isn’t going to help that development, but I digress. Gay still has a ton of athletic talent, and I think he’s got a chance to be an excellent player, especially on the defensive end, where he has yet to really live up to his potential.
Anyone know who was, statistically, far and away the Grizzlies’ best player last year? Not just their best rookie, but best player? That a big enough hint? Well, if you guessed O.J. Mayo, you’re wrong. Marc Gasol was the team’s most efficient offensive player, and also played strong post defense. Don’t get me wrong, Mayo has a higher ceiling, but Gasol was more productive last year. I don’t think anyone expected Pau’s younger brother to contribute quite so much, so quickly, but he was one of the few bright spots on the team last year. While he doesn’t have the star potential of his brother, it’s easy to see the younger Gasol being a solid starting center for the next decade or so. He’s a big body who isn’t afraid to bang in the post, but he’s also got a good skill level and, like most European big men, is very adept at moving off the ball to create opportunities for himself.
X-Factor: Mike Conley – I’m an unabashed Conley fan. I was really impressed with him in college, when he masterfully orchestrated Ohio State to the championship game as a freshman. He’s a fantastic athlete (ranked as the fourth best overall athlete in his draft class), and he definitely knows how to be a floor general. He’s disappointed some in his first two years, but he was decent last year, and I’m willing to chalk it up a lot more to Memphis’s general dysfunction than to Conley. I still think he’s got the potential to be very, very good, and a top-notch point guard would go a long way towards giving the Grizzlies a hope for the future.
Good lord, this team is a disaster waiting to happen. I would say that I’ve never seen a more poorly constructed roster but, you know, Isiah Thomas. With a roster full of young players with all kinds of potential, The Grizzlies decided to go out and get one of the most dysfunctional players of this decade (and it has been quite a decade for dysfunctional players), and a washed-up superstar who isn’t exactly known for his work habits or leadership abilities. It’s just another catastrophic failure in a long line of catastrophic failures for this Memphis team. They’re going to be awful this year, they’re hurting their future development with the guys they’re bringing in, and there’s very little evidence that the front office has any idea what they’re doing. So…yeah…they’re awful.
13th in the West – Dysfunction Junction
BallerBlogger contributing writer ‘xphoenix87′ is a college student who dreams of one day writing about sports for a living. Since that’s not gonna happen, he’ll do this instead.