2016-17 Memphis Grizzlies Season Preview: Enjoy Purgatory

Dec 11, 2015; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley (11) and center Marc Gasol (33) look on during the second half against the Charlotte Hornets at FedExForum. The Hornets won 123-99. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

The Dunkyard’s NBA season preview welcomes the first team from last season with a winning record – the Memphis Grizzlies.

Last season by the numbers

  • Record: 42-40 (7th West)
  • Offensive rating: 102.6 (21st)
  • Defensive rating: 105.4 (19th)
  • Pace: 95.7 (25th)
  • True shooting: 52.4% (27th)
  • Turnover rate: 12.3% (6th)
  • Offensive rebounding: 25.3% (8th)
  • Defensive rebounding: 75.1% (20th)
  • Giveashitameter: 20th
  • Highest PER*: 19.4 (Conley)

(*) – minimum 1,000 minutes.

At a glance

(Converts the above rankings into a rating out of 10).

mem

Recap

The Grizzlies were hopelessly outscored last season, ranking 21st on offense and 19th on defense. Despite this and an ‘expected record’ of 35-47, the Grizzlies somehow managed to win enough close games, conjure up 42 wins and squeeze into 7th place in the West.

A big reason for the Grizzlies’ problems was that Gasol and Conley missed 56 games between them. On top of this, Matt Barnes and JaMychal Green were the only Grizzlies to play more than 70 games last season as the team suited up 28 different players. All up, the Grizzlies lost the second most amount of man-games and the most ‘VORP’ (value over replacement player) to injury last season.

On offense, the Grizzlies couldn’t shoot to save their lives, ranking 29th on three point accuracy and 27th on two point accuracy. When Matt Barnes is the only player on your team to make more than 80 threes and shoots them at 32.2%, it’s safe to say you’ve got shooting issues. Offsetting the poor shooting were the Grizzlies’ ball handling (6th) and ability to get to the line (9th) – which helped move the overall offense from rancid to putrid.

Contrary to their ‘grit and grind’ image, the Grizzlies were just as bad at the defensive end. To be fair, it didn’t help that the Grizzlies’ two best defensive players were missing for large chunks of the season or that the rest of the team had no continuity whatsoever because of all the other injuries. Given these things, it’s not really useful to look into where things went specifically wrong (hint: everywhere). Suffice to say, opponents pretty much got any shot they wanted – and when it didn’t go in, they got a second go far too often.

That the Grizzlies still somehow managed to make the playoffs was quite an achievement – albeit they were swept by the Spurs in the first round.

Reasons to be optimistic

Conley and Gasol are back. If both can play more than 70 games this season, then that all but guarantees 40-45 wins.

Parsons is a solid acquisition. While he’s average at best on defense, the Grizzlies have more than enough to make up for it elsewhere. They desperately need some help on offense and Parsons will deliver far more efficiently than Jeff Green and Matt Barnes ever did.

JaMychal Green was a great find. If he can maintain his performance levels from last season, the Grizzlies will have one of the league’s best backup fours – who can also contribute from the outside. In fact, he may even take Randolph’s place in the starting lineup.

Reasons not to be

The shooting and offensive issues remain. Before last season, the Grizzlies ranked 13th, 15th and 17th on overall offensive efficiency the previous three seasons. Getting Gasol and Conley back won’t fix this problem. There’s also only so much Parsons can do, especially given that he’s still rehabbing his knee. His future health and conditioning also remains up in the air.

The Grizzlies still don’t have a real shooting guard. Until they find one, their offense and overall prospects aren’t going anywhere.

The Grizzlies have a lot riding on Chandler Parsons. While he may be handy, he’s not $94.8 million over four seasons handy – particularly in light of his durability issues. This contract could really limit what the Grizzlies can do with the roster from here.

The Grizzlies are unlikely to find any help in the first round of next year’s draft – their pick (top-5 protected) is owned by Denver.

Major Ins 

Chandler Parsons, Tony Wroten, Wade Baldwin IV.

Major Outs

Lance Stephenson, Courtney Lee.

The Dunkyard’s recommended ‘death’ lineup

  • Conley
  • Allen
  • Parsons
  • Green
  • Gasol

Dave’s lowdown

This offseason the Grizzlies decided to give Mike Conley Jr the richest contract in NBA history – $152.6m for 5 years. Now, I like Mike Conley, he’s a very good PG although one that has never made an All-Star game and has probably already peaked as a player. On one hand, the combination of Conley and Gasol might be Memphis’ version of Mark Price and Brad Daugherty and they can look forward to a few 2nd round playoff appearances. On the other hand, they’re probably Memphis’ version of Mark Price and Brad Daugherty and they can only look forward to a few 2nd round playoff appearances.

Fast forward to the 2019-20 season when Conley, 32 and Parsons, 31 will be paid a combined $57.6m and we could be looking at the worst allocation of money since a judge decided to award Anna Nicole Smith $500m in September 2000 for blowing a 90 year old billionaire on his deathbed.

Forecast record: 44-38

It’s hard to see the Grizzlies being anything more than first round fodder for the West’s elite. In re-signing Conley and Gasol (about $95 million over four more years) to major extensions – as well as adding Parsons at the same price as Gasol – the Grizzlies simply refuse to rebuild. While it keeps them respectable for the time being, it also keeps them in the purgatory of irrelevance… until the inevitable rebuild comes along whether they like it or not.

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