State of the Grizz – All Star Special

Priming for Playoff Push

The Grizzlies have reached the unofficial halfway point of the season.  52 of 82 games have been played, so my college level-ish math skills tell me 30 games remain.  The break comes with opportune timing.  Marc Gasol aggravated his left knee sprain last Wednesday at Orlando in an 86-81 win over the magic.  Mike Conley continues to nurse a sprained ankle, and Tony Allen nears his return from a nebulous wrist injury that has sidelined him for 20 consecutive games.

Spruce Durden – USATODAY Sports
Marc no like injury

The injuries have been a nuisance, and fans wonder where a healthy Grizz team could be in the playoff race versus where it currently stands.  At 29-23, Memphis trails both 8th seed Golden State and 7th seed Phoenix by 1½ games, and 6th place Dallas by 2 games. Furthermore, the Rockets, Clippers, and Trailblazers claim the 3, 4, and 5 seeds respectively, with all three holding a 6½ game cushion over the Grizzlies.  This means Memphis is well within striking distance of a number of playoff scenarios and match-ups, all contingent on performance and of course good health.

Standings from espn.com

Standings from espn.com

A Note on Tiebreakers

If a tie were to occur between the Grizzlies and any Southwest division foe (most likely Dallas and Houston at this point), the Grizzlies will ultimately lose said tie based on NBA tie breaking rules, which state that a tie between two divisional opponents is first decided by head to head results, and, in the case of a season series tie, record against divisional opponents determines the higher seed.  At 2-11 in the division, and with only 3 Southwest games remaining (New Orleans, San Antonio, and Dallas), Memphis has dug too deep of a hole should that scenario emerge.  Thus, even the season series split with Houston would prove futile when comparing overall divisional records.  Despite the shortcomings against regional rivals, the fact that people such as 5 time NBA Champion Steve Kerr are already dubbing Memphis as “the team nobody wants to play” is a further testament to the competitiveness and quality of the Southwest division.

Steve Kerr

Injuries Have Made Team Stronger

While many people wonder where the Grizz “could be”, I look at where the team is now, and where they began the season. The additions of Courtney Lee and James Johnson improved the roster on both sides of the floor.  In Tony Allen’s absence, Courtney Lee has provided solid defense and reliable, timely three point shooting.  James Johnson appeared out of nowhere, showing an uncanny ability to get to the rim, guard the perimeter, and block shots at will.  Marc Gasol’s early exit provided invaluable experience for Ed Davis, Kosta Koufos, and Jon Leuer.  

Then there is the polarizing topic of Nick Calathes.  Say what you will about the Greek-American and former Florida Gator, but most if not all NBA rookies require an adjustment period, and while there may be too little time left in the playoff race to endure an “adjustment period”, signs point towards Calathes turning the corner.  Since we flipped the calendar to February, Calathes has scored double digits in 6 of 7 games, showing to be more capable from 3 than originally thought.  He is 9 of 22 from beyond the arc in these seven games for a .409 3P%.  His deceptive size (listed at 6’6″ in your programs) can create matchup problems as well.  Again, in February, Calathes has one game with 1 steal, one game with 2 steals, and two games with 3 and 4 steals each. Do the arithmetic, carry the one, and that’s 18 steals in 6 games. Not too shabby. 

Nelson Chenault /USAToday Sports

Nelson Chenault /USAToday Sports

Still, turnovers remain an issue.  6 against Cleveland in a loss, 6 against Dallas in a loss, and 4 against Atlanta in a tight win on the road.  Let’s be real for a second, no one is arguing that Calathes is a starting point guard for this team.  He has been thrust into a starting role for an indefinite but brief period. Mike Conley will return after the All Star Break, so it’s not like the team is counting on Calathes to lead the Grizz into the playoff hunt.  Even then, the transfer window remains open until the trade deadline passes next Thursday, February 20th at 2PM Central time.  So, time remains for possible upgrades if the front office desires to do so.  However, history can be linked between the front office and Calathes.  A Memphis Flyer article from June 2013 noted what would have happened “If Holliner Had Made The Picks”

The Remaining Hurdles – A Look at the Schedule Down the Stretch

Only 13 home games remain in the regular season, and 17 on the road.  The standings graphic above shows the Grizzlies have actually produced results away from home, with a 15-9 record outside of FedExForum.  On the other hand, a 14-14 record in Memphis has left something to be desired.  Home headliners include the second game out of the break, February 21st against the Clippers, where the first 5,000 fans receive the highly anticipated GRIZZLIES fake neck tattoo.  In March, games against the Trailblazers and East leading Pacers loom, in what should be a defensive clinic.  Finally, the season winds down in April with ESPN broadcasted games against Denver and Miami, and the season finale against Dallas which could turn into a 1 game series “play in” scenario.

February 28th will be the first big road test against the familiar Thunder in OKC.  A jam packed March gives way to 17 Grizz games, with 11 coming on the road.  An ESPN game in Chicago comes March 7th.  March 21st brings the first matchup of the year against reigning champ Miami.  Then, another ESPN game in Utah on March 26th kicks off a 5 game road trip that extends into April.  Opponents include Golden State, Portland, and Denver.  Furthermore, games in San Antonio (on NBATV), Los Angeles (Lakers), and Phoenix await.

First 15

courtesy ESPN.com

courtesy ESPN.com

Bottom Line: It’s going to be a long tough road to the finish. 17 of the 30 games remaining come against playoff teams by my count (East and West), and more games on the road than at home as already noted (which could be good if the first 52 games indicate anything).  In my opinion, the Grizzlies boast way too much experience compared to Golden State and Phoenix, teams Memphis has performed well against this year.  With the team looking for its 4th consecutive playoff birth led by an incumbent core, it seems unthinkable that this team would not reach the playoffs.  A stellar stretch run could see the Grizz fighting for home court advantage.  If injuries continue to impose their will, then Memphis in May will seem a little empty this year.

To be honest, I am not concerned about the playoff race.  It will play out, and the best teams will earn their place.  It will be a heated race right up until the spot has been clinched, but confidence is key.  The only thing I am really worried about is what the new growl towels will look like.

Photo by Justin Ford

Photo by Justin Ford

-Travis Nauert

Advertisements

To trade or…

It’s that time of year, Grizz Nation. The rumors are flying. The blogs are bursting with time-wasting trade machine ideas. At this point, everyone has their opinion, and where would they share that opinion other than Twitter?

I’ve been reading a lot of Zach Randolph rumors, and while I’m pretty sure trading 1/3 of the foundation of our team is not the move we need to make, I’ll entertain the thought (for a moment). Phoenix has definitely contacted the Memphis Front Office, and I’m sure there have been plenty more deals brought forth.

(Soobum Im/US Presswire)

(Soobum Im/US Presswire)

Thank goodness I’m also reading that the Grizzlies have rejected every offer on the table for Zach. Phew.

 

What do I think we should do?     It’s too obvious; get a satisfactory back-up point guard. We’re hurting without Mike Conley right now, and Nick Calathes is just not used to our grit n grind style. Actually, it seems like he’s not used to American basketball altogether. It would be awesome to find a backup PG who can keep our low turnover count and can spread the floor. Someone needs to go, and someone new needs to come in. So, here are some possibilities.

I hate to speculate, but I’m a blogger. It’s what I do.

I think we could trade Ed Davis, Jon Leuer, or Tayshaun Prince without missing them too much. The Grizzlies could probably get someone very good in return for one of those guys. From there, some possible point guards we can go after:

  • CJ Watson from the Pacers
  • Eric Maynor from the Wizards
  • Devin Harris from the Mavericks
  • Aaron Brooks from the Rockets
  • Beno Udrih from the Knicks

So Grizz Nation, what do you think?

Getting in the Groove

Things have changed for this Grizzlies squad, and in this case, change is so good. Once again, we’re the team you don’t want to play. The solid additions of Courtney Lee and James Johnson paired with Marc Gasol’s glorious return re-energized the team and the fan base. Oh, and Mike Conley is playing like an All-Star PG right now.

All credit goes to the faux hawk. images

We’re a half game out of the eighth spot behind the Mavericks. So if things go our way, we could be looking at a serious playoff run. 

Here’s what the Western Conference looks like:

1. OKC Thunder

2. San Antonio Spurs

3. LA Clippers

4. Portland Trailblazers

5. Golden State Warriors

6. Houston Rockets

7. Phoenix Suns

8. Memphis Grizzlies

Round 1: Grizz vs. Thunder

All the hype around KD’s insanity in January can’t cover up our impressive track record against the Thunder. We historically play well against them, so this is an ideal matchup.

Round 2: Grizz vs. Trailblazers or Warriors

We have a decent chance with both of these teams. They’ve got the high-octane offenses that we can overwhelm with our top-notch defense.

The one team the Grizz need to avoid is the Spurs, but that’s a given. The rest of the West isn’t too intimidating right now. So Grizz Nation, it looks like  we’ve got a pretty solid shot at a little 2011 déjà vu. This could get good.

Bayless Traded as Grizz Down Detroit, Head Home

Bayless Joins Long List of Fallen Backup Grizz Guards

A weekend dominated by the NFL Wildcard Round has been breached with Grizz relevant headlines. Jerryd Bayless has been traded to Boston in exchange for Courtney Lee. The move could trigger subsequent deals as the Grizzlies search for answers in the crowded Western Conference. The NBA Trade Deadline looms a month and a half away (Thursday, February 22nd @ 2PM Central time to be exact), and the Grizz have underperformed compared to fans’ lofty expectations.

Lee is in his 6th year out of Western Kentucky. He was drafted 22nd overall in 2008 by Orlando and played for the Magic, Nets, and Rockets prior to joining the Celtics last season.

courtney-lee-dribbling-881x500

Following the acquisition of James Johnson, the front office continues to be proactive in improving the team’s perimeter play. This season, Lee has converted .422 on 23 of 52 attempts from 3 point range, while Bayless has struggled shooting .288 on 23 of 80…giving Bayless a minuscule 28 bonus attempts…and misses. For their careers, Lee still outshoots Bayless, although by a smaller margin of .387 to .343. Physically, Lee is listed at 6’5″, two inches taller than Bayless at 6’3″. Memphis remains last in the NBA in 3 pointers made and attempted per game, at 4.3 and 14 respectively, and are tied with Milwaukee for 21st in 3P% at .343.

Chris Vernon and Chris Herrington presented other noteworthy points:

Also of interest, the Grizzlies waived recently acquired Seth Curry, younger brother of Warriors PG Steph Curry. Seth made his Grizz debut late in the 4th quarter against Detroit today. However, ESPN’s Marc Stein believes Memphis will attempt to resign Curry the younger, if he clears Waivers, to a second 10-day contract. After a second 10-day contract, a decision will be made to sign him for the rest of the season or not.

Grizz down Detroit, win 2nd half 61-28

A Sunday matinée victory over Detroit puts Memphis at 15-18 on the year, standing 4 games behind the timeless Dirk Nowitzki and his 8th place Mavericks. The Grizzlies are in an exclusive club with Charlotte (which is never good, except Charlotte can actually lay claim to a playoff spot at the moment) as the only two teams in the league that have yet to defeat a divisional opponent. Memphis is 0-8 vs Southwest teams, while Charlotte is 0-5 against the Southeast.

The bullies on the block did the dirty work, despite Marc Gasol’s continued absence. Jon Leuer was the catalyst off the bench, leading all scorers with 23 points and collecting 8 rebounds split evenly between the offensive and defensive ends. ZBo was ZBo, going for 16 points, 16 rebounds, plus 5 assists. Ed Davis was an efficient 7-11 from the field, scoring 17 points to go with 11 rebounds. All of this was done against a long, athletic Detroit front court that consists of Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, and Josh Smith.

James Johnson continues to turn heads and did so again with this dish to Ed Davis:

The last game for one Grizz…

(Photo by D. Williams/Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

(Photo by D. Williams/Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

And the first for another…but maybe his last, but also maybe not.

1560746_10151611497872255_1168703643_n

Back to the Grindhouse

The Grizz return to Memphis and FedEx Forum for a 4 game stretch, beginning Tuesday night against San Antonio.  The stand concludes a week from Tuesday against Oklahoma City.  This is another opportunity to improve an alarming 7-11 home record after going 32-9 inside the Forum last year.

(photo from basketball.ballparks.com)

(photo from basketball.ballparks.com)

Tipoff in Memphis:

Tuesday, January 7

7:00 PM Central

 

 

 

-Travis Nauert