• The Grizzlies ended the 2014-15 season on a positive note.  Despite being eliminated in the semifinals, the team had just finished an impressive 55 win campaign and bothered the eventual champion Golden State Warriors as much as any team out West.  This optimism dissipated quickly, however, as their 2015-16 effort was derailed by injuries, and the franchise has arrived at an uncertain crossroads.  Hoop Ball’s Post-Mortem series takes a look at what happened in Memphis.

    OVERVIEW

    Since the dawn of the Grit ‘N Grind era the Grizzlies have been among the more consistent teams in the Western Conference.  The team remained remarkably stable through ownership and coaching changes (most notably opting to move on from Lionel Hollins in 2013 and promoting Dave Joerger to head coach).  Entering this season, the Grizzlies had made the playoffs five consecutive times by building around the unique abilities of Zach Randolph, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol.

    While they again made the playoffs this year, things were significantly less rosy for the Grizzlies in 2015-16.  Instead of looking like the 55-27 team that just missed out on a second seed in the 2015 playoffs, the organization was decimated by injuries.  They lost Gasol in February to a broken right foot and Conley to Achilles tendonitis in March.

    Joerger garnered some coach of the year consideration for managing to keep the Grizzlies afloat despite these key loses, and the team ended up finishing 7th in the Western Conference with a 42-40 record.  By the time they met the Spurs in the opening round of the playoffs the Grizzlies could barely fill their starting lineup with NBA level talent, and were unsurprisingly swept.

    At the end of the season the organization elected to part ways with Joerger, surprising analysts and rival front offices alike.  Reportedly, tension between Joerger and the Grizzlies’ front office had continued since he flirted with joining the Minnesota Timberwolves two offseasons prior.  As a result, Joerger moved to Sacramento and the team hired former Heat assistant David Fizdale as their new head coach.

    Between their coaching transition and Conley’s looming free agency the Grizzlies have a number of questions entering the offseason, making them a team to watch this summer.

    COACHING

    Joerger’s coaching impact wasn’t apparent in the Grizzlies’ aggregate data, as they finished tied for 21st in offensive efficiency and 19th on the defensive end.  That type of cursory analysis, however, belies the ways in which Joerger kept the team functioning even with lineups held together by bailing twine and spit.  By the end of the season Chris Andersen and Bryce “No Nickname” Cotton were seeing meaningful rotation minutes for a playoff team, and it was Joerger who kept them in the postseason hunt.

    Next season will mark the start of the Fizdale era in Memphis, and with it a series of unanswered questions.  After having spent the last eight seasons in various roles with the Heat, Fizdale will get his first shot at a head coaching gig.  Memphis has long prided itself on its strong locker room culture and organizational consistency, but the roster is littered with big personalities (to put it mildly).  Fizdale will likely lean on his big name assistants, including J.B. Bickerstaff and Nick Van Exel, in his first year at the helm.

    THE PLAYERS

    Marc Gasol

    ADP: 23/26 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 94/103 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 37/41 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 52

    Aside from a slow shooting start to the season, Gasol’s per game numbers were remarkably consistent with his stellar 2014-15 performance.  Both in fantasy and reality, Gasol isn’t a typical big man.  Yes, he can score, rebound, and protect the paint, but he is much more versatile than your average starting center.

    While his baseline points, rebounds and blocks are nothing to sneeze at, averaging 16.6, 7.8 and 1.3 in those categories doesn’t exactly scream elite.  Instead, Gasol made his most significant fantasy impact in providing out of position production.  He shot an exceptional 82.9% from the line in 2015-16, swiped one steal per contest and continued to be among the league leaders in assists from the center spot with 3.8.  

    In many ways Gasol’s passing has kept the Grit ‘N Grind Grizzlies afloat in an era obsessed with spacing.  When neither of your bigs can step behind the arc and hit a three offenses need to find other ways to generate clean looks at the basket. Gasol’s ability to catch the ball at the elbow and facilitate the offense kept the Grizzlies competitive, and allowed Gasol and Zach Randolph to form one of the more dominant frontcourt tandems in the league.

    Unfortunately, Gasol’s injuries have become increasingly concerning.  Over the past five seasons he has played more than 65 games only twice, as a slew of leg and foot injuries have kept him off the floor.  At age 31 it’s fair to wonder if we might be seeing Gasol’s body start to betray him, but given his past performance you’d be forgiven for gambling on him in the third or fourth round of your draft next fall.

    Mike Conley

    ADP: 56/34 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 110/105 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 62/54 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 56

    Another victim of the plague of injuries in Memphis, Conley played just four more games than Gasol in 2015-16 before Achilles tendinitis forced him to miss the rest of the season.  Conley struggled with his shot amidst the roster churn, shooting just 42.2% from the floor, a career low.  In almost every other respect, however, Conley was the all around point guard owners selected in the third round of nine category leagues.

    While Conley no longer generates steals at the elite level he demonstrated earlier in his career, he has grown into an all around guard worthy of being started in nearly every fantasy league.  In 2015-16 he averaged 15.3 points, 1.4 threes, 2.9 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 1.2 steals and just 1.5 turnovers per game.  Any guard averaging 15-3-6 with nearly a three and a half per game would be interesting in fantasy, but what makes Conley so valuable is his lack of turnovers.  He has always boasted an assist to turnover ratio approaching three to one, but last season he averaged over four assists for each turnover he committed.

    Despite all the positives he brings to the table, two issues depress Conley’s draft day value: position and health.  Let’s tackle the former first.  Conley has played more than 73 games just once in the last five years, and at this point in his career owners should consider themselves lucky if he plays 70 games in any given season.  Of course, Conley is in his prime and there’s no reason to think he won’t be fully recovered by the time training camp begins, but the pattern is more than a little alarming.

    As for position, Conley finished as the 20th best point guard in eight category leagues on a per game basis (and only slightly better in those that count turnovers).  As a result, while his overall statistical performance remains solid there are just too many talented guards to justify reaching for Conley in the early rounds of your draft.

    Matt Barnes

    ADP: 140/147 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 84/85 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 101/98 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 76

    As shocking as it may seem Matt Barnes was the most productive Grizzlies player in 2015-16, at least in terms of total fantasy value.  Obviously a lot of that has to do with injuries to more productive players, but it’s still an impressive feat for the 36-year-old forward.  Despite his absolutely abysmal field goal percentage (37.9% on 9.2 attempts per game) he was able to chip in across almost every other category.

    Barnes averaged 10 points, 1.5 threes, 5.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists, one steal and 0.7 blocks per game this season, making him a prototypical 3-and-D player.  His ability to stretch the floor unlocked some quirky lineup possibilities for Joerger, and his defensive intensity helped the Grizzlies continue winning without their stars.  From a fantasy perspective his ability to contribute in rare statistical categories (threes, blocks and steals) made him one of the more productive late round steals of the season.

    Looking forward, however, things are less optimistic for Barnes.  He’ll turn 37 next season and is a free agent this summer.  He has already announced that he’d like to sign with the Warriors (who wouldn’t?) and it seems like wherever he ends up he will have reduced role next year.

    Zach Randolph

    ADP: 72/67 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 123/117 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 107/99 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 68

    At age 34 it seems as if Randolph might finally be slowing down.  While he was the healthiest of the Grizzlies three focal points in 205-16, he missed time with nagging knee injuries of his own.  Even when he did play Randolph wasn’t the player he’d been in previous years, as he saw statistical declines across the board.  On the floor, Randolph lacked the ferocity that had come to exemplify his time in Memphis.  He was no longer unstoppable in the post or on the glass.

    For fantasy purposes, Randolph averaged 15.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 0.6 steals in 2015-16.  He has always been a bit of an empty calorie player in fantasy, as his defensive numbers pale in comparison to the average power forward.  He also saw a decline in his scoring and rebound, the two categories that had become his most reliable.  Randolph’s rebounding numbers were the lowest they’d been in his last five healthy seasons, and he averaged his fewest points in the Grit ‘N Grind era.

    Randolph will still be worth a look in the later rounds of drafts next October, but owners shouldn’t expect a return to his double-double form any time soon.

    Tony Allen

    ADP: 140/129 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 164/162 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 146/149 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 64

    Allen averaged 8.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.7 steals in 2015-16.  He is the definition of a fantasy specialist, as he remained among the league leaders in steals without doing much for your fantasy team beyond that category.  Allen provided more value in rotisserie than he did in points formats, but will be little more than a late round pick next year in any league.

    Lance Stephenson

    ADP: 140/136 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 206/224 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 225/252 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 69

    Even with such a low ADP Lance had the makings of a major bust in Los Angeles, as he couldn’t average five points in 15.8 minutes per game with the Clippers.  After being shipped to Memphis, however, he again emerged as a useful fantasy asset.  Averaging 26.6 minutes, 14.2 points, 4.4 boards, 2.8 assists, 0.4 threes and 0.7 steals off the bench he managed to maintain top -130 value during the season’s final three months.  The Grizzlies have yet to pick up Stephenson’s team option for next year, but he will remain an intriguing fantasy option as long as he has a clear path to playing time next season.

    Jordan Farmar

    ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 376/371 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 120/123 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 12

    Farmar’s impact was limited to just 12 games in 2015-16, but in the wake of Conley’s injury he played admirably down the stretch.  In the 10 games he started for the Grizzlies Farmar averaged 9 points, 2.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.2 threes and 1.2 steals, making him a reliable fill in off the waiver wire.  Farmar is an unrestricted free agent this summer, and could be an intriguing fantasy option if he sees significant rotation minutes next season.

    Brandan Wright

    ADP: N/A / 150 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 379/369 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 197/177 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 12

    The Grizzlies had hoped Wright would replace Kosta Koufos as the team’s second string center this season.  Instead he missed 46 games after having arthroscopic surgery on his knee in December, returned for a week in February, and then was ruled out for the remainder of the season with an MCL sprain.  When he did play Wright was a solid defensive specialist, averaging 17.7 minutes, 6.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, 0.4 steals and 1.3 blocks.

    JaMychal Green

    ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 192/192 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 235/232 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 78

    Green got some good opportunities and he took yet another step forward this season, but he still couldn’t make his way on to the standard league radar.  Averaging 18.5 minutes, 7.4 points, 4.7 boards, 0.2 treys, 0.6 steals and 0.5 blocks per game, he showed some good versatility but he’ll need to take another step forward in order to be relevant in most fantasy leagues.

    Vince Carter

    ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 267/246 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 269/243 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 60

    While Carter’s transition from superstar to meaningful roleplayer remains impressive, he simply didn’t provide enough for fantasy owners in 2015-16.  He averaged just 6.9 points, 2.5 boards, one three and 0.6 steals in 17.1 minutes.  At 39, Carter’s years of being anything more than a streaming option in fantasy are behind him.

    Chris Andersen

    ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 358/341 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 297/248 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 27

    Andersen actually started 15 games for the injury ravaged Grizzlies, providing low end defensive stats and rebounds in the process.  Birdman averaged 15.5 minutes, 3.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, 0.5 steals and 0.5 assists.  Despite the impressive per minute numbers in blocks and steals, Andersen doesn’t have much to offer fantasy owners at this point in his career.

    DOCTOR’S ORDERS

    A season of injuries, paired with coaching changes and potential roster upheaval, have the Grizzlies casting about for answers.  Conley’s free agency will have a significant impact on the team’s short and long term future, and how Fizdale hopes to maximize the aging core in Memphis remains to be seen.  If Conley returns and Gasol stays healthy the Grizzlies will remain a playoff contender out West.  If things don’t go as planned, however, 2016-17 could become a referendum on the viability of this core in Memphis.

Fantasy News

  • Andre Drummond - C - Detroit Pistons

    Andre Drummond double-doubled with 15 points and 12 rebounds in addition to three assists and one steal in Monday's series finale vs. the Bucks.

    Drummond made just 7-of-16 field goals as he was blocked at the rim multiple times and struggled to drop it in even when he wasn't. Brook Lopez and Giannis Antetokounmpo didn't make it easy on him tonight, but Drummond did have a strong season that shouldn't be forgotten as next season's fantasy drafts roll around.

  • Luke Kennard - G - Detroit Pistons

    Luke Kennard came off the bench on Monday night and scored just 11 points with one triple in 32 minutes.

    Kennard had a pair of four-trey games to start the series, but he was mostly invisible in this one. There's still reason for optimism when Kennard enters his third season with the Pistons, especially if he can secure a consistant starting role.

  • Langston Galloway - G - Detroit Pistons

    Langston Galloway was very active as he compiled 10 points, two rebounds, three assists, two steals and two threes in 32 minutes off the bench on Monday, but it wasn't enough to keep the Pistons alive.

    Galloway's spark helped the Pistons hold the lead for majority of the game, but the Bucks eventually outplayed them to complete the series sweep. He'll be back with the Pistons and likely won't be much more than an occasional threes streamer in standard leagues once again.

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo - F - Milwaukee Bucks

    Giannis Antetokounmpo went for a playoff career-high 41 (12-for-23 FGs, 15-for-20 FTs) points vs. the Pistons in Monday's 127-104 Game 4 victory.

    Giannis was everywhere tonight as the Bucks completed the Round 1 sweep. He blocked four shots, had nine boards, dished out three assists, had a steal and hit two triples in his 32 minutes to go with the big scoring total. The Pistons had the lead for the majority of the game, but Antetokounmpo and company's superior talent, shooting and aggressiveness won out down the stretch.

  • Khris Middleton - F - Milwaukee Bucks

    Khris Middleton had 18 points (5-of-11 FGs, 6-of-7 FTs), four rebounds, one assist and two 3-pointers in 30 minutes as the Bucks completed their sweep of the Pistons on Monday night.

    Middleton had a good series, averaging 19.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.8 threes. The Bucks will likely need him to keep it up as the competition heats up in Round 2 vs. the Celtics.

  • Sterling Brown - G - Milwaukee Bucks

    Sterling Brown grabbed a game-high 13 boards to go with nine points, six assists and a steal in 27 minutes in Monday's win over the Pistons.

    Brown didn't put up the flashiest stat lines in this series, but this was a great one. Malcolm Brogdon (right foot plantar fascia) is likely to return at some point in the next series against the Celtics, so Brown is probably headed back to the bench shortly.

  • Eric Bledsoe - G - Milwaukee Bucks

    Eric Bledsoe had a well-rounded line with 16 points, three rebounds, five assists, two steals, one block and one three in 28 minutes in Monday's Game 4 win over the Pistons.

    Bledsoe shot 7-of-12 in this closeout game while providing a steady veteran presence. For the series, he averaged over 19 points, four rebounds, five assists and exactly two steals. Bledsoe's defense will be tested in Round 2 against Kyrie Irving and the Celtics.

  • Nikola Mirotic - F - Milwaukee Bucks

    Nikola Mirotic sank three triples on his way to scoring 12 points for the second game in a row in Monday's Game 4 against the Pistons.

    Mirotic is still rounding into form and he's not doing much beyond hitting threes, but he should be able to contribute more in the next series as he gets his wind back.

  • Brook Lopez - C - Milwaukee Bucks

    Brook Lopez (back) briefly went to the locker room before re-entering the game in the second half of Monday night's Game 4 vs. the Pistons.

    Lopez ended up with five big blocks, seven points, five rebounds and three assists in 26 minutes in the closeout game. His numbers in the series were similar to his regular season stats, but he increased his blocks to 3.5 per game. He'll have another tough challenge in Round 2 when Al Horford comes to town.

    Source: Matt Velazquez on Twitter

  • Luke Walton - Team - Sacramento Kings

    As reported on TMZ, a lawsuit shows that Luke Walton is being sued for sexually assaulting a woman in his hotel room in May of 2017.

    Walton recently signed on to be the new coach of the Sacramento Kings. We will follow the story to see how it plays out and if it has any ramifications that affect his availability to coach the Kings.

    Source: TMZ.com