• 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

  • Luke Kornet
    PF-C, Chicago Bulls

    The Bulls have officially announced the signings of Luke Kornet and Shaquille Harrison.

    Kornet can provide threes and blocks as a backup big for the Bulls. He is currently behind Lauri Markkanen, Thaddeus Young and Wendell Carter Jr. but may be able to carve out some minutes for deep-league owners. Harrison will be fighting for minutes with the Bulls' plethora of point guards at the moment. If he can find some minutes during the season, he can be a source of steals as a player to stream or for deep leagues.

    Source: Bulls.com

  • Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
    SF, Toronto Raptors

    Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the Raptors.

    Hollis-Jefferson's deal was originally reported as a minimum contract however it is now a $2.5 million contract which comes out of the Raptors' non-taxpayer mid-level. He will likely play some minutes behind Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka. He is capable of defending multiple positions and might be able to provide some deep-league value in rebounds, steals and blocks.

    Source: Jeff Siegel on Twitter

  • Mike Muscala
    PF, Oklahoma City Thunder

    Mike Muscala has signed with the Thunder on a two-year, $4.31 million deal with a player option.

    Muscala could step in with the Thunder to be their stretch four behind Danilo Gallinari or back up Steven Adams. He could potentially earn some minutes especially with Jeremi Grant no longer on the team. He averaged around 20 mpg in his last two seasons with the Lakers and Hawks, providing threes and blocks that were useful to deep-league owners.

    Source: OKC Thunder Wire

  • Russell Westbrook
    PG, Houston Rockets

    Mike D'Antoni "would be disappointed" if Russell Westbrook didn't improve his 3-point percentage this season.

    D'Antoni added, "I think we can do that. I think that just by knowing that that's kind of how we play and him having the green light to (shoot) and not worry about it." Westbrook shot just 29.0 percent from deep last season and has been under 30.0 percent in four of his last five campaigns, so there is definite room for improvement. It's possible that Westbrook will find more catch-and-shoot looks available next to James Harden, and moving away from pull-up threes could help him improve his efficiency, but we won't be able to tell for sure until we see the duo take the court in preseason. Improving his deep shooting would definitely help, but there are serious questions about the rest of Westbrook's stat set. Rebounds and assists may not be as available in a system that isn't specifically tailored to him, and free throws and turnovers still look like problem areas. It's not a bad on-court fit but Westbrook seems unlikely to return to his former top-30 glory.

    Source: Salman Ali on Twitter

  • J.J. Barea
    PG, Dallas Mavericks

    J.J. Barea (torn right Achilles) will be cautious in his recovery and will not play for Puerto Rico at the upcoming FIBA World Cup.

    Barea expects to be ready for September's training camp but has decided that rushing back to play high-level international hoops would be a step too far. The tournament opens less than eight months after Barea sustained the injury, and he will instead focus his attention on getting ready for another season in Dallas. With the additions of Delon Wright and Seth Curry, it's unlikely that Barea plays enough to be worth your time in fantasy.

    Source: Tim MacMahon on Twitter

  • Matt Thomas
    PG, Toronto Raptors

    The Raptors have officially signed shooting guard Matt Thomas.

    Thomas will join the Raptors on a three-year deal after emerging as one of Europe's top shooters with Valencia last season. The Iowa State product hit 48.5 percent of his 3-pointers last season and is at a clean 47 percent in his two seasons in Spain. He should factor into the shooting guard rotation with Danny Green gone and is someone to monitor in deeper formats for his 3-point potential.

    Source: Toronto Raptors

  • Tyson Chandler
    C, Houston Rockets

    The Rockets have announced the signing of Tyson Chandler.

    Chandler is looking like the backup to Clint Capela and could be called on more in certain matchups, though he doesn't figure to play enough to support any worthwhile fantasy value. It's possible that Chandler holds appeal in deeper leagues as a rebounding specialist but that should be about it.

    Source: Houston Rockets

  • Kostas Antetokounmpo
    PF, Dallas Mavericks

    The Raptors are planning to claim Kostas Antetokounmpo off waivers, per Eurohoops' Nikos Varlas.

    Blake Murphy of The Athletic reports that the Raptors were interested in adding Antetokounmpo last season, but had their plans dashed when Dallas took Antetokounmpo with the final pick in the draft. He's incredibly raw still, but has the physical build that the Raptors seem to love in their developmental projects.

    Source: Nikos Varlas on Twitter

  • B.J. Johnson
    PF, Sacramento Kings

    The Kings have waived B.J. Johnson.

    Johnson had a decent showing in Summer League but never seemed likely to last in Sacramento given the team's depth at forward. After making seven appearances on a pair of 10-day contracts with the Hawks last season, Johnson will look to find more concrete footing in the league this season.

    Source: Jason Jones on Twitter

  • Kostas Antetokounmpo
    PF, Dallas Mavericks

    The Mavs have waived Kostas Antetokounmpo, per Shams Charania.

    The youngest Antetokounmpo was Mr. Irrelevant in the 2018 draft but only appeared in two games with the Mavs last season. Dallas opens up a two-way contract slot and will likely find a more NBA-ready player on the market, while Antetokounmpo will look to latch on with another team for camp. Perhaps the 21-year-old can make it a family affair, with both of his older brothers playing in Milwaukee.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter