June 10, 2016, 12:00 pm
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
July 4, 2020, 8:36 pmLeBron JamesSF, Los Angeles Lakers
According to Shams Charania, the NBA has informed players that they will not be able to travel with their respective teams in Orland, should they fail to be tested on one of two days before the scheduled travel date.
The report also says that if the player does indeed miss the said window to be tested, he will need to register three consecutive tests before traveling. This is a strict protocol, but one the league needs to enforce in order to ensure the safety of all of the players and staff who will be entering the "bubble" in Walt Disney World in preparation for the resumption of the 2019-20 season. There has been a lot of concern, especially with the growing number of cases being recorded in Florida.
Source: Shams Charania on Twitter
July 4, 2020, 2:39 pmJimmy ButlerSG, Miami Heat
Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald is reporting that a third Heat player has tested positive for COVID-19.
Derrick Jones Jr. is the only known player, though Jackson adds that the two latest cases are both rotation players. Florida is in terrible shape at the moment and the Heat may need to enter the bubble without three of their rotation options — those players may still join the team later but will miss out on valuable practice time. The NBA is going full steam ahead on their restart plans but the virus is going to determine whether or not things actually unfold according to plan.
Source: Barry Jackson on Twitter
July 4, 2020, 1:21 pmLandry ShametSG, Los Angeles Clippers
Shams Charania reports that Landry Shamet has tested positive for COVID-19 and is unlikely to join the Clippers for their trip to Orlando this week.
That leaves the door open for Shamet to rejoin the team closer to the season's restart, assuming he is feeling okay. Just yesterday it was announced that the Clippers closed their facilities after a positive test, so it appears Shamet's case was the culprit. The sharpshooter is averaging 27.5 minutes per game this season so if he's forced to sit out the Orlando restart it could have big ramifications on LA's backcourt rotation.
Source: Shams Charania on Twitter
July 4, 2020, 12:18 pmLeBron JamesSF, Los Angeles Lakers
The NBA has released its schedule of scrimmages for the Orlando restart, with games beginning on July 22.
The league has tried to match up teams that are unlikely opponents for these scrimmages so nobody gets a really good look at what a potential playoff matchup might want to run. For example, the first day of scrimmages will see the Nuggets face the Wizards, the Nets take on the Pelicans, the Clippers against the Magic and the Kings vs. the Heat. Scrimmages will run through July 28.
Source: Chris Haynes on Twitter
July 4, 2020, 9:35 amCaris LeVertPG-SG, Brooklyn Nets
Caris LeVert embraces challenge of being a leader.
LeVert has been an active participant in the racial inequality protests and admitted that basketball is very minor right now compared to everything else going on in the world but is ready for the NBA restart saying, "For me, it’s just taking on that challenge of being a leader, being the leader of that group, going down there with some of the most experience on the team, playoff experience." In the 16 games since rejoining the starting lineup, LeVert has put up All-Star numbers with 24.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists, while shooting 41.7 percent from three-point range and leading the Nets to a 9-7 record over that span. The upward trajectory continues for the Nets' 20th overall pick in the 2016 draft.
July 4, 2020, 9:16 amJordan CrawfordSG, Free Agent
Jordan Crawford has agreed to a deal with Russia's Lokomotiv Kuban.
Crawford last played in the NBA for the Pelicans in 2018 with career averages of 12.2 points, 2.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 24.4 minutes. The career journeyman has played for five NBA teams since 2010 with a few stints with China in between. Since the beginning of 2019, he has played in Israel, China, Germany and now we can add Russia to that list.
July 4, 2020, 8:13 amLance StephensonSG, Free Agent
Lance Stephenson is ineligible to sign with the Pacers according to Scott Agness.
Stephenson to the Pacers was being discussed in early March and made sense now with Victor Oladipo choosing to sit out the remainder of the season but this move apparently will not happen. The 29-year old Stephenson spent this past season in China where he averaged 26.7 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.8 assists for the CBA's Flying Leopards.
Source: Scott Agness on Twitter
July 3, 2020, 10:10 pmAnthony DavisPF-C, Los Angeles Lakers
Anthony Davis has high expectations for the Lakers when they resume play later in July in Orlando, citing the long layoff as a favorable development for his squad.
As if the Lakers weren't already squarely in the hunt for an NBA championship. When speaking to ESPN's Dave McMenamin, Davis said that he believes their "chances are higher just because we’re all rested and we’re all ready to go.” Depth seems to be the most glaring issue potentially facing the Lakers as they prepare to make the trip to Disney World, as defensive stalwart Avery Bradley recently opted out of the remainder of the season. Bradley was subsequently replaced by well-traveled veteran guard J.R. Smith (who has a long history of playoff runs alongside LeBron James with the Cavs), but the team is still unsure of veteran center Dwight Howard's status the rest of the way. Other than Howard, the Lakers' roster is seemingly set for Orlando. Davis sounds like he's ready to rock, however.
July 3, 2020, 8:28 pmDeng AdelPF, Brooklyn Nets
Deng Adel, who played 19 games for the Cavs last season as a two-way player, is being pursued by the Illawara Hawks of Australia's NBL, which, notably was the team 18-year-old LaMelo Ball played for last season (and has attempted to purchase).
Adel had two short stints before last season with the Rockets and Nets in the Summer League and the preseason, respectively. He was originally a standout at Louisville but went undrafted in 2018 before hitching on with the Cavs on a two-way pact. This season he had been playing for the Long Island Nets, the Nets' G League affiliate, prior to the pause and ultimately the end of the G League season. Adel had registered averages of 11.1 points, 4.2 boards and 2.6 assists to that point. Also of note, Adel spent the lion's share of his childhood in Australia after his family moved from South Sudan around the time he was eight.
July 3, 2020, 4:35 pmDarius MillerSF, New Orleans Pelicans
Darius Miller is unsure if he will be able to play in Orlando, as he continues to recover from a torn a ruptured right Achillies.
Due to the lockdown, Miller has been unable to participate in any live-action, or else he would have played in 3-on-3 or 5-on-5 by now. At this point, it would be surprising for the Pelicans to risk his health by pushing for him to participate in the eight-game regular season.
Source: Will Guillory on Twitter