Who's New?: F Brandan Wright (free agent), F Matt Barnes (trade), F Jarell Martin (draft), G Andrew Harrison (draft)
Who's Gone?: C Kosta Koufos (free agent), G Nick Calathes (free agent), C Jon Leuer (trade)
Off-season Grade: C+. You've got to admire the way they stick to their guns about this whole "who needs offense?" thing. In a league where every other team is obsessive about small-ball and pace-and-space and trying to shoot threes, the Grizzles keep wanting to win 80-75. The story here isn't that they traded for Barnes, it's why did it take so long? Feels like he should've been on the club for the last five years.
2015-16 Season Slogan: "We don't bluff... we genuinely think we can win with a pair of jacks."
What Else Is New?: Mike Conley partnered up with his father, Mike Conley Sr., a gold-medalist in the triple jump in the 1992 Summer Olympics in business venture where they're selling extra hydrogen-infused water called HTWO for $3.50 a...pouch? You're probably aware that water is 2/3 hydrogen as it is, so this stuff must send you into hydrogen overload.
(True story: During my other job waiting tables one of my favorite pranks to pull on other servers who carelessly leave their terminals open after they put orders in is to order a bunch of waters for their table with modifiers. Sometimes I write "extra oxygen," other times I'll use "light wetness," and now and again I'll type "hydrogen on side."
My point is that obviously all my colleagues at work find me hilarious and also I think I should sue the Conleys.)
Your Likely Starters?:
C Marc Gasol
F Zach Randolph
F Jeff Green
G Courtney Lee
G Mike Conley
I'm not sure about Green and Lee sticking as starters here. What good are defensive guys like Barnes and Tony Allen gonna do for you as subs? Wouldn't it make more sense to bring the firepower off the bench, or at the very least to mix and match?
After enduring a bit of a down year in 2014, "Big Spain" came back with a vengeance last season, perhaps buoyed by having slightly better shooters around him. His rebounding still leaves something to be desired and his defense fell off a notch from his a couple seasons prior, but it's still hard to make a case for anyone else as the best all-around center in the league from the non-alien division.
Z-Bo surprised me last year. I was expecting it to be the season where the wheels fell off for him a bit, but he actually had his best season since 2010-11. The shocking part is he was as successful as he was even with a broken jumper. He made up the difference and then some by finishing at a high clip around the rim, which hasn't always gone so well in the past because he's relatively undersized and can't jump. I will say Randolph looked a bit trimmer last year from what I saw, but at 34 I'm not about to buy his stock. Z-Bo probably led the league in "dudes who were excited to hear Tiago Splitter got traded over to the Eastern Conference."
Green's three-point percentage shot way up once he joined Memphis, which makes sense with the way their bigs suck in side, and conversely his two-point shooting fell off a cliff with all that congestion down there as opposed to the spacing he enjoyed under Brad Stevens at Boston. By now we all pretty much know who Green is, right? I don't feel it's impossible to win with him, but you can't be out here depending on him to be anything more than your sixth or seventh guy in the rotation. He was awful in the playoffs last year, for what it's worth.
Lee I think is the kind of mediocre player teams in all sports in all leagues find themselves burdened with. He's productive in small doses, has a couple of glaring flaws and keeps straddling the line between being acceptable and needing to be given a lesser role. He's starting over Allen because the latter is an offensive albatross, but he doesn't play enough defense or provide enough scoring to make you feel good about it. He shoots well enough as a fourth/fifth option to keep you honest, but you know the second you give him more responsibility, those percentages will plummet. He's every team's nameless, faceless stopgap starter and a successful season for him means another year of paychecks and nobody blaming him for a thing.
I'm trying to think of the last time the Spurs had somebody like that and keep coming back to Vinny Del Negro, but it's not a perfect fit. Randy Foye is like the captain of the team though and Zaza Pachulia is their starting center.
Conley has settled into that level where he's a notch below the top point guards and probably won't ever make an All-Star team. We give him bonus points because he's such a good defender and he doesn't have many scorers around him, but shouldn't that be all the more incentive for him to boost his numbers? He has to work so hard in his own end, maybe it limits what he can do with the ball.
Your Likely Bench:
G Tony Allen
F Matt Barnes
C Brandan Wright
F Vince Carter
G Beno Udrih
G Russ Smith
C Jarnell Stokes
F Jarell Martin
So, how would the offense look with Allen and Barnes on the floor at the same time?
Yeah, that sounds about right. The highlight of Barnes' off-season was confronting Knicks coach Derek Fisher, a former teammate, for daring to get into a consensual relationship with his estranged wife. Apparently Fish didn't get the memo that she's a piece of property that belongs to Barnes forever, regardless of what some silly court documents say. In the interest of fair reporting, Barnes' version of events, to ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne, is vastly different.
Barnes, a grouchier Shane Battier, was terrible in the playoffs except of course Game 7 against the Spurs last year, while Allen was benched after proving unable to score even when the Warriors put Andrew Bogut on him. I continue to be fascinated how any perimeter player can have such a terrible handle. He makes Danny Green look like Stephen Curry and Bruce Bowen look like "The Professor."
Wright is one of the preeminent rollers in the league and someone I've liked for a while, but he's joining his fourth team in a year and found life a lot more difficult without Rick Carlisle and Dirk Nowitzki. He's death against opposing second-unit front lines, but all that athleticism doesn't seem to translate on the other end. Carter had a miserable season last year but he's on a guaranteed deal so they brought him back. He's got nothing left at this point, just no lift or quickness at all. "The Bean Burrito" is still kicking around at backup point. He doesn't even pretend to guard people, can't get to the rim and doesn't really shoot threes well anymore, but remains one of the best mid-range shooters in the league. The Grizz signed former Clippers center Ryan Hollins but waived him in favor of Stokes, a second-round pick from last season.
Your Coach: Dave Joerger
Joerger wrung 55 wins out of the team last year up from 50 the season before, but I don't know if that's a function of anything besides having Gasol available for 22 more games. He's been trying to get his squad to play faster and be more offensive minded, but he's hamstrung by a sluggish roster. I'm curious if he'll look to experiment more with small-ball lineups with Green at the four and Randolph on the bench.
Bottom Line: They're built to make life hell for teams with questionable interior defense and a disinclination to move the ball. Obviously you want them to play the Thunder again in the playoffs. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook exit those series wondering aloud if trying to win is even worth it.
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