How Will the Grizzlies New Additions Fit in Memphis?
Things went downhill quickly last year in Memphis. Before last season, Memphis was one of the most consistent teams in league with seven straight playoff appearances. However, after a hot start, last season flew off the rails with the Mike Conley injury, the Marc Gasol and David Fizdale beef, and Fizdale’s firing which led to the second-worst record in the NBA at 22-60. It was a brutal season, but the Grizzlies are hoping they can get back on track to playoff contention this year.
Last year’s interim coach J.B Bickerstaff is now the man in charge, and Conley and Gasol should be healthy for the start of the year. Memphis added Kyle Anderson, Shelvin Mack and Garrett Temple in the offseason along with rookies Jaren Jackson Jr. and Jevon Carter. The Grizz are also counting on young players like Dillon Brooks, Wayne Selden, and Ivan Rabb to take a big step forward.
Conley and Gasol are the mainstays, but this is a new Grizzlies teams. They even have fresh, new jerseys. Ultimately, they will only go as far as Conley and Gasol can carry them, which is concerning given their age and injury history. It will be up to the new surrounding pieces to complement and pick up the slack if needed. So how will the new pieces fit in, and how far can this Grizzlies team go?
Kyle Anderson, Shelvin Mack, Garrett Temple
Anderson was sneaky good last year for the Spurs. They will miss him, and the Grizzlies are lucky to have him. Memphis hasn't had a quality wing in forever, and Anderson is a huge upgrade. He is not flashy or a great shooter, but there is a lot to like. Anderson is 6'9 with long arms and a respectable handle. He sees the game well and racks up a lot of steals on defense, while being a dangerous passer on offense. Anderson uses his size to finish at the rim well and is a solid midrange shooter.
Defense is his best attribute. Beside steals, he also gets blocks at a high rate, minimizes his fouls, and is an excellent rebounder for his position. According to Synergy Sports, he ranked in the 88th percentile overall on defense and is a great spot up defender. He does a good job of using his length and size to stop driving lines and close out on shooters. Anderson was second amongst all small forwards in defensive RPM last season.
Offensively, expect him to run some secondary pick and roll while being a cutter off the ball. I am excited about his pairing with a good passing big man like Gasol. Anderson is a dangerous cutter, and Gasol will know how to find him. Watch this play!
This is a sneaky play by Anderson. Anderson looks like he is going to set an off-ball down screen on Klay Thompson as Pau Gasol has the ball just inside the key on the top. After he sets the screen, he turns and cuts and Gasol delivers a beautiful bounce pass for the easy layup. It looks simple, but Anderson is excellent at timing his cuts especially off of screens and misdirection plays. He is a lock to start at small forward for Memphis.
Memphis also recently added Shelvin Mack for some point guard depth. They only had rookie Jevon Carter behind Conley, so adding Mack was a smart move. Mack is capable of holding down the fort if Conley gets hurt, and Carter isn't quite ready. He's a good passer, a decent shooter, and can finish at the rim. Of course, he has his holes; defensively, he is a below average free throw shooter and turnover prone. Still, for the price and his expected role, the Grizz could have done a lot worse.
Then, there is Temple, who was traded to Memphis for Ben McLemore, Deyonta Davis, and a future second. Temple is solid, but I think Memphis overpaid for him. I would rather have rolled the dice on Davis’ potential. But, Memphis needed shooting and Temple gives them that (he can get super hot sometimes), so I understand why they were interested. Besides three-point shooting, Temple won't give you much else regarding scoring. However, he is an underrated passer.
Defensively, I think he is a little overrated, but he does get blocks and steals at a high rate. The negatives are that his foul and defensive rebounding rates as well as his pick and roll defense. He was 54th in defensive RPM amongst small forwards. Temple has a chance to start at shooting guard, but I would start Wayne Selden.
Also, do not sleep on Dakari Johnson. As a rookie, he played well in limited minutes with OKC last season. This year, he should be the backup center behind Gasol. He will get a real opportunity to prove himself, and I liked what I saw last season.
Rookies- Jaren Jackson Jr and Jevon Carter
Jaren Jackson Jr came out in Summer League blazing with 29 points and eight threes. He wasn't even known as a shooter. For the whole summer league, he shot 50% on 3.5 attempts per game. Jackson Jr also played impressive defense with good rebound and block rates. There were some bad shots, ugly turnovers, and questionable passing, but there is a lot to like. On defense, he showed versatility with his ability to guard positions one through five. His versatility and shooting ability should make him an ideal fit next to Gasol at the four spot.
Jackson is going to be a beast defensively. Look here as he alters the first shot forcing a miss, then that same player gets the offensive rebound and goes up again, but Jackson Jr swats it away. That’s hard to do without fouling, but Jackson projects to be a terrific shot blocker.
Carter was not as encouraging. He shot 35% for the summer league, turned it over a lot, and posted poor defensive and offensive ratings. There were some bright spots. He had a high assist ratio and got a lot of steals, but it is clear there is a lot to work on. Memphis should bring him along slowly and let Mack handle the backup point guard duties. Some time in the G league makes sense.
Here is what Memphis projected depth chart should like.
PG- Mike Conley, Shelvin Mack
SG-Wayne Selden, Garrett Temple
SG- Kyle Anderson, Dillon Brooks, Chandler Parsons
PF- Jaren Jackson Jr, JaMychal Green, Ivan Rabb
C- Marc Gasol, Dakari Johnson
These are the top 12 players for the Grizzlies. The other three will probably be Carter, Andrew Harrison, and MarShon Brooks. Either Harrison or Brooks may be cut or traded for roster spots. Both are intriguing options for other teams if Memphis decides to move on.
Memphis should be significantly better this season, but it all depends on the health of Gasol and Conley. They are both a little long in the tooth and how many games they play will decide how far Memphis goes. Memphis should benefit from the additions of Anderson, Mack, Temple, and Jackson Jr. Young players like Brooks, Selden, and Rabb should all be better as well.
That is the good news; the bad news is they’re in the West. While Memphis may be better, I think ten teams are better in the West. Therefore, I believe Memphis finishes 11th in the West with a 38-44 record. They will be tough to play every night, but they lack firepower, and their defense isn't quite good enough to pick up a likely below average offense.