The Grizzlies have had a successful off-season according to most experts this summer.
David Thorpe has the Grizzlies as a sleeper team to win the West. Thorpe pointed out that the Grizzlies have gotten quietly better. Jordan Adams and Jarnell Stokes received accolades for their SL performances, he loves replacing Mike Miller with Vince Carter, he has high hopes on Nick Calathes expanding his game and he talked about the coaching situation being more settled with Joerger getting the extension.
Oh and he mentioned Quincy Pondexter coming back.
Quincy Pondexter, you may remember, was supposed to be a big factor last season after agreeing to a contract extension. QPon started slow and then broke a bone in his foot costing him the rest of the season. It was a crushing blow for the young up and coming perimeter player. The Grizzlies gave up Greivis Vasquez for Quincy Pondexter. Vasquez has looked very good at stops in New Orleans, Sacramento and Toronto. That only adds to the pain of QPon’s absence.
This is the year he has another opportunity and fans of the Grizzlies are anxious to see him step up to the challenge.
Tayshaun Prince is possibly the most hated player ever to start for the Memphis Grizzlies. Whether it is deserved or not is immaterial. It is a fact that fans would prefer never seeing Tayshaun Prince play for the team again. Vince Carter was an elite star in the league at one point in his career but at 37 his role is best served coming off the bench.
Quincy Pondexter has the opportunity to show the coaches, the fans and the rest of the league the trade with Vasquez wasn’t as lopsided as it has appeared.
This “showing” won’t be easy for QPon, however. First, Prince is a veteran who understands his place on the team and does little things that often go unnoticed by fans but not coaches. His performance last season was clearly affected by the intestinal problems he suffered during training camp when he lost 15-20 pounds and never seemed to regain his energy afterwards. If Prince, on the last season of his current contract, wants to remain in the league he needs to show he can still play. Second, Quincy hasn’t played more than 66 games in a NBA season yet. He missed 67 games last season so rust is going to be an issue as well.
Still the team needs another perimeter shooter in the starting five, especially if Tony Allen holds off Courtney Lee and Jordan Adams as the starting SG. Pondexter is a career 35.9% 3 pt. shooter and had a season where he shot 39.5% just two years ago. Pondexter also can play defense. At 26 he is entering the prime of his career so he should be able to improve on his career mark.
And therein lies the rub.
For Quincy to show he has improved, he needs to be on the court. To get on the court he has to beat out Tayshaun Prince for playing time or accept spot minutes (something he wasn’t very pleased to do last season before his injury). Vince Carter is going to get the majority of backup minutes at the SF position. It is possible that Carter could even average more than half a game’s minutes. That is clear. What isn’t clear is who will get the starters minutes even if they are less than what Carter plays.
There aren’t going to be minutes at SG either like there was in the past as long as Allen, Lee, Franklin and Adams are on the team. The Grizzlies can’t stand pat with Prince and Carter being the only reliable options at SF. Something will need to be done if the Grizzlies want to extend their franchise record string of playoff appearances to five.
If Pondexter isn’t the starter by January 1st, he likely will be used as a tease in a move to get a player capable of starting at SF. Prince’s contract will be expiring so he will garner interest no matter how poorly he is playing. The Grizzlies have a surplus of SGs as was mentioned and Kosta Koufus is too young and too good to simply be a backup center. The Grizzlies will have pieces to offer teams looking for a quick rebuild and who may be willing to trade a talented wing for multiple young players.
So the time is now for Pondexter. He either beats out Prince and becomes the franchise’s Starting SF for a while or he fails and either withers on the bench or is moved to another city.
Grizzlies’ management believes Pondexter can contribute on this team and that is the best way for the franchise to continue its run on playoff appearances. Turning over the roster in a big way mid-season is dangerous. Teams only do it if they have already given up on the current season, have financial pressures that need to be addressed (such as Rudy Gay’s contract) or they need something to put them into a position to go a long way in the playoffs.
It will be an interesting in preseason to determine whether or not Pondexter starts to show he deserves the increased role he surely desires.