After scorching the earth last week, our Grizzlies had a rough go of it trying to navigate this week’s schedule against western conference foes Oklahoma City and Dallas, without their standout point guard Mike Conley. In this edition of the “Friday Morning Five,” the 3 Shades of Blue team stopped to take the pulse of the team and analyze its fortunes going forward. Before you read any further, however, it’s the last day of a close race, so be sure to take a quick second to vote for your favorite 3SOB logo finalist in the poll to the right! –>
1. Do the Grizzlies have too many bigs?
Phillip: No. They have plenty of insurance policies with guys such a Kosta Koufos, Jon Leuer, and Ed Davis. Coach Joerger has understand that certain guys with certain rotations against certain teams.
Chip: I don’t think they have too many considering all of the injuries but with depth comes frustration for those not getting minutes. Clearly Koufos and Ed Davis are deserving of starters minutes on weaker teams and Leuer could be in the mix anywhere but everyone in the NBA can play given the right situation. Memphis is fortunate to have 5 bigs who can come in and contribute.
Zach: NEVER! I was checking out the roster of some of the playoff teams ahead of us and none of them have 5 big men, much less 5 big men with PER 17+. Depending on matchups in the playoffs, all 5 of them will be useful. I think we can afford to carry 5 right now.
Anthony: No, having a plethora of bigs is never a bad thing. We can use them to match up against different teams and can make some interesting combinations on the court. Having depth at the PF/C position also gives you some valuable trade assets.
Steve: Perhaps. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing, but when having five guys all deserving of a share in the 96 minutes available to the post, you run a serious risk of keeping those on the fringes (namely Leuer and Davis) out of rhythm. It’s a lot easier for players to be effective when they have an idea of when and where they will be called upon. That being said, this is a very welcome “problem” to have in the event one of them goes down, and it’s certain to keep Davis’s re-sign value at a modest level.
2. What’s going on with Marc Gasol?
Phillip: He isn’t 100% healthy yet. He’s not mentally ready either and by that I mean he isn’t mentally prepared thinking that his knee is fine. Do I think he came back too early? Maybe. I think this road trip will help him get ready because this team needs Big Spain at 100% in this playoff hunt.
Chip: I wish I knew. He seemed disinterested against Dallas. Maybe it was just fatigue or possibly a tweak of his knee early against Dallas scared him but he clearly isn’t trying to announce his presence with authority right now. It took Quincy and Z-Bo a while to get from their knee injuries so maybe this is to be expected.
Zach: He’s hurting. He’s afraid to mess it up again. Marc has always been a tame player who has an aggressive streak in him. However, what we saw last year was more of the aggressiveness. With his injury, mentally I’m not sure he is willing to be that aggressor night in and night out, even if he plays significant minutes. I hope he proves me wrong. His defensive rating this year is at 105, up from 99 and 98 in the previous two seasons. Similarly his offensive rating is 107, down from 115 and 111 the previous two seasons. Obviously I hope he proves me wrong, but until that knee can become 100% healthy and his mind is off of it, I’m not sure he will ever be the consistent All Star, DPOY he proved to be in the past 2 seasons. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still great and a great center in the league, but right now, this Marc Gasol, isn’t playing like a top 5 one.
Anthony: Nothing. This is who Marc is. We want him to be an aggressor and dominate the paint but that’s just not who he is. Personally it frustrates me to see him not be more aggressive.
Steve: I think it’s a combination of things. First off, watching him play there is no way that knee is right… or at the very least he’s having trouble getting past the mental block, as Zach alluded to. It would be prudent to remember how awful Quincy and Zach both were upon returning from similar injuries, as well. Secondly, Marc has always been less assertive than we’d like, but his sluggish mobility has made this stand out even more glaringly. More than anything else, I think a double-digit game on the glass would make us all (Marc included) feel a bit better.
3. Is Nick Calathes’s recent productivity a sustainable trend?
Phillip: Yes. One of the many complaints from people is that he couldn’t shoot. He’s been working on his shooting the past couple of months and it’s finally paying off now. Is he gonna put up Mike Conley numbers? Absolutely not! But now he’s got his 3-point shot going, the front office should be happy about signing Nick Calathes. Then again this is coming from the guy who tweets #ImANickCalathesGuy…
Chip: I hope so but the 6 turnovers Wednesday night are disturbing. Clearly teams are daring Nick to shoot right now and so far he’s made them pay for it. If he continues this trend that is great but I suspect reality for Nick is somewhere between the player who was booed walking onto the court and the one who slated Milwaukee.
Zach: I’m going to say yes. I’ll give him the Courtney Lee treatment. Since he has become a starter (and really a few games before that), Nick has shown his abilities on the court and while I always *expect* the worst, like Lee, he has yet to show me his production is a fluke.
Anthony: I’ve always been positive about Calathes and I see a lot of promise in his game. If he can knock down jumpshots like he’s been lately he can be a great backup.
Steve: A stretch of this sort is exactly what he has needed to jump start his career. If all goes according to plan, he’ll be back to running the second unit to spell Conley just before opposing coaches start seriously game-planning to exploit his weaknesses. All considered, I think he will be able to maintain enough consistency by the season’s end to earn himself another tour as the backup point guard, which will be more than we can say of the vast majority of his predecessors.
4. Is Tony Allen ever coming back? Where does he fit in when he does?
Phillip: He will probably be back after All-Star Break. He will be back in the starting rotation but his minutes will most likely be limited. Courtney Lee has earned more minutes for this team than Tony Allen IMO.
Chip: Where in the world is Tony Allen? Sounds equal to Carmen San Diego but it is worrisome. Not many people realize Tony has missed as much time as Gasol this season 22 games vs 23). Tony has had knee problems, hip problems and now a wrist injury that has cost him 16 straight games. The team needs him back too.
Zach: I think Tony is back sometime next week. Maybe the Washington game? We need him to replace Tayshaun Prince as a starting SF next to Courtney Lee. Tony Allen is needed. His energy, his gamble and tenacity on defense is something that we can use right now.
Anthony: When Tony Allen comes back I would like to see him used as a defensive specialist similar to how a relief pitcher is used and only play him when he surrounded by other scorers.
Steve: I should have put Tony on the side of a milk carton rather than the chalkboard pictured above. I think the Grizzlies will try to ride the wave through the All-Star break without him, and return him to his starting gig shortly thereafter. Personally I would keep Courtney Lee, who I somewhat boldly deemed on Twitter yesterday the most complete shooting guard in franchise history, firmly entrenched in the starting role, but I can’t see Joerger making that sell right off the bat.
5. Hollinger’s playoff odds for Memphis are at 36.9%. Yours?
Phillip: I’ll take 40% right now. All depending on the Tony Allen situation. Just need teams like Phoenix and Dallas to collapse.
Chip: I think the Grizzlies team should be a shoe-in for the playoffs assuming everyone remains healthy. Sadly that is a big assumption as Allen and Conley are both still out with no timetable for their return.
Zach: Well the final 3 spots will be a battle between us, Golden State, Phoenix, and Dallas. Looking at the remaining schedules, I would say the toughest schedules break this way easiest to toughest: Golden State, Phoenix, Memphis, Dallas. We are 2 games back right now, with 20 of our 34 games on the road, so I would put us at a 25% odds to make the playoffs. Yea not awesome. A record of 24-10 would put us in. Anything less, it’s gonna be tough.
Anthony: I see that the NBA betting odds are currently +4000 (not great) for the Grizzlies, but I think that we have about a 60% chance to make the playoffs this season.
Steve: Call me an optimist, but I’m looking at our Grizz as a 75% favorite to sneak into the playoffs. The 25% is due to injury uncertainty. If healthy by the end of the month, I feel like we’re in.
Have any questions for the 3 Shades of Blue staff to chew on? Feel free to send them our way via the comment section, e-mail, calling into 3SOB Radio on Sports56 every Saturday morning, sending smoke signals, or reaching out on Twitter with the hashtag #FridayMorningFive!