In this edition of the Friday Morning Five, the 3 Shades of Blue team takes a look at the past, present, and future of the Memphis Grizzlies, as we dive into the new year. Join the discussion in the comments section to let us know your take!
1. As a first order of business, we need to declare a team MVP since last Friday’s five.
Carl Chaplin: Over the last 3 games (Hou., Den., Chi) Mike Conley has pushed the team and brought the energy that the team needed in every game. He has come back from the thigh injury, even with it still a problem, to keep the team in games. ZBo may have led the team in scoring, but Mike is the MVP because he has been the leader of the team.
Antonia Bufalino: After the game against the Bulls, I have to go with Mike Conley. He has been slightly struggling since his injury, but he came out in the second half of the Chicago game and put the entire team on his back to try to get the win. The perserverance I saw in him has me easily giving him the MVP since last Friday. Johnson has been contributing consistently in his numbers and energy, but the fight I saw in Conley that Monday is something that I haven’t seen in this team since playoffs.
Steve Danziger: Man, it’s tough because in the stretch of games since our last roundtable, nobody has really played that well in all three of them. So, although his overall production has been lesser than others I’m going to sprinkle a bit of love on this post for the guy that has been the most efficient player over the span, Ed Davis. Seriously, the dude has been over 70% shooting in each of the last three, and the high-energy lineups featuring him and James Johnson in conjunction with one another are like a splash of water to the face on a hot summer day.
Josh Coleman: Even though he didn’t play all that well last night, give me Mike Conley. He continues to provide much-needed leadership for a team that is struggling to keep its head above water through this tumultuous season. Scoring, playmaking, defense — Conley has been doing it all most of the year.
2. Who would you declare the Grizzlies’ MVP for the 2013 calendar year?
Carl: Zach Randolph has been the MVP because of his “give me the ball” mentality with Marc out. He has been his constant consistent 20-10 guy, even when the opposing team has double teamed him. Mike Conley is a close second for the reasons mentioned by me in #1.
Antonia: Still Marc Gasol. Marc being out has revealed how badly the team needs him. His injury has shown what this team is without him (eeks) but also really put into perspective what we are with him.
Steve: I’m beyond torn here, but I’m going to lean on Marc Gasol. He took home Defensive Player of the Year honors, and is the turnstyle of the offense — you can try to get around going through him, but you’ll probably just end up hurting yourself. It’s plain weird watching this team play without him.
Josh: Most Valuable has proven to be Marc Gasol. However, the best player through 2013 was definitely Zach Randolph in terms of consistency and production. Others can talk about “diminishing skills” all they want to — the big fella can still put the ball through the hoop and grab rebounds like they’re the last donut at the police station.
3. Favorite game or moment of 2013?
Carl: The road sweep of Lakers, Kings, Clippers and Warriors in November, especially beating the Clippers. These games showed what a healthy Grizzlies team can and should do.
Antonia: The first game against the Celtics on our home court. We were down double digits going into the fourth quarter, and Jerryd Bayless lit fire into them, scoring all of his 15 points in the final 12 minutes. I was at the game with my friend, and it was one of the most exciting things I’ve seen. The crowd was going crazy with the show he was putting on, but when he hit the dagger three in the corner, the entire stadium erupted. It felt as if I was at play off game! The comeback was incredible.
Steve: Zach Randolph’s phantom (though probably deserved) ejection against the Clippers in Game Six of the playoff series. The game was out of Los Angeles’s reach, the Grizzlies were 120 seconds away from officially exacting revenge for their first round exit in the previous year, and Zbo’s celebratory lap off the court accompanied by the chorus of crowd approval was the ultimate I don’t give a *frog* moment.
Josh: The moment when Grizz ascended that towering ladder and unfurled the “FINISH THEM” banner against the Floppers in the playoffs. Pure electricity.
4. It’s always fun to look back, but now looking ahead, what’s the number one change you would like to see for the Grizzlies in 2014?
Carl: Outside shooting! Miller is not what he once was and Bayless doesn’t shoot consistently enough to be reliable. If the Grizzlies don’t have serious outside shooting threats then it will be harder and harder for ZBo to maintain his scoring average as he gets older. Also, the Grizzlies need a consistent outside scorer to be a true title contender.
Antonia: What needs to be addressed is where we are still the weakest- perimeter shooting. I don’t feel Miller, Conley, and Bayless are shooting(and making) enough three pointers at the level we need it, and it will bite us in the butt. When we play teams like the Clippers, Thunder, and other title contenders, they will use the Spurs’s game plan of packing the paint. If we don’t fix the problem, whether it is through a trade or another major change, we could easily be out first round if we make it 8th seed.
Steve: While the Grizzlies’ perimeter shooting is as abysmal as it gets in the NBA, I believe that the most pressing move to be made will be the acquisition of another perimeter player that can make plays with the ball in his hands. James Johnson has been tons of fun to watch thus far, but as opposing defenses begin to tweak their game planning to accommodate for his presence, the front office must find a way to inject some creativity on the wings to alleviate pressure off of Conley.
Josh: A trade to help make the roster more balanced and talented. The team still needs perimeter shooting, but I’d like to see a move made that gets rid of a couple of “one-way” players in favor of some “3 and D” guys. Adding shooting at the expense of defense doesn’t help this team a whole lot, unfortunately.
5. Mike Conley’s got a busy week up ahead chasing around Ty Lawson, Brandon Jennings, and Tony Parker through the next three games. Will Nick Calathes or Seth Curry get any minutes to lend a hand out there this week?
Carl: Nick Calathes will because he has shown some ability to contribute. I don’t see Seth contributing unless the Grizzlies are getting blown out or they are 20+ points ahead with less than 5 minutes to go.
Antonia: Antonia: Maybe Calathes. Seth Curry will be brought along slowly, as Coach Joerger has said, so I don’t expect to see him unless it is during major garbage time.
Steve: Speaking of alleviating pressure off of Mike Conley… Unless Jerryd Bayless continues to stay as hot as he was against Phoenix, I would be pretty surprised not to see Calathes get a few minutes in somewhere over the course of the next few games. As for Seth, last week I was under the impression that he’d get some time out there to prove himself before the deadline for his deal to lock in as guaranteed, but it appears that he’ll be earning his contract on the practice court.
Josh: I think that Calathes will have to at least get some spot minutes here and there, but I’d be shocked if Curry got any time at all unless the game is a 40-point differential one way or the other. It would be nice to see what the kid is able to do, but I trust the coaching staff to go with what they’re seeing in practice every day.
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!