Slow week in the world of the Grizzlies, but there is still plenty to talk about at this point in the year. As always, we got the 3 Shades of Blue crew to round up and answer some burning questions as we look towards the weekend.
1. Tonight marks the halfway point for the Grizzlies season. How do you grade Dave Joerger so far?
Chip Crain: Incomplete. Joerger started poorly, injuries derailed part of the season and we are just now starting to see what he can do as a coach. He’s 3-1 since Gasol returned but each game has seen the team seemingly revert back to last season’s style of play with less and less bench production. If he can find a way to keep the starters playing well and the bench producing too then he will have done something this season.
Anthony Sain: Coach Joerger probably focused too much of training camp trying to implement a new offensive strategy which was obviously to the detriment of the team in the early going. He has gotten better with his rotations and team plays small ball very well. He looks like a much better coach with players that fit system. I’ve seen some better and some worse first year coaches so I would give him a C+
Zach Thomas: I give Joerger a C+ so far. Mainly for his attire. Ok, I’m just giving him a hard time. I like Joerger, alot. I love his candidness in the media. I love that when he speaks, I hear myself talking. As for his coaching ability, I know he is a smart guy who understands the limits of his team but also the capabilities, while also trying to get them to play better. He has been dealt a difficult hand with the injuries, but his rotation decisions have been pretty spotty at times, in spite of injuries. I still can’t ascertain his full array of decisions, but I imagine the way he handles the return of TA and the reintegration of Gasol into the offense will weigh heavily into our playoff chances, and thus, fair or unfair, his coaching grade.
Steve Danziger: B-. Can’t go much higher than that given that the team is currently out of the playoff picture, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t impressed with the way that he’s been able to rally the troops given the circumstances he has faced. It would have been real easy to lose the team while undergoing that tumultuous Marc-less stretch, but his ability to weather the storm as well as seamlessly integrate two new pieces into the wing rotation has been admirable. For his next trick, he’s (fingers crossed) going to have to steer a healthy ship while keeping all these guys happy.
Carl Chaplin: Rather Well – not great or bad. Considering the injuries and the trades with new players, he’s done well to keep the team at 500. He has done well also to integrate the bench into play so they can be real contributors.
2. Independent of matchups, what’s your favorite 1-5 lineup that a healthy Grizzlies team can put on the floor?
Chip: Conley, Lee, Prince, Randolph and Gasol. This gives the team a good defensive unit while maintaining three point shooting and an interior presence. Randolph requires double teams which opens up perimeter shooters and Gasol brings interior toughness on defense. I wanted to add James Johnson as well but lately his play has been too erratic. I can understand the coach not using that lineup at the end of games but it may not be much longer until he does add JJ to the closers permanently.
Anthony: I have another one that may not be a fan favorite but I will just go with this one for now to keep the peace. Conley, Allen, Lee, Randolph, Gasol.
Zach: That’s a tough one and I have my reasons but I’ll just answer the question. When clicking on all cylinders and fully healthy I’d like to see a Conley, Lee, Allen, Koufos & Gasol lineup.
Steve: I think that assuming health, Marc, Mike, and Zach are a given. As for the two and three spots, seeing as I just wrote a piece on how the lineup metrics of the wing rotations have been shaking out, it would be pretty hypocritical of me to go against the findings that Lee and Prince have produced incredible results so far. However, the question does say favorite lineup and James Johnson is fun as hell to watch, so I’ll say: Conley/Lee/Johnson/Randolph/Gasol.
Carl: Mike Conley, Courtney Lee, Tony Allen (for defensive reasons), Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.
3. What kind of contract will it take to keep Ed Davis this summer?
Chip: Great question and one our former agent and current President needs to find out now if he doesn’t already know from pre-season negotiations on his extension. The corollary question is can the Grizzlies keep Randolph, Gasol and Davis all happy? It seems Davis can play with Randolph but there isn’t that connection yet with Marc. If all three plus Koufas and Leuer can’t co-exist who becomes expendable? Davis, Leuer and Koufas are all 24 while Randolph and Gasol are older.
Anthony: I see Ed maxing out at 3 years 18 million. We may end up regretting not finishing a deal with him this past summer
Zach: I’m not sure at the moment he is “keepable.” However, if other deals are made to keep him I think at minimum a $5.5mil/yr deal will be necessary to keep his services. That would make him the 4th highest player on the team and I think he falls into the top 5 or 6 most valuable players to us. The big man market being what it is, I would think slightly overpaying to keep him may be required.
Steve: Say what you want about conspiracy theories, but a large part of why I think that Zbo will not be dealt this season has to do with the fact keeping Davis on the bench holds his re-sign value down. Mid-level money will probably be enough, but if so, I don’t see him locking up for less than four years. Don’t forget, there’s also the option of him taking the qualifying offer and playing out next season in hopes of boosting his value as a UFA next summer.
Carl: 6 to 7 mil a year. His upside is big and he knows it, yet he’s not a star, so way under the 10 mil+ range.
4. The Grizzlies are the only team in the Western playoff hunt with a losing record at home. What gives, and will they turn it around?
Chip: Poor play against poor teams and a difficult home schedule so far combined with injuries and early season confusion with the new players and coach is what gives. Of course they will turn it around and finish the season with a winning home record. The real question is have they shot themselves in the feet already as far as a stiff run is concerned. The last three seasons no Western conference playoff team has had more than 13 home losses. The Grizzlies have 13 today.
Anthony: I think that a lot of our early road woes were due to self inflicted pressure and tightness from the team. They knew that they weren’t playing well and that they didn’t feel comfortable in the new offense and the fans let then know as well.
Zach: I noticed this last week. it is absolutely mind blowing how awful we have played at home. I have no answer for why it has happened. I do think we will turn it around. Unfortunately the rest of our schedule has more road games than home games and though we have been relatively good on the road, I fear we may end up .500 on the road from here out.
Steve: I think Anthony hit the nail on the head here. It’s easy to be hometown heroes when you’re playing well, but not so much when you’re going through the bumps in the road. Just ask our point guards — Conley dealt with it the whole early portion of his career, and Nick’s feeling the heat now. On the road, they were able to tune out and isolate themselves from the chirping surrounding the team. I think a final home record of 22-19, is doable, putting them at 11-6 from here on out. They’re going to have to be road warriors to make the playoffs.
Carl: It’s a quandary. Perhaps part of the reason is that 17 of the 24 home games have been against Western Conf. teams. The West is hard no matter who you play. Of the East teams they seem to have been playing well when we played them. In the end, it is strange, but it has to be reversed if the Grizzlies are going to contend in the West.
5. Over/under 10 free throw attempts for James Harden tonight?
Chip: Over and that’s what he does. His style promotes contact and he uses that effectively as well as over-emoting at times. The fact that Harden hasn’t been called out by the league for flopping is truly remarkable (or expected in a league that never calls out its stars). I don’t mind his getting to the line legitimately but the acting makes me sick.
Anthony: Over. James Harden has already shot 4 and he’s on the line again now.
Zach: Over and double it, both games combined (Fri -Sat) he shoots 34 FTs.
Steve: I’ll play devil’s advocate and take the under. The Grizzlies made the mistake of trying to play him physical last game — something I don’t expect them to repeat, and he “only” averages 8.9 attempts on the season.
Carl: Over. He just knows how to get to the line and if Tony is still out then I don’t think Lee or anyone can guard him well enough to keep him from getting fouled.
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 to the 3SOB team on Twitter with the hashtag #FridayMorningFive!