Sorry to say, another year of Grizzlies basketball has come to a close, but the 3 Shades of Blue team never slows it’s train! Join us for 3 Shades of summer, as we rally to put a proper bow on the 2013-14 season, cover all the bases of off-season analysis, and transition into the 2014-15 chapter of Grizzlies basketball. Over the course of this week, we’re putting our heads together for the first phase of “Unwinding the Grind,” which consists of a collection of “Friday Morning Five”-inspired roundtables, looking back at the year that was.
In the second edition of “Unwinding the Grind,” the 3 Shades of Blue team took a step back to analyze the season at large from a player perspective. Who meant the most for the boys in blue, and where did the growth occur? Be sure to make your voice heard in the comments section below, and on Twitter!
1. Who gets your vote for offensive “MVG” (Most Valuable Grizzly)?
Chip Crain: I think you have to give the Offensive MVP to Mike Conley. He led the team in scoring most of the season, led the team in assists and ran the offensive better than anyone else on the team. Zach Randolph did a strong job of keeping the team’s power inside game rolling for most of the year but wasn’t as efficient as needed. Conley’s PER also led the team.
Zach Thomas: I could go 2 ways with this and make a case for both ZBO & Conley, but I’m gonna have to roll with Mike Conley. Offense isn’t always about scoring the basketball. Conley showed he could do that when needed, but he also was the catalyst to the offense. With him in the game, the offensive output was 105 points per 100 possessions compared to 100.5 pts per 100 possessions without him on the court. That is a difference of +4.5 points per 100 possessions better. But when you look at the other rotation players, he had the greatest impact statistically (though ZBO was close with a difference of +4.3) and added to it by visually watching the offense with him on/off the court.
Jonathan May: Mike Conley. Dude made the engine run for the Grizzlies and hit a ton of big shots for this team. Unfortunately, injuries to his lower legs really hurt his shooting percentage the last part of the year and the playoffs.
Antonia Bufalino: Mike Conley without a doubt. He was a complete warrior this entire season, and I could not have more respect for him. When Marc Gasol went down, Conley took the burden and stepped up for the team. Through all the adversities, Conley was there to push the team through whether it was battling against teammates’ injuries or his own. Most respectable player in my book. Let’s not forget him playing through a damaged hamstring in Game 7.
Matthew Noe: Mike Miller. Without his “emptying the clip” after the ASB, the Grizzlies likely don’t even make the postseason. Not EVEN gonna bother to look up the splits, and as Hollinger et. al. say, it really didn’t even matter if he made them. He just had to take them. And he played in every single game. Wow.
2. And defensive “MVG”?
Chip: There can’t be much debate that Marc Gasol was the Defensive MVP. The team was an average defense at best while he was out but among the best in the league when he played. Despite his bad knee Gasol led the team in blocks per game but more importantly he was the defensive quarterback on the team, calling out assignments and making sure everyone was where they needed to be.
Zach: This is so tough to name since there were injuries to just about everyone who is known to play good defense. However, since I’m a numbers guy I like to first look at the data, then recall the game footage to make my case. For this season’s Def MVP I’m gonna select a dark hose, Kosta Koufos. The Grizzlies defensive rating in the 1349 minutes Kosta played was 99.6. When he was off the court (granted nearly double the minutes he was on it), the Grizzlies Defensive rating was 103.4. That is a net rating of 3.8. Ed Davis actually had more of an impact statistically, with a 4.9 net rating, but when watching the game especially with the second unit, Kosta anchored the defense in the middle and was exceptional at the PnR D.
Jonathan: It’s got to be Marc Gasol. The team struggled to be a middle-of-the-pack defensive unit until he returned in Mid-January, at which time the team regained its top-2 defensive status.
Antonia: Easy, Tony Allen. Though he got injured and was put in a funk late in the season, you cannot deny that without Tony we would not have made it to the 7th game against OKC. Tony Allen took every defensive matchup as a challenge and carried a chip on his shoulder every game. This post-season, it is not hard for me to say that he displayed one of his best defensive performances in a long time.
Matthew: Marc Gasol. It’s hard not to give it to TA, but over the course of the season Marc played defensive quarterback wonderfully.
3. What was the biggest team-wide improvement over last season?
Chip: That’s tough to say. The team did use their bench far better this season which allowed the starters to be more effective when on the court. They took a few more 3 point shots which opened things up inside. That allowed the team to shoot more effectively as well. Overall the team, when healthy, appeared to be better top to bottom but unfortunately it didn’t translate to the final standings due to excessive injuries and a couple of suspensions at the end.
Zach: Field goal percentage shooting. The Grizzlies field goal percentage was 2 percentage points higher than last year (46.4% vs 44.4%) and the best since the 2010-2011 season. Their points per game increased to 95.5 from 92.8 in 2012-2013.
Jonathan: Outside shooting. The addition of Courtney Lee and Mike Miller plus the evolution of Mike Conley into an ever-increasingly dangerous outside threat was a big step forward for this squad.
Antonia: I think the biggest improvement was the individual growth of players. Mike Conley making the extra stride to be able to deserve a chance at the All-Star games, Marc Gasol continuing to become a better defensive anchor, facilitator, and leader, are all examples of this. Zach Randolph also proved he was far from declining, putting in a major amount of work this season, especially with all the injuries.
Matthew: Fewer forced post entry passes. Sounds like an oversimplification, but it’s a major symptom of the Grizzlies’ disease of offensive limitations that’s been raging the last couple seasons.
4. Which Grizzly improved the most this season?
Chip: Mike Conley was clearly embracing the increased workload since the Rudy Gay trade. Ed Davis and Jon Leuer made strides to improve but over the length of the season they didn’t really step up that much. I would say that Mike Miller made the biggest strides simply by proving he could play 82 games despite his past but he wasn’t on the team last season. Absent any major improvement from anyone on the team last season I would have to go with Mike Conley.
Zach: Jon Leuer. Most every other player was injured and dealt with some altering to their productivity on the court at times. However, Jonny Basketball improved his shooting and became a reliable option off the bench when needed.
Jonathan: Going to have to say Conley again, but that’s also just a reflection on the other returning players relatively stagnant development – which I don’t mean to be as big a slight as you may think.
Antonia: Mike Miller. Even though he was on the Miami Heat last year, his improvement was significant enough for me to mention him. In the recent past, he suffered majorly from back issue which restricted him from playing 100%. He also played on restricted minutes, being put on the bench until playoff time. The improvement of his health is amazing. Going from playing only spot minutes to averaging 20 min a game and playing every game this season is a big jump, and I think showed an improvement from what we originally expected to get from him.
Matthew: I can’t answer Dave Joerger? Huh…that makes this one really, really tough. The known quantities (ZBo, Gasol, TA, Conley) were “who we thought they were”, as the saying goes, and one can’t expect Prince to “progress” at this stage. it might have been Ed Davis, but his minutes fluctuated so wildly that we didn’t really get a chance to see.
5. Who did you expect more from in 2013-14?
Chip: Tayshaun Prince was clearly the biggest disappointment. Perhaps the intestinal issues at the beginning of the season took a larger toll than we realized but his decline in play was dramatic and ultimately catastrophic to the team’s chances to advance. His benching in Game 7 was probably too little too late but the reality is that people wanted him out of the starting lineup basically once James Johnson was acquired. Ed Davis and Quincy Pondexter also deserve notice. Davis for his inability to crack the rotation consistently and QPon for his lost season.
Zach: Ed Davis. I really thought Ed was going to be an incredible asset off the bench. He clearly had his moments of greatness, but he also seemed to be lost at times on the court. Maybe he didn’t buy in to Joerger’s coaching style, maybe he just isn’t that good or maybe he is a young guy still looking for his identity. I am not sure, but I definitely expected him to be the ZBO replacement, and that is clearly not very promising at this point. He was very solid in Toronto, but just never materialized this season.
Jonathan: Ed “Boss” Davis. I think we all expected him to demonstrate that he is ready to play PF in the NBA (on a winning team) and he fell well short of that, essentially falling out of the rotation by mid-season. What is Ed Davis’s go-to move in the post? I challenge you to find one. Totally missed the mark and Joerger’s refusal to play him in Game 7 despite the lack of Zach Randolph was a major indictment of his future with this team (and perhaps in the league). Also a big endorsement of Lionel Hollins’ treatment of Ed.
Antonia: Courtney Lee. When we first obtained him, I couldn’t believe the upgrade we were receiving. For the first month, he averaged 12 points on 40% 3P shooting and 53% FG shooting, but ever since all-star break, he struggled. Since February 16, his shooting percentages dropped drastically as well as his PPG. His 3P% dropped to 34% and his PPG dropped to 9.2 (as a starter). I thought we received a huge upgrade from what we saw the first month, but as time went on, it seems what we received back is a same-to-worse shooter and a much better defender.
Matthew: Gasol. Looked for him to call his own number more and be more aggressive calling for a screen at that elbow around which he could curl and hit the lane for the hook or the dropoff. Can’t really blame him, with the discord at season’s outset and a major injury thrown in the middle, but I expected more from him offensively.
Don’t forget to check back in with us tomorrow as we take a look at the performance of the roster.