There have been a few rumors surrounding the issue of the Grizzlies front line. After spending millions to keep the frontline of Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay together their replacements suddenly have become the issue at the Grizzlies pre-season camp.
The issues began when Shane Battier, the main player acquired in the Hasheem Thabeet trade, signed with the Miami Heat before camp. Shane’s resigning with the Grizzlies was desired but never expected. The team was deep at Small Forward so it wasn’t seen like a big loss at the time.
Darrell Arthur, who’s fantastic 3rd season went a long way toward helping the Grizzlies rise to the level they did, suffered an achilles tendon injury. If ruptured Arthur will need to have surgery on the tendon. The recovery time is approximately two months in a hard cast followed by 3-4 months in a walking boot. This effectively ends Arthur’s season.
Hamed Haddadi, the backup center who has shown glimpses of ability in irregular minutes, is once again having visa issues leaving Iran and has not been in the states, much less camp. yet. It is unknown when or if he will be allowed to leave the country although Hamed himself tweeted that he had worked out his issues and was ready to leave for camp. If signed, and Haddadi is a restricted free agent, Haddadi would be the only returning backup front line player in camp.
The big men in camp aren’t hard to miss. Brian Skinner, the 13 year veteran journeyman, is the most recognizable. His career has been mainly as a backup bruiser willing to do the dirty work. Josh Davis is a 6-8 center who’s hustle and heart would fit in well with the Grizzlies mantra of heart, grit and grind but whose skills are lacking for an NBA player. Walter Sharpe has the height but not the physical build to bang under the basket in the NBA and is a long shot to make the team despite it’s depleted nature.
That is a very thin frontline especially considering the condensed season with multiple back to back games.
The Commercial Appeal is reporting that there are rumors about players the Grizzlies may be interested in acquiring either Dante Cunningham, a restricted free agent of the Charlotte Bobcats, or Mareese Speights, a power forward from Philadelphia, who the Sixers are reportedly shopping around. To sign Cunningham requires the Grizzlies to make an offer high enough to dissuade Portland from matching. To acquire Speights requires assets, most likely from the Grizzlies ample supply of guards however he isn’t considered good enough to bring O J Mayo back in trade.
If Haddadi does return to the Grizzlies and – while there is no guarantee he will at this time – it is looking likely, then the Grizzlies still need or desire a 3rd player capable of handling the center position. Big men suffer the most from condensed seasons.
Speights is capable of playing both PF and C in the NBA. His weakness has been an understanding of defensive positioning. Similar to Memphis Tigers big man Tarik Black, Speights struggles recognizing defensive situations which gets him to his position late often creating fouls instead of drawing them. Offensively Speights has the ability to score down low and is an accomplished offensive player. The rumor is to get Speights the Grizzlies may have to give up draft picks and Greivis Vasquez or Xavier Henry, possibly both.
Dante Cunningham finally started showing some promise in Charlotte after languishing on the bench in Portland. In 22 games, including 9 starts, at Charlotte Cunningham averaged 24 minutes a night posting 9. PPG and 4.0 RPG. At 6’8″ and 230 pounds Cunningham is similar in size to Arthur. Cunningham played college ball at Villanueva and was the team’s leading scorer and rebounding his senior season.
Neither player combines the offensive and defensive skill set of Darrell Arthur. If the Grizzlies are going to reach their goals for the season either another option will need to found or the starting frontline will need to play even longer shifts without injury.