The Grizzlies take on the Pelicans tonight, but the 3 Shades of Blue staff took on another round of the Friday Morning Five. Dive in and enjoy! And let us know if you agree/disagree with us in the comments section!
1. Who’s the Grizzlies’ player of the week?
Chip Crain: Mike Conley. Conley consistently ran the team’s offense well either scoring himself or dealing to others. Jon Leuer deserves recognition but he is the beneficiary of Conley’s play and team’s overplaying Randolph more than a creator himself.
Steve Danziger: I honestly feel like we could bestow this honor upon Mike Conley every week. Especially with Gasol out, this ship will sail as Conley steers it. An interesting thing to watch, though will be his defensive impact — notably his steal numbers going forward. With Gasol sidelined, he’s been lacking the confidence to jump the passing lanes, and he has yet to have a multi-steal game since the big man’s injury.
Matt Noe: Marc Gasol, as his absence has been made more glaring with each passing game. There’s a case to be made that he’s as important a two-way player as the Grizzlies have ever had. Koufos was a great pickup for sure, but he can’t operate at the elbow effectively on either end, and the offensive gap is bigger than the defensive one.
Lee Eric Smith: My Grizz of the Week would have to be Jon Leuer. The kid is making the most of the opportunities the injuries have given him, for sure.
2. So Zach Randolph trade talk has kicked up again. Is he still a Grizzly after the trade deadline?
Chip: That could depend on Randolph. If he at least publicly comes out and agrees to take a pay cut and opt out of his contract at $16.5 million next season he is too expensive. Davis and Leuer deserve time behind him and that makes an aging Randolph a luxury the team may pass on.
Steve: I’m going to say yes. I think an underrated benefit of Randolph’s presence on the floor is his ability to keep Conley and Gasol efficient, by eating up the bad possessions. He’s arguably the only player left on the roster that they can dump the ball to on a broken possession and with confidence say that he’ll make something of it. The front office will probably put out feelers with Zach’s name attached, but I’m not sure there’s going to be a big enough bite to get them to pull the trigger. But heck I’m the guy who wrote this “gem” the day before Rudy Gay was traded.
Matt: Yes. He’s the only horse the Grizzlies have to ride currently, and the Pelicans won’t make a deal sweet enough to consummate a trade for him. The wild card? With the darker side of the locker room having been displayed recently (the Hecker situation, QPon’s, well, antics..etc..), will Zach start to get sick of losing and see greener grass on the other side of the fence?
Lee: Man, I hope so. Trading Zach would in essence signal that the front office is ready to blow up the team. I don’t think they are that short sighted, given how Zach is revered in Memphis, how his style of play fits the city, how he gives back. Then again, I thought bringing back Lionel Hollins was a no-brainer too. What do I know?
3. With Quincy Pondexter shut down for the year, do the Grizzlies need to acquire another wing?
Chip: First the team needs to give Bayless and Franklin an opportunity to show what they can do. Bayless in particular has struggled and that as much as Quincy’s injury has hurt the team. If Bayless doesn’t improve the team will be forced to sign someone. Prince and Miller can handle the minutes if not well at least acceptably.
Steve: Yes. I love the promise of Jamaal Franklin, but at 6’5 and 200 pounds soaking wet, I think he’s best suited to play strictly at the two. In other words, unless we have faith that Prince and Miller are going to hold up playing about 40+ minutes a night between the two of them, the Grizzlies should probably get another big-enough wing into the mix.
Matt: Yes. Tillery quoted an org. source the other day as saying the Grizzlies are looking for a “diamond in the rough”. Jeremy Richardson, Tarence Kinsey…the list of “lightning in a bottle” players could be getting ready to grow once again. As for choices, there aren’t many. Barbosa? Pietrus?
Lee: Yes. Wings, bigs . . . The question is: Who? I had fleeting hopes for Stephen “Captain Jack” Jackson, but I saw him in a Clippers uni tonight. The problem with trading for a guy is that . . . short of maybe Ed Davis, I’m trying to think of who you can trade that will bring value back in . . . without breaking up the core. Bueller? Bueller?
4. Is Jon Leuer for real?
Chip: I think the numbers he’s putting up is fool’s gold because teams aren’t guarding him that tightly. Defenses are focusing on Randolph leaving Leuer some great opportunities and he has taken advantage of them. When teams start respecting him his numbers will likely come back to earth. He’s capable of making impacts as a bench player but I’m not seeing him as a potential starter yet.
Steve: Yes and no. I think the numbers are artificially inflated by the small sample size, and the three point numbers are bound to come back to earth. I do however see him as a productive offensive player in the David Lee mold, keeping the offense rolling with some high screens and hand-offs. If he can make some plays out of the elbow to bring some degree of normalcy back to the offense, that would be gravy.
Matt: In his Leuer way, certainly. He’s an NBA-quality player for sure, but he’s playing more minutes and more important minutes than maybe he should. Is he the lesser Ryan Anderson? A fair bit lesser, but a worthy player.
Lee: I think he could be. I can’t see him starting on a playoff team, but could he be a “Matt Bonner” lite? Why not? I think Jon Leuer has a place in the league. Will he be a star? I doubt it. But he’s already taken over Hamed Hadaddi’s spot as fan favorite — and he’s a better player too.
5. We’ve got New Orleans on deck, with the Wolves, Lakers, and Mavs to follow. Including the Grizzlies, that’s seeds 9-13 in the West. Which of the upcoming opponents do you see making the strongest push for a playoff spot?
Chip: Dallas has surprised me. I didn’t think the defense would be that good and questioned their ability to play as a team. I’ve watched them a few times now and Carlisle has them playing very well. Next could be the Wolves but they shook up the lineup when they traded Williams and they haven’t jelled yet. Only time will tell if they will.
Steve: It’s hard to bet against Dirk, who has been on a warpath to start the season after missing the playoffs for the first time since his sophomore year. His Mavs have plenty of veterans hanging onto the productive stage of their careers, and are still awaiting the season debut of Devin Harris. I don’t see them making a title run by any stretch of the imagination, but it’ll be interesting to see how they fare, executing an NBA application of the approach that won the Boston Red Sox a title this year.
Matt: The Wolves. If they can avoid the bug that has so sorely bitten the Grizzlies, Lakers, and others, they look good. AND DARNIT THEY HAVE DANTE CUNNINGHAM, WHO THE GRIZZLIES NEVER SHOULD HAVE TRADED. Ok, rant over. They do have a top-five PF, a growing PG, and a guy who looks like he *could very well* simply walk into Mordor.
Lee: That’s tough. My mind is telling me this is the T-Wolves year. Dallas has a very good squad. But my heart says to . . . gulp . . . pick the Lakers. I mean seriously, when was the last time you could root for Kobe Bryant as an underdog?
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 Saturday morning, sending smoke signals, or reaching out on Twitter with the hashtag #FridayMorningFive!