To say it’s been a rough week for Grizzly fans would be an understatement of understatements, so in this edition of the Friday Morning Five the 3 Shades of Blue team tries to make sense of it all. Be sure to make your voice heard as well in the comments section!
1. It’s hard to dole out praise when the team is playing this poorly, but who’s been the Grizzlies’ MVP since we checked in last Friday?
Phillip Dean: Jon Leuer or The Jonny Badger. He has put up incredible numbers off the bench so far and continues to best the most consistent player on this team as well as having the most energy on the floor.
Lee Eric Smith: I’m going to not say “MVP” and go with “LWP” — as in “Least Worst Player.” And my vote would have to go to Jon Leuer. The guy has been fairly consistent in the time he’s gotten and he seems like the textbook “playing time will pay off later in the season when everybody is healthy” kind of player.
Chip Crain: Jon Leuer. He’s the only player who has consistently been producing and hasn’t been injured since last Friday. Without a single win over the last week I have a difficult time considering anyone an MVP however. Zach, Tony and others are starting to try and step up but only Leuer has been a consistent player, albeit mostly on the offensive end, over the last week.
Josh Coleman: The guy who has played the best and most consistently has been Jon Leuer without question. However, I think the MVP continues to be Marc Gasol, since his absence has made it quite obvious how much this squad needs him in order to play as a cohesive unit.
Carl Chaplin: Tony Allen has been ‘Mister Hustle’ and doing all he can to keep the Grizzlies in the game. He has shown determination no matter how much the Grizzlies are behind. He stat lines are impressive. So he is the MVP.
2. There’s a 5-on-5 up on ESPN looking at who should consider tanking, where the respondents were unanimous in that the Grizzlies should not. Agree?
Phillip: Agree. They shouldn’t consider tanking because they have so much talent on the roster. You hope when Gasol comes back this team can make a run to get the 7th or 8th seed in the playoffs.
Lee: Should NOT tank. Aside from the fact that Memphis fans would not tolerate it, the team is just not healthy. The injury bug has officially been named a tick — bites down HARD, and digs in. Assuming that Marc Gasol can rejoin the team in fairly good health in the next 4-6 weeks, the team will have time to put together a strong finish. Plus, if you tank with this team, the vets that we love would likely be looking for the door. Can’t see Zach Randolph and Tony Allen being excited about a rebuild less than a year after reaching the WCF.
Chip: I never believe in tanking. I especially don’t believe in tanking in December when Gasol likely less than a month away from returning but I will ask you a question instead. With a bare bones roster ravaged by injury is the team tanking or just that bad? Right now whether you call it tanking or not likely has no effect on the outcome of games. The team isn’t tanking. They just aren’t very good with all the injuries.
Josh: I agree completely that the team should not be considering tanking at this juncture. We’re only 25 games into the season, and they have already lost almost as many games to injury as they did all of last season. If they continue to lose 3 of every 5 games until early February or the All-Star break, THEN you can look at the lottery as the only logical option and start playing the young guys to let them develop and evaluate them.
Carl: Agree! Injuries have decimated the Grizzlies starting five, but the season is far from over and when everyone (except for maybe Quincy Pondexter) return, they will be contenders in the West.
3. He’s been dealt a tough hand, but if you had to give a grade to Coach Joerger so far…
Phillip: I would give Joerger a C-. He’s had a rough go so far with injuries and the Pondexter incident but there are players on this team that want to play hard for him the problem is his new style of offense has been a difficult process to learn.
Lee: D. As I have said many times before, I think Coach Joerger is a good coach, and perhaps will grow into a great coach. But I think we see now how much Lionel Hollins’ imprint was on the team. Many of the same players, but they seemed to take much more pride on the defensive end than they do now. Either that, or they were just scared that Hollins would yank them out of games and rip them a new one if they screw up on defense. In any case, it’s easy to imagine Hollins willing the team to at least four more wins by now.
Chip: I’d give him a C-. It would be higher without the injuries likely but at best I would only give him a C+. He clearly wasn’t ready to lead the team at the start of the season and it cost the team a couple of games that I personally believe Lionel Hollins would have won simply because Hollins was never unprepared. Joerger’s best moments came on the California road trip when he started playing Hollins ball also running the starters longer minutes and severely shortening the rotation. He’s already coming close to losing the players if Quincy’s attitude against the Nets is taken as a deep issue across the team but I am unsure you can take it that far right now.
Josh: As of today, I’d give Joerger a B- simply because you cannot penalize a coach for the kinds of injuries he has had to deal with to this point. During the California 4-game sweep (which seems like a lifetime ago now), he had the team hitting on all cylinders, which points to knowing how to motivate and utilize his players properly.
Carl: C. The Grizzlies start games slow and come back out of half-time without fire. The offense and defense are mediocre. That all falls on the coach. I would have graded him lower, but the injuries are a factor.
4. Kosta Koufos came on strong when Marc went down, but his production has since fallen off a cliff. What’s happened to him?
Phillip: He has had some tough matchups lately with Pekovic, Pau Gasol, and Nowitzki. This Saturday he will face Tyson Chandler — not an easy matchup. I’ve talked to him after games about this and he has said it’s a marathon and that he will get better soon.
Lee: Jon Leuer happened to him. For one thing, Jon Leuer can make a shot. And he’s not a bad rebounder either. Kosta wasn’t and probably won’t be an offensive threat, but he was good for defense and rebounding. But when you need scoring and/or you neet to go with a smaller lineup, Leuer can put points on the board, and thus earn more playing time.
Chip: Teams started playing him differently. I expect the same downturn in performance from Leuer as teams start to adapt to what his first moves are and start taking them away. Koufos was the forgotten man at first with Randolph getting the big man double team. Now teams are bringing wing players down to double and leaving a big on Koufos. Clearly Kosta isn’t that polished an offensive player.
Josh: I think that K2 has allowed the pressure to mount and get inside his head a bit. Instead of just playing, he’s started thinking. In other words, he’s doing the same thing that Ed Davis did for the first several games this season. I expect Koufos to right the ship sooner, rather than later.
Carl: I wish I knew. It seems part of it is his offensive skills are lacking greatly. His hook won’t fall and his tip-ins seem to be weak and not toward the basket. Even though he played as a starter last year, he doesn’t seem to get the Memphis offensive flow.
5. With the bar as low as it is right now, can new addition James Johnson unseat Tayshaun Prince as the starting small forward?
Phillip: No. He will be another addition to the team that needs help on the bench shooting. Either Miller or Leuer will eventually take that spot at starting forward. Unless they sign a new player or trade Tayshaun.
Lee: I don’t think so. Tay doesn’t put a lot of points on the board, but he does do a lot of the intangibles that help the team — setting screens, making good passes, tap outs. Hard to see a guy who couldn’t stay in the league before unseating Tayshaun, even as poorly as he’s playing. Now, of course, when the Injury Tick bites down and Tayshaun’s elbow falls off…
Chip: The question should be with Prince out can Johnson unseat Miller. Miller and Prince are better all around players but Johnson is young and inexpensive. Anything the team can get out of him is a positive now but there is a reason he washed out in Chicago, Toronto, Sacramento and Atlanta. He isn’t a great passer for a wing nor that great of a rebounder. He can’t hit the outside shot and doesn’t have great ball-handling skills. He can play defense and hit mid-range shots with the occasional monster dunk however.
Josh: Only if Tay’s injuries turn out to be more serious than we have been led to believe. It won’t be for a lack of effort — you can be sure of that. For now though, Joerger will trust Prince more than Johnson, even if Johnson creates a lot more excitement for the fans while on the court.
Carl: Questionable. One game isn’t enough to know how he will perform on a regular basis in the big league. The bar may be low, but his D-League stats don’t show him to be a great shooter and in the NBA going to the middle and scoring is a lot harder than the D-League
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!