Hey y’all! Here at 3 Shades of Blue we figure, “what better way to jump start the weekend than to take a collective look at some pressing matters facing the Grizzlies?” So every Friday morning, we’ll be running it down round-table style to get things going as the work week grinds down to a close. So without further ado: (and I promise, no mention of that awful loss against the Clippers last night)
1. Let’s talk about Mike Conley for a second. Where does he rank among NBA point guards right now?
Carl Chaplin: As far as the overall play, he is in the top rakings. Hollinger’s stats for point guards, he ranks third, 4th in least turnovers, value added, and estimated wins added. Only Chris Paul and Stephen Curry rate consistently ahead of him. So, he ranks in the top 5 PG, but he won’t get the recognition that those guys get because of the team he plays on and he isn’t considered flashy enough.
Josh Coleman: I have Conley ranked outside of the Top 5 in the nebulous region where you can make an argument of anyone from Jrue Holiday to Ty Lawson to Conley being the next best guy. None of them are in that CP3/Parker/Curry/Kyrie area, but the cannot distinguish themselves from one another either. Conley’s AST/TO ratio of almost 11-to-1 over the last 4 games is absolutely ridiculous though.
Chip Crain: Tough call but I can’t put him ahead of Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving or Damian Lillard right now. I’d put him in the next group however so he’s between 6 and 10 I guess.
Phillip Dean: I see Mike Conley somewhere in the bottom half of the Top 10. Somewhere between 7-10. He’s having a career year right now and I hope people recognize it and give him a chance to be in the All-Star game. He brings energy to this team. He is one of the key reasons the Grizzlies have some success right now.
John Hugar: I think Conley is really high up there, especially with his increased scoring average. Guys like Wall and Kyrie are bigger names with flashier games, but I’d take Conley over either of them. Really, the only healthy point guards I’d take over him are CP3, Parker, Westbrook, and Curry. So, with Rose and Rondo out, he sneaks into the top 5 for the time being (Lillard would be 6th). Kind of a shame all the top point guards play in the West, and Lillard is getting more hype, so he probably can’t sneak into the All-Star game. Still, anyone who really knows basketball knows that Conley has become one of the best point guards in the league. He just gets better every year, and his Win Share and PER keep climbing higher and higher.
2. Though playing faster than last year, the Grizzlies are still last in the league in pace at 92.8 possessions per game. Does that number rise as the season goes on?
Carl: With the players that the Grizzlies have, especially Marc and ZBo, I don’t think they can speed up the game much. The other contributing factor is that the Grizzlies play good defense and the other teams have to work harder to score, which slows the overall pace of the game. The Grizzlies still play an inside game. I would say the pace will stay about the same, with possibly a slight increase.
Josh: I expect it to rise, although not drastically. Much like the Chicago Bulls, the Grizzlies’s ability to win games is based on grinding their opponents down defensively, forcing them to use all of the shot clock to get off a decent shot. Because of that, both teams will have fewer possessions to work with. As long as they are efficient on offense, a low rate of possessions per game isn’t a big concern to me.
Chip: Most definitely but that doesn’t mean the Grizzlies will crawl out of the cellar. Pace is a two-edged sword after all. On the offensive end I believe the pace will quicken as the team gets more comfortable with each other and Joerger’s changes. Defensively the Grizzlies are still going to make opponents work hard and that means a slower pace in the total game.
Phillip: Yes but not that much. Still see them in the bottom of the league in that category. They allow teams to move the ball too much and get wide open shots.
John: It might go up by a little, but let’s be honest; slow is what the Grizzlies do. It’s their identity during the Grit ‘N Grind era, and I doubt that changes any time soon. It’s the game their comfortable with – the Grizzlies tend to struggle the most when the other team controls the tempo. When they force teams into longer possessions – and weaker shots – they tend to be successful.
3. The Quincy Pondexter situation: a big deal or much ado about nothing?
Carl: MAAN. Quincy is a good swing man between SG and SF, but his shoot is not consistent enough to be a big deal now. His defense is not superb or bad, just average. Hopefully he will develop into a star.
Josh: It was a big deal when it happened, and soon enough it will be forgotten as long as Quincy learned the lesson that has been imparted by both his teammates and the coaching staff. While I heard fans chanting for him on Tuesday night and even the guy who sits next to me wondered aloud why Joerger wasn’t playing him, a coach has to have discipline, so I supported his decision to sit QPon for the entirety of the game.
Chip: Could become a big deal but currently it is much ado about nothing. Quincy made a mistake, he’s been punished and it is time to move on. If he does it again then there will be something to report.
Phillip: To Quincy it is. The rest of the locker room no. Having talked to him a couple of times he is without a doubt one of the nicer players in the league but you don’t act this way professionally. This can create a bad environment in the locker room. I honestly feel that no one on that roster is feeling sympathy for him right now. This team is trying to fix a lot of problems without Marc Gasol and he’s staring down coaches and not happy about playing time. If Zach Randolph and Gasol were in the locker room this situation would have been cleaned up a lot sooner.
John: Its hard to get to upset about Quincy not playing when they handled the Suns so well without him, but it is a bit odd. It’s not like he can’t play – he single-handedly made the Grizzlies-Nets game close again in the 4th quarter. Joerger is still tinkering with lineups and that means some guys – the ones who slip into slumps – are going to see fewer minutes and perhaps miss a few games. I doubt it lasts long, and Quincy will soon be a regular rotation piece once again.
4. Tony Allen is shooting a shade over 53% from the field to start the season. How long does this keep up?
Carl: It will slowly decline to around 40%-45%, and that would be good. Tony is a streak shooter, but he says that he practices his shot a lot, so hopefully it could stay in the 40% range. That would help because teams tend to slack off of him to double-team the big guys. He can add better spacing to the opponents defense if he can shoot in the 40% or better range.
Josh: As long as TA continues to pick his spots and (more importantly) hit his layups, he should be able to hover around 50% for the rest of the season. If he tries to take too many jumpers outside of the flow of the offense, then expect that number to drop like a stone.
Chip: Don’t ask me. I can’t believe it has lasted this long. However he has been working on his jump shot and with the offense spreading the court more and lanes opening up it is possible he can shoot a high percentage all season. The main drawback is Tony’s love of shooting. Can he control himself when the shots aren’t falling will go a long way toward determining his season long success.
Phillip: I think so . This was something I believe the coaches wanted Tony to work on in the off-season and I have no problem with it. The 3-point percentage scares me. I get nervous whenever he shoots 3-pointers. There’s a reason defenses leave him open for 3.
John: He can’t possibly keep that up, but it might not regress as much as one might think. Tony isn’t a great shooter – but he knows that. He’s a 10-year veteran, and he’s figured out how to make smart plays, and take high percentage shots. He’ll be able to score by driving to the hoop, and while his jumper will regress somewhat, I think he can still shoot in the high 40s for the year.
5. What is the Grizzlies’ win percentage on the day that Marc Gasol returns?
Carl: Hopefully it will be around 50%. That would be good as the games through January 3 (6 weeks after Marc went down) are loaded with good Western Conference teams. Only 3 of the games would be considered against bottom rung teams: Orlando, New York, Utah. To go 6-7 or 7-6 in those 13 games would be good. The 12 games till January 29 (2 months after Marc’s injury) have only Detroit, Milwaukee and Sacramento as lower ranked teams.
Josh: My expectation is for them to be just a shade over .500, although probably only by a few games. Something in the neighborhood of 21-17, which is a winning percentage of about .553. Hopefully, they’ll surprise me and be better than that.
Chip: I think this team is better top to bottom than any team in Grizzlies history but with 5 new faces, a tough schedule and a new coach a slow start was inevitable. Gasol and Randolph’s injuries actually could be a blessing in disguise. It’s forcing Davis, Leuer and Koufos to step up and that should only pay dividends when both big men return leading to an exciting end of the season rush for the playoffs.
Phillip: I see them 3 games over .500 when Marc returns.
John: I think they might actually be okay. Losing a guy like Marc definitely hurts, but I think Koufos looks good in the starting lineup – especially with regards to his rebounding. There will be nights when Marc’s game is severely missed, and other nights when thing hum along just fine. I think they end up slightly over .500 during his injury, and kick it into overdrive upon his return.
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!