If you aren’t familiar with Gothic Ginobili, you’re truly missing out. It’s one of smartest basketball blogs around. This past summer, GG blogger Aaron McGuire took on a seemingly impossible task; to write an essay which he called a “player capsule” about 370 different NBA players. His Herculean task came to an end on Monday, with Matt Bonner of the Spurs being the final entry. I strongly recommend checking out all of the capsules because they are all extremely well-written, but for now, let’s simply focus on what he said about the Grizzlies.
Zach Randolph was one of the last players to appear, and the profile was mostly positive. McGuire praises his strong offensive game, likening him to a poor man’s Karl Malone. He also discusses Z-Bo’s tumultuous off-court life, asking the same question many have pondered in the past: is Zach Randolph a good person? He finds the question unanswerable, but praises him for his recent efforts to improve his off-court life. I thought this was a more than fair look at Z-Bo, which did an excellent job at pointing how strong his offensive game can be, especially his ability to hit difficult shots appear to have no chance of going in.
My favorite capsule was his entry on Mike Conley. I’ve been suggesting in multiple posts here than Conley is a better point guard than most people think, that he is the most essential player to how the Grizzlies operate. It was nice to see someone who isn’t a huge Grizzlies fan make the same argument. McGuire might appreciate Conley’s game even more than I do, going as far as to suggest that Conley may be a top 5 point guard. Granted, that may have been because Conley’s capsule came at a very opportune time, near the beginning of the season when Conley was shooting considerably better than he has been lately. Still, nice to see a player as great as Conley get some respect from outside the Memphis media.
How you feel about his entry on Rudy Gay will likely to depend on you feel about Gay. He considers him a second-tier volume scorer, which might be a hard pill to swallow for those who consider him a top-5 small forward, but he praises him for his strong defense. Specifically, he notes that while other offensive players like J.R. Smith, and Monta Ellis don’t really try on defense, Gay always puts up a strong effort on both sides of the ball. His biggest knock on Gay is his inability to get to the free throw line, which, regrettably has continued to be a problem this year. If Gay was more willing to draw contact, he could be outing up upwards of 25 a game. I thought this capsule did a fine job of discussing the highs and lows of one of the more complex players in the game.
The entry on Marc Gasol came up relatively early in the project, back in the summer when no one was quite sure what to expect from 2012-13 Grizzlies. He praises Gasol for being extremely impressive during the beginning portion of the year, but notes that his game declined significantly as the season went on. Rather than put the blame for this on Marc’s shoulders, however, he notes that Gasol was forced to play far more minutes than the average center, due to the injuries to Z-Bo and Darrell Arthur. towards the end, he predicts that the Grizzlies will be a much tougher next year with Randolph back, and based on what we’ve seen so far, I think he hit that prediction dead on.
As for Tony Allen, McGuire naturally mentions his excellent defense, since it’s impossible to talk about Allen without bringing that up, but he dissects it more than most. Rather than just talking about his abilities in the one-on-one game, he notes than Allen excels in the passing lanes as well. He also notes that Allen was a great value signing for the Grizzlies, since they managed to pick him up at a mere 3 year/9.5 million dollar deal. He’ll presumably be wanting more when his deal runs out after this season , but in the mean time, the Grizzlies scored big time with Allen’s deal.
With regards to Marreese Speights, he touches on one of the biggest oddities in his game; he’s one of the few big men who is better on long shots that he is at the rim. If you’ve watched him last year, you know that was the case quite a bit. Speights has a great jumper, but often struggles to finish. McGuire wasn’t as impressed with Speight’s defense as others. It’s interesting; Speights seems to be a decent defensive player, but it’s often hard to tell if it’s because of what he’s doing, or because of how strong the Grizzlies defense in general is.
McGuire’s capsule on Quincy Pondexter with the faintest praise humanly possible, noting that he “isn’t a terrible player.” He’s actually fairly nice to Pondexter though, noting that he’s actually a better player than his raw numbers would have you believe. I think if you watched Pondexter in 2011-12, it was hard not come away with that impression. It’s too bad this one was written before the season started. Otherwise, Pondexter’s far greater presence could’ve been noted, including his emergence as the team’s three-point specialist.
Jerryd Bayless came up relatively early in the project, and I can’t help thinking if it had appeared later, he wouldn’t have been as kind. His biggest criticism of Bayless is that he is a poor finisher, often struggling to shoot at the rim, but he praises his Bayless for his shooting ability, and his ability to spread the floor by hitting threes and long twos. Bayless has struggled in Memphis so far, but this entry reminds us of what he’s been good at in the past. Hopefully, Bayless can back to doing some of the things McGuire mentioned here.
His capsule on Darrell Arthur discusses what many Grizzlies fans have known for awhile; that ARthur is a quietly effective player, who improves the team in ways that are not always apparent to the naked eye. He notes that the mere presence of Arthur is very important to the Grizzlies simply for the depth he provides. He reiterates his point from the Gasol capsule about how important it is to have a talented big man off the bench, so your starting center isn’t physically drained after playing so much all season long. He notes that Arthur is a great defender, and praises his ability to score at the rim. I felt like this really captured the little ways Arthur contributes to the team, and the large sum all those things add up to.
His capsule on Josh Selby was easily his most negative profile of any Grizzly, as he notes that Selby was “arguably the worst rookie in the league last year.” To those who watched him play, that’s a difficult thing to argue. Selby has some potential, but he just hasn’t done much in the NBA. He was unimpressed by Selby’s MVP performance in the summer league, and considering that he’s played even last year than he did last year, I’d say he completely nailed that one.
In his capsule on Wayne Ellington, McGuire notes that he was a solid pickup for Memphis, who desperately needed a three-point shooter, but he also praises Dante Cunningham, and wonders if Memphis succeeded value wise with the deal. Ellington has gone on to show occasional brilliance this season, followed by extended rough stretches. McGuire hypothesizes that Ellington’s poor season in Minnesota last year may end up being a positive since opposing defenses will lay off him now. I think that would’ve been true, if not for Ellington’s big game against Miami. Everyone knows you can’t sleep on this guy now.
Finally, when he discusses Hamed Haddadi, he doesn’t have too many nice things say about his game. He notes that he is a strong rebounder, and can score at the rim, but also that he often gets too tired too quickly to receive any significant playing time. We’ve seen that problem again this year, as Haddadi has essentially been an after thought, not even coming close to sniffing the rotation. Haddadi has some talent, but he has yet to really put it together, and it’s becoming less and less likely that ever will.
Overall, I was thoroughly impressed with the Player Capsule Project. it was a massive undertaking, and yet, the quality of McGuire’s writing never suffered. With regards to his comments on the Grizzlies, there were none that I greatly disagreed with, and I really appreciated his kind words about Conley. Overall, it was a fantastic effort, and I recommend reading every entry, not the just ones on the Grizzlies. You’ll find something worthwhile or interesting in all of them.