Memphiscloses out what has to be described as simply a fantastic pre-season trying to have their first perfect pre-season slate. It’s only pre-season but surprisinglyonly one team in the last 17 that went through the pre-season with one loss of less failed to make the playoffs and that team (Utah) had a winning record. The Grizzlies aren’t packing their starters up for extra minutes either. Themuch maligned bench has had as much to do with the wins as the starters performance. Sam Young, Darrell Arthur and Xavier Henry have been the most impressive bench players but even Hasheem Thabeet and Acie Law have played well overall in the pre-season.
Detroithas been dealing with an aging teamtrying to integratefresh blood into their lineup. With JonasJerebko out for the season with an achilles injury Charlie Villanueva will returnto the starting lineup but there are people behind him looking to knock him out of that role. Detroit has been playing certain players long minutes in the pre-season including 37 minutes from Rodney Stuckey in their last game at Charlotte. One has to wonder why a coach would be playing his starters so long in pre-season when the team is aging and had numerous injury issues last season and have injuries to Tracy McGrady and Terrico White.
Point Guards:Mike ConleyvsRodney Stuckey
Stuckey put up 34 points in 37 minutes against rookie John Wall in the last game. It is highly doubtful that Stuckey will play that many minutes against the Grizzlies however. Or is it? Will Bynum is the primary backup to Stuckey and he was held out of the previous game. Conley has been continuing to be the aggressive PG that ended the season last year but his assist totals haven’t been that impressive. Until Conley starts driving and dishing to teammates he will be considered a weak option at PG. Law has gotten the majority of minutes behind Conley in the pre-season but has a slight injury so don’t be surprised to see Mayo playing backup PG in the game since Vasquez is out.
Shooting Guards:O J MayovsRichard Hamilton
O J Mayo is supposed to be in the best condition of his career which has been notable for his excellent condition. Running Rip will test that theory. Assuming he starts that is. Ben Gordon has been getting a long look at replacing Hamilton in the lineup. Mayo has looked bored at times in the pre-season as his failure to reach double figures in scoring during the pre-season can attest to. Xavier Henry and Tony Allen are expected to be the reserves and both should see big minutes especially if Law doesn’t play.
Small Forwards:Rudy GayvsTayshaun Prince
The young versus the old as Rudy Gay tackles Prince at the three spot. Prince looked like he was over the hill at the beginning of last season but came onstrong to end the year and has been sharp all pre-season. Rudy had a great summer with the USA national team and has been coasting sofar in the pre-season but still making some nice plays. Both players are very talented and even though Rudy’s defense is improved Prince is the better defender and playing at home.
Power Forwards:Zach RandolphvsCharlie Villanueva
Charlie V. should start this game but it is far from settled if he has won the job. Jasom Maxiel and rookie Greg Monroe are making noises that they should be starting instead. Z-Bo has not been putting in his typical effort so far but that is to be expected from a veteran during pre-season. There is nothing to suggest another 20/10 campaign isn’t in the cards especially when you consider that Z-Bo is a free agent this summer.
Centers:Marc GasolvsBen Wallace
Big Ben Wallace used to be the most terrifying center in the game. That was many years ago. Wallace is 36 now and the year’s of pounding appear to be taking their toll on his once intimidating game. HIs rebound numbers have been falling as has his blocks and steals. Marc Gasol started the pre-season very slowly but has been improving every game. It is likely that Gasol will not see many minutes in this game however with Haddadi finally back in camp and Thabeet needing every minute on the court he can get.
Detroit has a young and hungry bench but the injury to Jerebko puts a damper on the excitement. Tracy McGrady won’t be playing but when you consider a bench of Ben Gordon, Tracy McGrady, Will Bynum, Austin Daye, Jason Maxiel and rookie Greg Monroe there is a lot to be excited about on the Pistons bench. Austin Daye in particular has been very effective. Memphis’ bench has been playing far better than all but the most optomistic fans could expect. Sam Young has been scoring well, Darrell Arthur has been creating hustle opportunities and even rookie Xavier Henry has been looking more comfortable. The team needs more production from Hasheem Thabeet but he does look improved over last season.