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With the last game behind the team and 5 days until the start of the real season, it’s that time of year when we look back at the players performances during pre-season.

I know that pre-season doesn’t matter. The games are more about getting the team ready for the regular season and not about winning but then again the last 11 teams to win to lose no fewer than one pre-season game have all made the playoffs. That’s good news forUtah, Orlando and your Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies have five players averaging double figure scoring in the pre-season and that list doesn’t include O J Mayo or Marc Gasol. That means the team actually is improving the bench and they are doing it by developing their youth not buying it in the open market.

So without further ado, here’sthe playerspre-season statistical breakdown:

Mike Conley:
25.9 mpg, 13.1 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 3.6 apg,54.1 FG%, 41.2 3p%, 81.8 FT%, 1.0 spg, 3.1 TOpg

Mike is being more aggressive in the pre-season, continuing the attacking style he showed at the end of last season. That’s a very positive thing too because the Grizzlies need someone who can break down defenses off the dribble. Right now Conley appears to be the only one capable of doing that which partially explains his 26.1 mpg, highest among the starters. Conley, who turned 23 earlier this month, seems to be maturing into his roleas lead guard on a team desperate for leadership at the point. More important than his offense has been his defense. Conley held more heralded opponentsto sub-par efforts including Darren Collison (3-9 FG, 9 pts and 5 assists), Chris Paul (35% Shooting 9.5 ppg) and Brandon Jennings (3-10, 12 pts, 2 assists). If he can continue toholdopponent PG’s topoor nights the team will be muchimproved.

O J Mayo:
21.3 mpg, 8.4 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 2.4 apg, 43.3 FG%, 33.3 3p%, 88.2 FT%, 0.9 spg, 1.9 TOpg

If there was any player on the roster who looked to be going thru the moves this pre-season it has been O J Mayo. The team knows what O J is capable of doing and the team also knows how hard he prepares for everything he does so it is no surprise to see the Grizzlies not wanting him to leave it on the court in the pre-season. Mayo has chosen his moments well to let the fans know when needed he is capable of winning games for the team without detracting from the other players development. Possibly the most mature 22 yr old (Mayo turns 23 on November 5) in the league, Mayo should get more rest this season early in games which will allow his legs to be fresher at the end of games when his amazing scoring ability will be needed. While Mayo’s numbers could be causing some anxious moments for fans history tells us that when neededMayo will be there for the team just like he was against New Orleans in the last home pre-season game.

Marc Gasol:
24.8 mpg, 9.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.8 apg, 61.1 FG%, 47.8 FT%, 0.9 spg, 1.4 bpg, 2.6 TOpg
Marc Gasol’s busy summer with the Spanish National Team seemed to leave him flat-footed to start thepre-season. He didn’t get as much rest in the pre-season as he may have liked due to Haddadi’s absence and Thabeet’s foul issues but the man is used to working hard. Gasol appears to be working him into game shape for the start of the season. His last 5 games his averages across the board went up. Gasol is the 4th option on offense for the Grizzlies and understands that role. His offensive game can handle more work but to Gasol knows he needs to perform his role for the team to succeed. This is a contract year for Gasol but it has been made clear the team knows how important Gasol is to their success.

Rudy Gay:
23.3 mpg, 12.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.4 apg, 47.3 FG%, 27.3 3p%, 77.8 FT%, 1.1 spg, 1.1 bpg, 1.3 TOpg

Rudy Gay received the mega-contract this off-season and has shown flashes of brilliance that deserve such numbers but overall he’s been pacing himself. It is highly unlikely that Rudy will average fewer than 35 mpg this season and his numbers will rise accordingly. The major positive seen this pre-season is Rudy’s focus on defense. His rebounding numbers have been sub-par and he will need to address that area of his game during the season. His shotting percentage is a little misleading as well. Take out the 0-7 game at New Orleans and Rudy has hit 50% or better in almost every other game. He was only 3-7 against Caja Laboral.

Zach Randolph:
21.7 mpg, 11.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.6 apg, 50.0 FG%, 72.5 FT%, 0.7 spg, 0.14 bpg, 2.0 TOpg

Zach is only averaging 12 ppg and 5 rpg and the Grizzlies are undefeated? Pre-season definitely produces some odd looking stats from time to time. The 28 yr old Randolph is the old man on the team and his 9 yrs of experience dealing with injuries and fatigue have taught him not to overdue it during pre-season. One has to be impressed however with Randolph’s shooting percentage and physical condition. After a summer that didn’t involve a new contract and did involve a police investigationthere wasconcern that the first time all-star’sdistractions would derail him but so far he looks to be in great shape and ready to play. Randolph has never been that efficient as a scorer but his 52.4 FG% might signal a change for the better in that regard as well.

Darrell Arthur:
24.9 mpg, 11.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 0.5 apg, 55.1 FG%, 65.0 FT%, 0.5 spg, 0.5 bpg, 2.0 TOpg

This is an important season for Arthur and he’s playing like he knows it. Arthur has been an energy guy who’s hustle plays are really helping the bench’s performance. Arthur is hitting his outside shot, hitting the boards and playing tenacious defense. Arthur is also commiting more than two turnovers a game in barely one half of action. That is the downside of an inexperienced hustle player. The reality is that barring injury Arthur likely won’t play even 20 minutes a night this season but if he can come in and grab some rebounds, thrown some elbows and force opponents into uncomfortable shots the team is greatly improved from last season when there was no realistic replacement for Z-Bo.

Sam Young:
21.9 mpg, 11.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 1.0 apg, 55.7 FG%, 50.0 3p%, 60.7 FT%, 0.8 spg, 1.5 TOpg

Sam Young may not be the most improved player from last season but he looks the most different. Gone is the flat overhead shot last season. In it’s place is a more traditional looking shot with far better arc on the his jump shots and it is finding the basket with amazing regularity. Sam’s pump fake has become well known around the league but when a player is hitting over 50% of his shots you can’t sit back and hope he is faking when he goes up anymore. Opponents who do are watching him drain jump shot after jump shot. So why isn’t Sam playing more minutes? Simple. He still seems lost on where his position is supposed to be on the court. Once Young starts to show he understands where he is supposed to be on set plays (and on defense too) then his minutes will likely continue to improve. If he can’t seem to master the plays then he will likely be buried on the bench behind Xavier Henry and Tony Allen.

Acie Law IV:
21.6 mpg, 7.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 4.0 apg, 42.4 FG%, 22.2 3p%, 95.7 FT%, 1.0 spg, .29 bpg, 2.0 TOpg

Acie Law is right where he wants to be after three disappointing seasons in the NBA. He’s going to get regular minutes as the backup PG for the first time in his career. The book on Law has been that he’s not a great setup man and he doesn’t have the outside shot to play in the NBA. So far his playmaking ability has been adequate for a team that doesn’t rely on the PG to create opportunities but his outside shot has not improved. 22.2% from the arc just isn’t good enough. The curious thing is the shooting woes arecentered more in Memphis than anywhere else. Law is hitting 47% of his shots and 50% from the arc on the road but only 37% of hisshots at home and has yet to hit a 3pt shot in the Forum. One would expect that to change over time. If Law startsscoring like he did in collegehe could own the backup PG role before Vasquez even gets a chance to compete.

Xavier Henry:
21.8 mpg, 7.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 0.8 apg, 37.1 FG%, 27.3 3p%, 50.0 FT%, 1.5 spg, 0.3 bpg, 1.9 TOpg

I know the numbers don’t look pretty but Xavier has been making up for lost time. Xavier is finding his shooting touch in the last few games and should continue to do so as the season progresses. He’ll also have bad shooting nights as well. He’s 19 and playing in the NBA after all. He’s going to be a llittle caughtup in the lightswhen he finds himself facing the Kobe’s, Dwade’s and Brandon Roy’s of the league and expect him to be a bit excited the first time he plays in Boston with the rafters filled with the banners or in LA with the stars sitting courtside. It will wear off after a while.Then comes the rookie wall and the dog days of the season. Henry has a lot of growing up to do but the talent is there.The maturity will come. The future is looking very bright for the young man.

Tony Allen:
14.6 mpg, 6.4 ppg, 1.2 rpg, 2.0 apg, 65.0 FG%, 0.0 3p%, 85.7 FT%, 1.0 spg, 1.6 TOpg

Tony Allen turns 29 in January andis the oldest player expected to contribute regularlyin the Grizzlies rotation. That’s why he hasn’t seen a lot of court time in the pre-season. Tony’s reported ankle injury isn’t that serious but the team wants to help the younger players get more familiar with the system. Allen came into town early after signing and has been working out in Memphis a lot. He’s knows what is expected of him. Allen brings perimeter defensive intensity not seen since James Posey was the team’s MVP. This should take a huge strain off of Mayo and Gay so they can concentrate on their offense more. One word of warning, don’t expect Allen to hit over 50% of his shots during the regular season.

Hasheem Thabeet:
16.8 mpg, 4.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 0.4 apg, 52.9 FG%, 69.6 FT%, 0.8 spg, 1.13 bpg, 3.1 PFpg. 1.38 TOpg

When discussing last season’s 2nd pick in the draft it is difficult to not look at these numbers and cringe. However there is a lot of improvement going on behind the numbers. Since we can’t change the selection let’s look at what’s getting better. First, Thabeet has learned to catch the ball. Granted he hasn’t learned how to hold the ball up high and that tendancy to bring it back down among the little people has resulted in some turnovers, more of this turnovers have occured trying to set screens for teammates. A moving pick isn’t always the pickman’s fault. If the guards aren’t waiting for him to get set before making their cuts then the error lies with the guards not Thabeet. Also, Thabeet has gotten numerous fouls for getting to the right place just a second too late. Last season he never got to the spot so the increase in defensive fouls is actually a good thing not a bad one in many instances. He’s recognizing where he is supposed to be on defense. He just needs to start reacting to what he sees instead of thinking about it. That half second delay is the difference between being in the right place on defense and getting a foul called. He may be another year or so away from being a a big time contributor but his 1.3 bpg in less than 18 minutes means he’s a big time shot blocker.

DeMarre Carroll:
7.5 mpg, 1.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 0.0 apg, 40.0 FG%, 0.0 3p%, 0.0 FT%, 0.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.2 TOpg

If Thabeet wasa bad pick with the second draft spot, DeMarre might be worse with the 26th pick. The 24 yr old hasn’t been able to get a grasp of his role on the team. A hustling player nicknamed “Junkyard Dog” Carroll has struggled with most facets of his game this pre-season and the fact that he wasn’t chosen to play at all in three games says as much about his expected contributions this season as his numbers do. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him in the D-League a lot this season working on his game.

Hamed Haddadi:

11.0 mpg, 3.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 0.0 apg, 33.3 FG%, 50.0 FT%, 1.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 2.0 TOPG

Hamed played 11 minutes in Detroit so you really can’t get a good grasp of what he is capable of doing from that but his imprint on Detroit game was enough to make you question his role as the 3rd string Center on the team. Hamed is slow but he is very effective compared to the backup center Thabeet. Haddadi also played extremely well in the World Championships. Since Haddadi is a free agent this summer and likely can be resigned for less than Thabeet’s option year contract it could be a real position battle this year to see who wins the backup Center role.

Greivis Vasquez has no game action to report on.

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