This is part 5 of the five-part series on the Memphis Grizzlies. 3 Shades of Blue has broken down the team by position beginning with Point Guards on Monday, Shooting Guards on Tuesday, Small Forwards on Wednesday, and Power Forwards on Thursday. The series concludes today.
On a team with so many moving parts, there are overlaps at position, so some players are being mentioned in more than one category. We feel that is proper considering the numerous options Coach Joerger will have this season in determining rotations and playing time. With that being said, the center position has a finite number of possibilities. So, without further ado here is our view of the Memphis Grizzlies’ Center Position.
The Grizzlies lamented the lack of a true center for years…and years…and years. And then they got this fella by the name of Marc Gasol. Once known as “Pau’s little brother”, the big Spaniard has carved out his own niche in the league, highlighted by winning the Defensive Player of the Year for the 2012-13 season. Over the past few seasons, Gasol has shown himself to be one of the most complete players in the NBA, capable of scoring 20 points, grabbing double-digit rebounds, or even leading the team in assists on any given night. Last season was more of the same for the man some call WENDIGO, as he managed to get the better of opponents most nights. Gasol posted career numbers in assists and free throw percentage while playing in 80 games.
Backing up Gasol was something of a question mark last year, as Marreese Speights had the size to play the position, but had mostly played at power forward through his career. Darrell Arthur had played some center for the Grizzlies, but was trying to recover from the previous season’s Achilles injury, as well as a leg fracture that he had suffered in the preseason. Lionel Hollins went with Speights early on until Arthur had recovered enough to log regular minutes.
Following the trades at midseason, DA was the primary backup at both post positions many nights, and he performed adequately, if not up to the level that most were accustomed to from the former Kansas Jayhawk. There was also a brief cameo from Dexter Pittman, who logged 11 games in mop-up duty for the Grizzlies.
Much like with the point guard and power forward positions, there isn’t really a battle for the starting role at this spot. Marc Gasol is the starter…and that’s that. He might be the best center in the league, depending on how much Dwight Howard has recovered from last season’s injury-riddled performance and where you choose to rank Roy Hibbert and Joakim Noah. Or if you consider Tim Duncan a center vs. power forward, of course. In any event, the expectations for Gasol have never been higher, which means a stat line of 16 ppg, 9 rpg, 4 apg, 2 bpg on 50% shooting and 85% from the charity stripe seems reasonable.
Logging minutes behind the newlywed will be new arrival, Kosta Koufos. If this were any of 20+ other teams in the league, there might be a debate as to who should be starting, but for now Koufos will have to battle Omer Asik in Houston for the title of “best backup center” in the NBA. Koufos was able to get up and down the floor in Denver, and has caused the Grizzlies plenty of headaches over the past few seasons with both the Nuggets and the Jazz, so I’m sure that the front office and coaching staff will be pleased to have him on their side for a change.
If necessary, and if he’s still on the roster, Willie Reed could provide some spot minutes at center.
What to Expect/What Can Go Wrong:
Expectations are that Gasol and Koufos will run rough-shod over the majority of the matchups they face this season. We could try to downplay it, but let’s face facts — the center position is an area where the Grizzlies should have a big advantage on a nightly basis.
Outside of injuries, the most obvious thing that could go wrong would be for Gasol to fail to assert himself as an offensive weapon and revert back to the pass-happy ways that had everyone frustrated with him for stretches of last year. Marc: SHOOT THE BALL! Ahem…that is all.