This is part 4 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 and Small Forwards on Wednesday. The series will conclude on Friday as we cover the Center position.
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 power forward position probably has the least amount of moveable parts. So, without further ado here is our view of the Memphis Grizzlies’ Power Forward Position.
Zach Randolph returned to the team with many questions about his ability to continue to play at a high level. He clearly wasn’t 100% in the 2012 playoff loss to the Clippers and rumors swirled around Memphis that he wasn’t getting into shape in the off-season. Randolph put all those rumors to bed early as he started the season on fire helping the Grizzlies jump to a 12-2 start as he tallied double-doubles in 12 of the first 13 contests. His 38 points and 22 rebounds against the Suns on December 4th had everyone talking about how ZBo was back. He remained fairly consistent throughout the remainder of the season, other than missing a handful of games in March with some nagging minor injuries.
Randolph wasn’t the only player returning from injury, as Darrell Arthur was recovering from an Achilles injury that saw him miss the entire 2011-12 season, and then a stress fracture in the summer which then infringed upon the start of last season as well. DA, always a fan favorite, had plenty of pressure on him to perform after signing a new contract in the off-season. Unfortunately, he never regained the level of play that had made him such an important part of that first-ever playoff series win over the Spurs in the 2009 postseason.
Ed Davis came over in the Rudy Gay trade with a lot of lofty expectations and a fairly solid resume to his credit. While he showed flashes of tantalizing potential, he lacked the consistency that Lionel Hollins requires, meaning that he was usually given less playing time than fans, media, and possibly the front office would have liked to have seen.
Marreese Speights also signed a new contract last summer, having played well as a starter since being rescued from languishing on the end of the Sixers’ bench the previous season. As a backup, he continued to produce, although his midrange shooting touch was not as accurate as many would have hoped. Despite his per-minute numbers being fairly consistent in comparison to last year, Speights was dealt to Cleveland in a multi-player trade that brought back Jon Leuer.
Jon Leuer only appeared in 19 games for the Grizzlies, but wasn’t bad when he did see the court. He consistently hustled and showed the ability to rebound and defend when given moderate playing time.
Zach Randolph is the starting power forward for the Memphis Grizzlies. There’s not even a question about that. He’s the best player at the position by a significant margin. He can still dominate in the low-post and in the paint, even as age continues to slow him little by little with each passing season.
Ed Davis might just be the future for the Grizzlies, but he has yet to prove that conclusively in any way. There are rumors that the team is in talks with him to extend his contract before he becomes a restricted free agent next summer, but — as per usual — nothing definitive has happened that can be verified at this time. While Davis is reportedly stronger than last season, he still has yet to show the ability to finish around the rim except when dunking. The change to a faster pace should play into his favor, as his athleticism gives him the ability to get out on the break and finish before his defender has a chance to establish position.
Jon Leuer could be the odd man out, despite an strong preseason showing that has seen him put up some impressive stats to this point. If he begins to develop as a Stretch-4, then he might start to see more playing time against certain lineups, although that is surely just idle speculation.
There is also the possibility that new addition, Kosta Koufos, might get some playing time as the PF in a pairing with Marc Gasol from time to time, so that will surely be something to watch out for.
What to Expect/What Can Go Wrong:
This is a spot where the Grizzlies actually have some decent depth, so unless we see a repeat of the 2011-12 season’s spate of injuries at that position, the Grizzlies should be fine in terms of personnel. The major concerns will be how Randolph plays without the discipline of Hollins and/or the added wear and tear of yet another NBA season on his tire treads.
Additionally, the play of Ed Davis will be under a microscope all season long, whether or not he signs an extension. Some players wilt under so much pressure and expectation, so that will be worth gauging as the season rolls along. If he falters, you can expect some fans and media members to voice their concerns and possibly even call for Leuer to get some of his minutes.
It seems logical that Davis will be given plenty of chances to prove himself, given Randolph’s age and possible departure via trade either this season or next summer. However, if he cannot show himself worthy of that, expect the coaching staff to find someone who can.