In this edition of Noise From The Sain Asylum I will take a look at the Grizz backup point guard situation. There have been a few rumors brewing from the local media that the Grizz are leaning towards adding a 4th point guard that will make the final regular season roster. I would assume that this theory is based loosely on the fact that returning backup point guard Nick Calathes still has 13 games remaining on his original 20 game suspension that was given to him literally a day before the playoffs started last season. Calathes’ test results showed that he had Tamoxifen, a substance that is banned by the NBA’s performance-enhancing drug policy. In season’s past, an issue like Calathes’ suspension would be cause for panic, but not as much this season due to the Grizz solidifying the point guard position by signing Beno Udrih to a 2 year $4.3 million deal. Udrih, who served more as the Grizz twitter liaison during his short regular season stint after being acquired off of the waiver wire from the Knicks, had a breakout playoff series that surprised many with his heady ball handling skills and ability to not only get open but knock down consistent mid range jump shots. Personally, I wasn’t surprised because I recalled Udrih having big games against the Grizz before and knew that his lack of playing time in New York was based on a disastrous situation with the Knicks more so than Udrih’s ability. Hopefully Beno will come into camp in NBA shape, contrary to the condition that he was in when he arrived here. His poor conditioning was evident, even though he was able to perform well in spite of not being at a top notch conditioning level. You would assume that if the 10 year vet can come into camp in shape that we will have a more than capable backup point guard. Udrih, a career 35.6% 3 point shooter shot 46.1% and minus a few bad shooting years in Milwaukee, is probably closer to being a 40% shooter. Coach Dave Joerger, who values veteran players, as well as players with high basketball IQ, playmaking ability and shooting definitely would seem to be fine with a player like Udrih being the primary backup for Mike Conley.
Many fans wanted to see the Grizzlies bring in undrafted Florida point guard Scottie Wilbekin, who showed a lot of promise in the Orlando Summer League. Wilbekin won’t be a part of the Grizz training camp now since he is now under contract in the NBL Australian League. Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas is now the rumored name that the Grizz may be bringing to camp. Players like Lucas and Wilbikin in my opinion are the only type of players that I would see the Grizz possibly adding to the training camp roster. They would be on league minimum, non-guaranteed deals and even if the Grizz weren’t confident in Udrih, a player on their level could be released upon the return of Calathes. Adding a player like Lucas or another young NBA prospect is also benefecial moreso as a player that you can sign to a D-League deal and send him down to Iowa where he would gain familiarity with our system and then be available whenever needed. There is no need to have a player like that on the regular roster when you have your own D-League affiliate. I also see no reason at all to add a veteran player on a guaranteed deal like a Ramon Sessions, Chauncey Billups or even a Bo McCalleb type.
Personally, I want to see Nick Calathes resume his role as the backup point guard but I also know that it might be a tough sell to bench Udrih, especially if he shoots the ball at a high clip in Calathes’ absence. Last season as Calathes developed he showed consistent improvement in his 3 point shooting and ability to get to the basket and drive and kick. He was always an exceptional passer and proved him self to very a very capable on ball defender. I can recall several games when he was a factor defensively against top notch guards as well as games where he looked great playing alongside Mike Conley in a two point guard set. Calathes ability to dribble drive and create allows Mike Conley to play off the ball and knock down shots. Calathes, although having some overseas experience is still relatively young at 25 years old and still may be entering his prime. With the Grizz deciding to make his contract guaranteed instead of waiving him and letting him take one of the rumored lucrative deals that he was offered overseas, it also shows that the Grizz still are committed to him.
I would predict that its about a 80% chance that the Grizz stand pat with Conley as the starter and Udrih as the backup until Calathes returns from his suspension. Courtney Lee is the teams emergency point guard for now and I really think that if they were to carry a 15th player into the season it would be a project small forward shooter or athletic big. With a still young and capable PG in Calathes and a proven former starter in Udrih I think that we are fine. The Grizz have never had a history of having one good backup point guard so I definitely don’t see the urgency to having a 3rd for only 13 games. I’m looking forward to the return of Nick Calathes and would even like to see some lineups with both he and Udrih playing together in short stints. If both are playing well and battling for the backup spot, that can’t be a bad thing and may be a great thing for the team and fans alike.
Follow Anthony Sain on twitter @SainAsylum