Sports 56 WHBlog Q

January 20, 2009

Grizzlies Midterm Grades

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Will Askew @ 7:45 pm

The Memphis Grizzlies are about halfway through the season, sitting with a record of 11-29, last in the Southwest Division. To me, the fact the team is losing is far less disturbing than the way that the team is losing and the things that are going on in the locker room after the game. This team has shown that it can be competitive–wins against the Magic, Rockets, and Dallas and close losses against San Antonio, Phoenix, the Lakers, and the Hornets–but has also shown a propensity to lose to awful teams like the Thunder, Bobcats, and two to the T-Wolves. Especially of late, when the team has gotten its doors blown off in the first quarter basically every game, it seems as if the team doesn’t particularly want to be there. What makes matters worse is that the team has resorted to ripping the team’s identity (or lack thereof) publicly in the media. Which brings us to our Midterm Grizzlies Grades.


Mike Conley: D+

Conley has been shockingly inconsistent, much like the team itself. He’s shown far fewer flashes of what made him the #4 overall pick in the draft last year than moments of indecision and lack of confidence. Watching Mike Conley play is maddening–he looks like he can get to the basket at will, but doesn’t choose to do so. Another troubling sign is his apparent satisfaction with coming off the bench for much of the year…If Conley is indeed your point guard of the future, shouldn’t he want to start? I agree with Chris Herrington of the Memphis Flyer (who is EXCELLENT by the way)…If OJ Mayo is going to be the future of this team, then you need a bigger point who can shoot the basketball, because OJ needs the ball in his hands, much like Dwayne Wade and Gilbert Arenas. Not to say that Conley can’t be a good player, but he doesn’t fit into what the team is doing at the moment. Through the first half of this season (and what he played last year), he looks much more like someone who benefited from playing with Greg Oden his entire career than a future NBA star.

Kyle Lowry: C+

Lowry’s been the best point on this team this season, without a doubt. He has the aggressiveness going to the basket that Conley lacks, but doesn’t really know what to do once he gets there. He plays with good effort on the defensive end of the floor, but his lack of size is a problem. The main problem I have with Lowry is that he has no jump shot whatsoever, and I’m not really sure he’ll ever have one. He should be a backup point guard, but has been forced into starting because of the lack of production by Conley. He’s Rajon Rondo without being 6’4 and the length, which is to say that he’s Rondo without the things that make Rondo good.

Steve Francis: Incomplete (He has to actually be seen to get a grade)

Marko Jaric: B

There’s not much to go on, but every time he comes in the game, he seems to do good things.

Marko Jaric’s Fiance: B+

I was expecting to see more of her at games, hence the B+…otherwise she’s an A+.


OJ Mayo: A-

Without question, Mayo has been the bright spot of the first half of the season. He’s averaging 19.3 points a game on 44% shooting, along with 37.5% from three and 88% from the line. He has emerged as the team’s go-to player and a potential superstar. The only knock that I have for Mayo is that he sometimes tends to try and make all the plays by himself late, as evidenced last night against the Pistons. I would rather have a guy that tries to make plays late than someone who disappears in the 4th quarter…more on that in a moment. What is truly great about Mayo, though, is that he works extremely hard; the man wants to be the best basketball player he can be. He has gotten LeBron James’ workout plan and is apparently following it to the letter. He is a superstar in the making.

Greg Buckner: C

I mean, what can I grade here?


Rudy Gay: D

Rudy Gay has been a huge disappointment, especially as of late. The most important development for the future of this franchise is for Gay and Mayo to develop some sort of rapport. These two are clearly the most talented players on the team and theoretically will be the cornerstones of the “Three Year Plan.” Gay seems to have caught Vince Carter Disease–he’s a player that could get to the rim at will, but chooses to shoot jump shots instead. The most disturbing thing about the play of Gay though is his tendency to drift in and out of the game. That was a knock on him coming out of college, but hadn’t really manifested itself until lately. The 4th quarter has been particularly troublesome, as he seems to be irrelevant in long stretches towards the end of games. Some of this can be blamed on the lack of an offensive system, but I would argue the lion’s share of blame for this should be on Gay. Great players want the ball at the end of games, and Gay seems to be content with not getting it, or if he isn’t content, simply complaining about it later and not really trying to remedy the situation and be assertive on the court. Gay certainly will be worth watching as the season progresses.

Quinton Ross: C+

He’s right on his career averages, and is a decent option off the bench. He is what he is–a good defensive player…not much more.

Darius Miles: A+

Obviously, this isn’t based on a tremendous amount of minutes, but for what he is now, how could you possibly have expected any more?


Hakim Warrick: B+

Hakim Warrick has been a pleasant surprise this season. He’ll never be a great player, but he does come in and provide much-needed offensive spark off the bench. He has developed a nice jump shot out to about 18 feet, and uses his athleticism really well on offense. On defense, well, he’s a liability, but at least he gives effort. I like Warrick’s game, and he could be a nice contributor off the bench in the future for this team. The question of whether or not to re-sign Warrick will be interesting to watch this offseason.

Darrell Arthur: B

Let me state this first–I think getting Arthur at the #27 pick was a great value. I really liked his game at Kansas, and he has seemingly changed his game based on what he thinks the Grizzlies need. He was criticized for not being a great rebounder in college, but averages 4.1 rebounds in only 18 minutes a game. He gives a lot of effort on both ends of the court. I like Arthur, and I actually think he could be a decent option off the bench in the future as well…but do you like him enough to not re-sign Warrick?


Marc Gasol: B-

A starting center that averages 12 points and 7 rebounds a game is a good thing. I don’t think anyone expected this much from Gasol coming into the season. He still makes mistakes, especially with his defense of the pick and roll, and he is inconsistent. However, he does play physically, far more so than his brother did here, and he has shown the ability to hit a jumper from about 15 feet. I actually think that Gasol could be a starting center on a good team, provided he corrects some of his mistakes on defense and the team gets another low post presence. He can’t be the go-to post up player the team needs, but he could be a solid complement.

Darko Milicic: B+

Unfortunately for Darko, he broke his knuckle and had to sit out, because he was playing the best basketball of his career in the games leading up to his injury. He plays good defense most of the time, and has a bit more of an offensive game than he had last season. Surprisingly, the team’s recent slide (13 losses in 15 games) has coincided with Darko’s injury. Having another big body will really help when he gets back.

Hamed Haddadi: Incomplete (see Steve Francis)


This is the most egregiously bad area for the Grizzlies so far this season. After the acquisition of Mayo, the general consensus was that this could be an excellent fast-breaking team. With a speedy Conley leading the break and superb athletes in Gay, Mayo, and Warrick running as well, the team appeared to be headed in that direction. The opposite has occurred. The team almost never runs. That wouldn’t be a problem, except the team has no half court offense. Offensive possessions routinely devolve into Mayo or Gay trying to create a shot at the end of the shot clock. The team leads the NBA in shot clock violations, and is the only team in the league with more turnovers than assists. The team doesn’t play good defense either, as they are last in the NBA in field goal percentage defense. When you’re 28th in the league in scoring and last in FG % defense, you are probably not very good. That is to say nothing of the sometimes inexplicable lineups that are out on the floor or the fact that Darius Miles gets more plays run for him at times than Rudy Gay. What’s even more troubling though is that the players have started publicly calling out their coach. The environment has become toxic. Gay doesn’t try, Conley doesn’t know what he’s doing, and Gasol is firing off opinions left and right. I have said that the team needed to wait until the end of the season to make a decision on the head coach, but I was wrong. A move needs to be made now, before more damage is done.


Look, I like the roster that they’ve started putting together. Mayo is a future star, Gay has a lot of potential, and Gasol, Arthur, and Warrick look like they could be contributors. But the team is 11-29. Public perception is that Michael Heisley won’t use the cap money acquired in the Pau Gasol trade, and is just going to let the Marc Iavaroni era suck all the life out of the season and the fan base. The team has the lowest payroll in the NBA by a lot, and some of Heisley and Chris Wallace’s moves have been cost-cutting (does the name Shaun Livingston ring a bell?). To me, the smart move right now would be to go try and get a new head coach…one who is a name and who you think will be the coach in year three of the plan. I understand your strategy in trying to wait until the end of the season, but the situation is becoming worse by the day. Convince the public that you are not okay with the status quo, even though the record isn’t too far off of what everybody thought it would be. This “Three Year Plan” is a critical juncture in the history of the franchise…If you can’t convince people you are headed in the right direction, it will be extremely difficult to get them back when you are competitive. Remember the empty seats at FedEx Forum for the playoff series with the Mavericks?


1 Comment »

  1. will askew mid term grade
    that’s 2 levels below an f

    the distribution of your grades for grizzley players are an indication of a media’s person
    I Q. yours just reached a new low.

    quit talking .. try working in a fast food resturant .. your wisdom might be better appreciated there.

    Comment by dayton keller — January 26, 2009 @ 11:36 am

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