Building Around Mike Conley Starts Now

2016-17 Grizzlies Weaknesses30th: Field Goal Percentage, 2-Point Percentage. 29th: Points Scored. 28th: Pace, Small Forward Points. 27th: Defensive Rebounding, Starters Points,Fast Break Points. 26th: Non-Paint Points. 25th: Shooting Guard Points. 24th: Total Rebounding. 22nd: Blocks 21st: Assists

2016-17 Grizzlies Strengths:: 2nd: Field Goal Percentage (Defense). 3rd: Opponent Points. 7th: 2-Point Percentage (Defense), Center Scoring. 10th: Offensive Rebounding, Points in the Paint, 3-Point Percentage (Defense)  7th: Defensive Rating.

This is a new era in Memphis Grizzlies basketball. As much as last summer was a shocker for the NBA, Memphis knew exactly what they were doing. They overpaid Mike Conley, for sure. He’s not a top-5 player. But they didn’t overpay Mike Conley. He was going to be the face of all things Memphis in 12 months. But the Grizz kept it a secret from the rest of the NBA.

All things come to an end. The Grizzlies squeezed all they could out of their tough, grind it out physical identity of the past few years, what they banked their reputation on. The Grizzlies were slow to catch up to the league’s three point shooting fest and young athletes; they waited and took their time. Zach Randolph was beloved in the city. But once his skills started to erode and once Mike Conley’s game was complete, the Grizz knew what they had to do.

The question now is Marc Gasol and his $22 million salary.  Does he fit the Mike Conley Grizzlies? Is he still a holdover of the past?

In 2016-17, Mike Conley pushed the defensive only narrative aside and lived up to star billing. He was scorer, playmaker, clutch shot maker, head of the snake leader. So why not blow it all up and start over with Conley as the center object. The summer of 2017 was the perfect storm.

Of course, changing everything means growing pains. The Memphis defense, their reliable weapon outside of Conley, elevated the team except when it came to rebounding. At times, the Grizzlies looked too slow for the quick league, lacking explosiveness. JaMychal Green, the Randolph replacement, was  good enough but not elite power forward production, not even 10 points a game. But he made the shots he had to. His 38% from three was necessary but often he was a reluctant shooter.  Green has yet to light the NBA up with anything, but he is athletic and explosive which is where the Grizzlies want to be.

The addition of Chandler Parsons was always complicated. Though Parsons helped with a quiet Grizz rebuild because of his perimeter skill and his length, his NBA story is an injury chapter, one after another. He is the wounded one. Had Parsons any kind of health he would have spaced the floor, making it easier for Green, Randolph and Gasol. The problem with Parsons is it is hard to know if you can trust him. Besides, Parsons is a one-trick pony. He’s a dynamite perimeter scorer, a nice passer in the lane and every now and then he can put the ball on the floor and take it to the rack. But his defense would be horrific if he tried to play it. His rotations are late and slow.

The roster creates more questions than answers. The Grizzlies were the worst shooting team in the league. They don’t have talented shot makers aside from Conley and Parsons. They took more threes this year and were okay shooting them but in the clutch, their wing scoring suffered. A healthy Chandler Parsons is a difference maker but will a sometimey offensive player like JaMychael Green be enough for the Grizzlies in this new Conley-Parsons Grizzlies affair?

It is all about Conley now. This is his team and rightly so. He is one of the best guards in the league but gets no credit for it which is fine with him. He has developed into a dominant scorer as well as a distributor but his DNA is to make others better. Can he make the surrounding cast achieve or he is no better than Russell Westbrook in OKC?

For sure, Conley has an All-Star in Gasol, a skilled scorer in Parsons, but if he loses in the first round again and again, how much better are the Grizzlies without Zach Randolph?

Conley is committed to Memphis. This summer the Memphis brass committed to him by getting rid of Z-Bo and clearing the deck for Conley to be the star. Frankly, I’d rather be Mike Conley than Carmelo Anthony. Conley knows his future. Just not how it is all going to turn out.

 

 

 

photo via llananba