Enemy Lines: A rival scout sizes up the Grizzlies
2012-13 Record: 56-26; lost to Spurs in Western Conference finals
Coach: Dave Joerger (first season with Grizzlies)
I feel bad for Dave Joerger. The reason he's the coach is because Lionel Hollins didn't pay enough attention to analytics. Lionel did a phenomenal job. He didn't take crap from the players, and he held them accountable. But now, when Joerger is sitting a guy like Zach Randolph because the front office says the numbers dictate it, it's going to be a tough way for him to coach.
Say what you want about coaches like George Karl and Vinny Del Negro getting fired, but their situations weren't close to what happened to Hollins. Lionel went to the conference finals after Rudy Gay was traded and they still didn't bring him back. To me, the whole thing is set up for failure now. I like Joerger as a coach, but they've put him in a difficult situation.
Marc Gasol cares only about winning. As a defender, he does a good job on his own man, but he also doesn't care if his guy scores because he's focused on helping his teammates. He does whatever he needs to do to stop the other team. A lot of guys look at the stat sheet to see what their matchup did, but that's not how Gasol does it. He's an anchor for their defense.
They run the offense through Gasol. The main thing they do is post up Randolph, and when teams front Randolph, Memphis brings Gasol up to the high area for a high-low, and he finds Randolph a lot that way. As a passer, he works so well with Randolph.
Gasol is underrated as a scorer. He'll take advantage if a smaller guy is on him. He's improved his jump shot from 15-17 feet. He's not quite the offensive player you can go to all the time, though.
Randolph has had his best years since coming to Memphis in 2009. He has never been easy to coach or motivate, but Hollins did it. Hollins had the guts to hold his ground and say, "This is how we're doing it." Hollins is one of the few coaches who can manage players when things aren't going well.
Randolph didn't used to show up every night. That changed in Memphis. He played harder and gave more consistent effort because Hollins was staying on him. Before he came to Memphis, he was such a black hole that it was disgusting. Now he will pass, and he passes well. He's not the tallest guy, but he gets it done.
Everybody loves Randolph and Al Jefferson because there are no other low-post scorers like them anymore. Randolph is still not great defensively, but he's strong and he'll fight to make it difficult for an opponent to catch the ball deep in the post. He and Gasol rebound their butts off.
I didn't think Mike Conley would be this good. A few years ago, I thought they should have traded him and kept Kyle Lowry. But Conley keeps moving up. He's definitely in the top 10 among point guards. He does everything pretty well and he's a big-time leader. If for some reason the Grizzlies called the Nets and said they'd trade Conley for Deron Williams, the Nets would do it in a heartbeat.
Conley is a laid-back personality, but he gets teammates to do what they're supposed to do. Hollins gave him the keys and Conley took on the challenge. He's improved in so many areas, including his defense. He's one of the best at guarding the pick-and-roll and keeping ball handlers in front of him.
Tayshaun Prince hasn't put it all together offensively for a long time. He used to be a good one-on-one player who could post up a little guy or beat a big guy off the dribble. He relies more on spot-up shooting now, and he's not a great shooter. Prince is still very good on defense, where he uses his length extremely well to challenge shots.
Prince is not an easy guy to coach. He's a superbly intelligent player, but he knows he is, and he thinks he knows it all. Whether he buys into Joerger is a big key because Prince is a good influence in the locker room.
Tony Allen is as good as ever defensively. He gets into guys and uses his athleticism to stay in front of them. He makes it hard for guys to catch the ball coming off screens. He can definitely guard point guards and smaller guys, and he's OK on the bigger 3s. He can't shoot, but sometimes it's good to have guys who don't need the ball. He doesn't hurt them so much offensively because he's a great cutter.
They're going to miss Darrell Arthur as a scorer off the bench after trading him for Kosta Koufos, a good defender and rebounder who started at center for Denver last season. Ed Davis is a great offensive rebounder and he finishes well around the basket, but he's not a guy you throw the ball to in the second unit like Arthur is.
Much of their deep shooting, which has been a weakness, will come from Quincy Pondexter, Jerryd Bayless and Mike Miller. Pondexter played well at the end of last season. I don't love Bayless as a point guard because he dominates the ball, but he's provided much-needed bench scoring. The demands on Miller, who has struggled with injuries, shouldn't be too great.