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Team Preview #28: Memphis Grizzlies

by Eric Wong AKA Roto Evil

September 10th, 2008


The Grizzlies lost 60 games for the 2nd year in a row, and after 6 1/2 years in Memphis, they traded away Pau Gasol.

1st year coach Mike Iavaroni came over from Phoenix and implemented an uptempo offense. As a result, they were 7th in pace factor (95.3), 7th in threes (7.6) & 10th in scoring (100.7), but 28th in points (106.9) & 30th in FG% (48.0%) allowed.


Key Additions: OJ Mayo, D. Arthur, Marc Gasol, H. Haddadi, A. Walker, G. Buckner, Randolph?, Jaric?
Key Losses: Mike Miller, JC Navarro, B. Cardinal, J. Collins, K. Brown, Darko Milicic?, Crittenton?

On draft day, the Grizz continued their re-building process by trading away rookie prospect Kevin Love, 28-year old Mike Miller, and veterans Brian Cardinal and Jason Collins for rookie phenom O.J Mayo and veterans Greg Buckner, Antoine Walker, and Marko Jaric. While Mayo has a higher ceiling than Miller, Mike was in his prime, so expect the Grizzlies to struggle once again.

They also lost the sharpshooting Juan Carlos Navarro, who returned to Spain. However, two intriguing 7-footers from overseas have been added to their '08-09 roster. Pau's younger brother, Marc Gasol, came over in the Lakers trade and is listed at 7-foot-1, 265 pounds. Iranian center Hamed Haddadi is listed at 7-foot-2, 255 pounds, and he led the '08 Olympics in rebounds and blocks. Both are 23-year old prospects with solid skills, but it remains to be seen what kind of impact they'll have in the NBA.

Of course, the trade that everyone around the league is currently talking about is Zach Randolph to Memphis for Darko Milicic + Marko Jaric. It makes sense for both squads, as Memphis needs a veteran big man and New York wants to get rid of Randolph for multiple reasons. The two teams are going back and forth, as Memphis wants a 1st round pick thrown in and NY wants Kyle Lowry. The Grizz countered by throwing in Javaris Crittenton, and I'm guessing that trade will eventually go thru, but perhaps with a 2nd round pick instead of a 1st.


I'm going to predict this rotation with the assumption that the Randolph trade will happen. At point guard, Mike Conley. enters his second season and Kyle Lowry enters his third, where things should be a bit easier for both. I'm projecting 28-30 minutes for Conley and 24-26 for Lowry. Both are too short for SG, but since their games are very different, I think the Grizz will try play them together for brief stretches here and there.

Mayo steps into the starting lineup immediately and is my preseason pick for most minutes played by a rookie (notice I didn't say R.O.Y.). I'm projecting 30-32 minutes from the get-go, and perhaps 34-36 by the end of the season. If Javaris stays in town, he'll get all of the backup minutes, but it sounds like he & Jaric may be gone. If that is the case, Greg Buckner will be their ONLY backup swingman! They will likely add one soon, but why didn't they just keep Tarence Kinsey??? At small forward, Rudy Gay is the man. He just turned 22 in August, but he's already this team's top player and leader on the floor. Bump his minutes up from 37 to 38, and if he continues to improve, watch out!

If Zach Daddy rolls into Tennessee, expect him to start at power forward, play 34+ minutes per game, and help Memphis immensely. Is Marc Gasol ready to start at center? Maybe not, but I think the Grizz are willing to find out. I'm not expecting more than 28 mpg, but he's got a lot of top-level international experience and is definitely a BIG body with some skills. I didn't catch Mr. Haddadi in the Olympics, but obviously Memphis likes him. IF he's ready, he could get a lot of playing time as their backup center, but if he's not, he might ride the pine while Randolph slides over to the "5."

Which brings us to Hakim Warrick (30 starts, 23.4 mpg in '07-08). The former Orangeman will likely come off the bench due to Randolph, but he could get 24-30 minutes per as their 6th man. I don't think Kansas rookie Darrell Arthur is ready to contribute much right now, but as we've already seen, he'll likely have a lot of fun in hotel rooms all over North America. Antoine Walker's PER was 18.9 in '00-01, but just 9.6 in '06-07 and a more respectable 11.4 last season. I think that teaming him up with Zach Randolph at this point in their careers is either a really good idea or a really bad one.

DON'T SLEEP ON: Zach Randolph

This sounds kind of crazy, but I think that Antoine Walker could have a big impact on Zach Randolph's fantasy value and future career. Walker just turned 32 in August, but Memphis is his 6th team in 4 years and there's a possibility that this is his last season in the league. Unless they're run by idiots, Memphis won't pick up the $10 million option for A. Walker in '09-10 (and the $10.8 mill that follows in '10-11), so Employee #8 better have a good season if he wants to remain employed in the NBA. And by "good season," I mean solid contributions on the court, but even bigger ones in the locker room.

So which Antoine Walker is going to show up? The one who's overweight and eating donuts, depressed because nobody wants him, who's accepted that this is his last year in the league and is ready to just collect checks? Or the one who's ready to bust his ass to get into shape, go hard at Zach Randolph every day in practice, and be the veteran leader that this young team so desperately needs (excluding Darko, they still have 8 players 23 or younger!)?

While I don't have much faith in this prediction, I'll put money on the latter one. I envision the arrival of Randolph rejuvenating Walker. Since both players have taken heat from fans and the media alike in the past, and since both are "big boned" power forwards with versatile skills, I predict them getting along well off the court, developing an "us vs. them" attitude, and working harder than ever before to try and silence their haters.

Walker, who at the age of 26 was a 3-time All-Star and #2 option on a team that went to the Eastern Conference Finals, will immediately realize that Randolph just turned 27 (still in his prime), but has zero All-Star appearances and has never made it past the 1st Round of the Playoffs. Knowing how quickly his career slipped out from under him (and how Randolph might be going down the same path), I foresee Antoine taking him under his wing and motivating Zach to work harder and make the most of his skills. (Either that, or he offers him custard-filled maple bars and challenges him to fadeaway 3-point shooting contests every morning).

But seriously, go back to June, when Kevin Garnett was hoisting that shiny gold Championship trophy and Paul Pierce was being named Finals MVP. You don't think that stung Antoine Walker a bit? Sure, he won a ring with Miami back in '05-06, but Pierce used to be his partner in crime, and now their careers are on opposite ends of the spectrum. Will Walker let all of this bring him down, or will he make the most of it by helping Zach Randolph reach the next level?

Boring Analysis: Even if 'Toine doesn't help, there are plenty of points to be scored and rebounds to be pulled down for the Grizz. And even a donut-eating Zach Randolph can help out with that.

BE CAREFUL OF: Mike Conley, Jr. & Kyle Lowry

Memphis was a horrible team last year, but Rudy Gay put up superstar stats and Mike Miller was rock solid. However, both Conley & Lowry struggled to have any fantasy value. Obviously, both guys were very young and didn't get enough minutes to put up big numbers, but perhaps they were already doomed for fantasy failure due to the fact that they were PG's on a losing team.

In this article that I wrote after the '06-07 season, I examined if player's fantasy values were affected by their team's winning percentage. You can read it for yourself, but my conclusion was that it didn't really matter for swingmen or big men, but point guards on losing teams had a much tougher time having fantasy value compared to their winning counterparts (as evidenced by Chris Paul being the ONLY point on a losing team to crack the Top 60 in '06-07, while 6 of the Top 20 fantasy players were PG's from winning teams).

If you agree with this theory, then you probably want to avoid Conley & Lowry this season. Memphis will likely lose a lot of games once again, and the 2 men will limit each other's minutes and value. Don't get me wrong, Conley should put up much better stats and is worth a late-round pick, but you should be very wary of drafting him too soon.


(Where you should draft these guys in an 8-cat Roto league with 12 teams and 14 man rosters)

Gay: 3rd - 4th
Randolph: 6th - 7th
Mayo: 9th - 10th
Conley: 11th - 12th
Gasol: 13th - 14th
Warrick: Last round
Lowry: Don't draft (but pickup ASAP if Conley goes down)

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