With the Cavs facing the Grizzlies the next two nights, we turned to Grizzly Bear Blues writer Brandon Conner to answer a few questions about the Memphis Grizzlies. Here’s what he had to say:
1. Is this the best Marc Gasol we've seen? And how real is his evolution into a good three-point shooter?
I don’t think Marc’s defensive playmaking is up to his Defensive Player of the Year standard from a few seasons ago, but in terms of all-around game, I think you could make a reasonable case that this is his best version. Gasol’s been the backbone of the Grizzlies’ number one defense, and with the absence of Conley, he’s become the offensive focal point. I think the biggest improvement for Marc is the fact that he’s been willing to be selfish with the ball. Before, he’d often defer at times when you just wanted him to take over a game. Now, he’s becoming more aggressive. His usage is up, and he’s still being efficient, which has been a big reason the Grizzlies are 6-1 since Conley went out.
The three-point shooting transformation is real. Marc has always been able to shoot decently from outside. Now, he’s just more willing to take those shots behind the line. Fizdale has emphasized Marc’s outside shooting to help give the team more space, and Gasol has bought into the plan. I’m not sure he’ll be able to sustain shooting 44% from three, but even with some regression, he’s still enough of a threat to make teams respect it.
2. Chandler Parsons' injury situation obviously isn't ideal. How are Grizzlies fans feeling about him and his contract at the moment?
I think most people accept the fact that slow-playing his return is ideal for the life of the contract, but there’s a whole lot of nerves around that situation. So far he’s played in a handful of games, and he didn’t look comfortable in any of them. He struggled to find his shot, and he lacked the sort of explosiveness that you’d expect, so even when he’s finally cleared to play again, he’ll need more time to shake off the rust. It’s not ideal, but it is what it is. I still think the signing was the right move at the time, but I understand fans getting a little antsy about it, too.
3. How would you evaluate Zach Randolph, sixth man?
So far he’s done pretty much exactly what you expected: he’s bullying bench lineups that just don’t know how to deal with his veteran moves. He’s averaging somewhere around 14 points and 8 rebounds, and for a backup unit that consists of so much inexperience and that lacks a lot of playmaking, that’s a big deal. His defense is still an issue, but right now the positive that he provides on the offensive side still outweighs the negative on the defensive end, so the Grizzlies are willing to live with that.
4. How has the team dealt with the insane amount of injuries they've dealt with this season?
It’s really been a group effort. Fizdale deserves a lot of credit for getting everything that he can out of a roster that’s full of players that aren’t anywhere close to household names. It really seems like every night there’s someone different stepping up to hit big shots. Troy Daniels, Troy Williams, Toney Douglas, Andrew Harrison; so many different guys have come up with big plays in big moments to help the Grizzlies find ways to win games. I think Tony Allen deserves a lot of credit. Allen's known for his tenacious defense, but he's been able to make key plays on the offensive end. The Warriors game was a great example. TA had double the scoring output of Klay Thompson and hit more threes (1) than Klay (0).
5. Has the team's identity of the Grizzlies changed in a meaningful way under David Fizdale?
Definitely. The team isn’t necessarily playing with more pace, but they’re getting into their offensive sets more quickly, and with JaMychal Green stepping into the starting lineup, along with Marc moving out to the three-point line, there’s a lot more space for a team that used to love to clog the paint with two bigs. The team also has managed to hit the top defensive spot in the league, but they’re playing a different style under Fizdale and switching more. It took a little while for the players to get comfortable in that style, and there’s still going to be room for improvement, but so far the returns have been positive.