Memphis welcomes in transfers Johnson, Godfrey

Memphis adds Vanderbilt transfer Kedren Johnson and Calvin Godfrey from Southern

      
 

 

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Early Win-Loss Predictions for Memphis Grizzlies Next Season

The Memphis Grizzlies hold hope they can cash in on a healthy Marc Gasol and better scoring depth to reassert themselves as outside contenders. Then again, as recent Grizzlies history has shown, health is no guarantee.

Rallying after injuries to key players is a recurring theme for this incarnation of the Grizzlies. They’ve endured long-term absences of key players in three of the past four years.

 

Depth

With only a small scoring lift to be expected from the starters, the defense-minded squad turned to the bench for a boost. After retaining Mike Miller became unlikely, they nabbed another outside shooter in Vince Carter who would be more productive despite not being a high-ranking three-point shooter like Miller.

Carter averaged 11.9 points in 24.4 minutes per game while hitting 39.4 percent from downtown. That’s 4.5 more points per game than their leading 2013-14 bench scorer, James Johnson.

Since Carter takes 45.7 percent of his shots from long range, the Grizzlies don’t lose spacing with the departure of Miller.

Another bonus of adding Carter is he can eat more minutes from Tayshaun Prince, who had career-worst numbers in his 12th season. Carter, along with a healthy Quincy Pondexter, ensures Dave Joerger can focus more minutes on productive players at the 3 spot.

The Grizzlies have an array of three-point shooters on the bench. Besides Carter, Pondexter, Beno Udrih and Jon Leuer are capable marksmen. If Pondexter can make close to the 39.5 percent from 2012-13, his last full season, he should keep a place in the rotation.

Leuer hit 46.9 percent of his threes last season and Udrih has made 35.6 percent for his career.

By re-signing Udrih and guaranteeing Nick Calathes‘ 2014-15 contract, Memphis commits to depth behind Mike Conley

Calathes came through when Conley went down last season. He averaged 14.7 points per game and allowed 99 points per 100 possessions in seven contests. Also, he demonstrated confidence as a ball-handler, averaging 2.9 turnovers per game.

Udrih scored in double figures three times in the playoffs.

He’ll start the season as the backup point guard since Calathes will miss the first 13 games while serving the rest of his suspension for violating the NBA‘s substance abuse policy.

Even though Ed Davis departed, Jon Leuer isn’t guaranteed to rise in the depth chart. Drafting Jarnell Stokes effectively replaced Davis, as the four-year pro fell out of the rotation in the second half. Stokes possesses the inside toughness Davis lacked.

Joerger platooned reserve big men, choosing Leuer when he needed shooting and Davis when the matchup called for a presence on the boards. 

Joerger explained it in February by saying, “The fact is that Marc and Zach [Randolph] are going to play 36-40 minutes a game. After that, it’s just a matter of what flavor are you looking for?”

In his second year, the coach will continue that rotational strategy.

 

Keeping up the frontcourt

After locking up Randolph, they’ll make the best of his remaining abilities. Randolph had a second straight full season shooting a bit below his career average, hitting 46.7 percent last season. Still, he pushes himself to produce as he averaged 17.4 points and 10.1 rebounds per game.

Gasol and Randolph form one of the best frontcourt duos. Possessing resilience as a below-the-rim player, Randolph is a constant double-double threat. Gasol funnels the offense into the post, leads the defense and knocks down mid-range shots.

As long as Gasol is with him, Randolph’s defense isn’t a problem. He allowed 105 points per 100 possessions for the season, but 103 after Gasol returned from injury.

Overall, Gasol is the biggest game-changer for the team’s defense. According to the Washington Post, their work on that end was almost unparalleled with him back. 

His full-season presence will solidify the supremacy of the “grit ‘n’ grind.”

 

Conclusion

The Grizzlies won’t use their health to vault high in the Western Conference standings. The playoff series loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder served as a reality check to the team as it struggled to keep up with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant in the last two games.

Memphis adjusted on the edges by signing Carter. Getting Pondexter and Gasol at full strength helps a bit. The Grizzlies can expect Conley to score a little more as he continues in his primacy as a leading shot-taker.

One can hardly guess the impact of their perennial second-half surge. As the Western Conference remains intensely competitive, it might not allow them to pass many teams.

The Grizzlies find themselves stuck in the middle of the conference playoff contenders. As The Commercial Appeal’s Chris Herrington said (subscription required), they can be pegged as “a second-tier contender.”

While the Grizzlies’ core can’t become much more than what it is, the top tier calcifies with the San Antonio SpursKawhi Leonard evolving, the primacy of Westbrook and Durant and the Los Angeles Clippers growing under Doc Rivers.

With that, Memphis will battle for a homecourt playoff spot with the Portland Trail Blazers.

 

Prediction: 54-28 (5th in Western Conference)

Unless otherwise noted, advanced metrics come from basketball-reference.com.

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Are Memphis Grizzlies’ Dark-Horse Days Done Heading into 2014-15?

The Memphis Grizzlies have had a fairly busy summer, at least if you count front-office maneuverings. 

Interim general manager Chris Wallace was signed to a new multiyear deal, and Ed Stefanski was added as the club’s new executive vice president of player personnel. Per Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowksi, the latter recently, “worked under former Toronto Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo as the executive VP of basketball operations.”

Wise moves, perhaps, but hardly the kind of forward progress that assures the franchise an immediate upgrade in the roster department.

Those developments were more muted.

Memphis’ biggest summer acquisition was former Dallas Mavericks sixth man Vince Carter, who was signed to a deal reportedly worth three years and $12.2 million. Adding Carter certainly goes at least some way toward addressing the club’s need for scoring, particularly on the perimeter.

“What he brings to the table is what we need. He’s a good shooter, he’s a good playmaker and he’ll be a good leader in our locker room,” said Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger, per Grizzlies.com’s Bennett Hipp. “He is a top-five pick-and-roll player in the NBA. He is still very athletic. He still makes open shots. We want to play him in a role where we give him the ball and let him do his thing.”

Indeed, that leadership factor may be every bit as valuable as Carter’s still-respectable on-court production.

Per Hipp, Wallace added, “Vince’s value to us is more than just making baskets and what he does in the box score. He’s a tremendous leader.”

For his part, Carter averaged 11.9 points in just 24.4 minutes per contest last season. The 37-year-old could even improve upon those numbers given the Grizzlies desperate need for help on the wing.

But leadership and complementary scoring may not be enough to get Memphis over what’s become an increasingly sizable hump in the ever-crowded Western Conference.

Optimists will argue that Carter isn’t alone. Memphis also selected sweet-shooting guard Jordan Adams with the 22nd overall pick in this summer’s draft. 

But while the UCLA product is certainly another step in the right direction, you can’t help but feel this franchise is in need of a radical overhaul. It fundamentally remains the same team that’s faltered in each of its last four postseason appearances.

Two of those playoffs exits—in 2012 and 2014—came in the first round.

The club’s most successful run (in 2013) included a five-game semifinals series win against an Oklahoma City Thunder team missing its second-best player, Russell Westbrook. The Grizzlies were subsequently swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the conference finals.

Despite repeatedly earning the label of “dark-horse contenders,” the Grizzlies have at no point amounted to more than a frisky, second-tier team.

It’s telling that the three teams to oust Memphis from the playoffs during the last four seasons were San Antonio, Oklahoma City and—most recently—the Los Angeles Clippers. If you had to pick three Western Conference teams with the best chances of making it to the NBA Finals this season, those would probably be the three.

The gap between those teams and Memphis has hardly narrowed.

To be sure, the Grizzlies continue to boast an absolutely formidable defense, limiting teams to just 94.6 points per game (third-best league-wide) and slowing games down to the lowest pace in the Association last season.

But that highly touted defense may be less dominant than it seems at first glance. Several teams yielded superior defensive efficiency a season ago, including both the Spurs and the Thunder. Memphis was tied with the Clippers for the seventh-best mark in the league.

To be fair, that defense could have been even better had Gasol played the entire season.

As USA Today‘s Jeffrey Martin noted in January:

The Grizzlies’ defense suffered during the nearly two months Gasol, the reigning defensive player of the year, missed with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee. When Gasol returned to action Jan. 14 in a 90-87 victory against Oklahoma City, Memphis’ defensive rating was 107, seven games later, it was 103.

More importantly, however, Memphis’ offensive efficiency lagged at just 103.3 points per 100 possessions. That was in large part due to the team ranking dead last with just 14 three-point attempts per game. And when the Grizzlies did take three-pointers, they made just 35.3 percent of them—which tied the Milwaukee Bucks and Orlando Magic for 19th place in the NBA.

In the modern NBA, such an underdeveloped perimeter game won’t cut it.

Carter and Adams will do their parts to an extent, but they’re unlikely to change a game plan that prioritizes interior touches. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph will together make over $32 million this season, and they’ll continue getting plenty of opportunities to score in the paint.

Randolph’s 24.6 usage rate ranked fifth among power forwards last season. Gasol ranked 11th among centers using 21.2 possessions per 40 minutes. 

Put simply, an inside-outside approach is a huge part of the club’s identity. Whether it’s a formula that can survive in a heavily contested Western Conference is another matter altogether.

Lacking credible outside shooting, Memphis struggles when opposing defenders invariably opt to collapse on the Grizzlies bigs and harass them into less-than-ideal possessions. Randolph—who admittedly does much of his damage from the mid-range—was held to a subpar .404 field-goal percentage through six playoff games in 2014. Gasol made a career-low 47.3 percent of his field-goal attempts during the regular season.

The Grizzlies are overdue for a new, more diversified approach. Unfortunately, they’ve done little to secure the kind of personnel needed for such an approach. 

Instead, the organization handed Randolph a lucrative two-year extension this summer, all but assuring that the near-future resembles recent history—all but closing a title window that may never have been all that open.

For a small-market franchise, there’s certainly an argument to be made that Memphis should be proud of what it’s accomplished thus far.

But for a team that perpetually threatens to capitalize on its 2011 emergence as an upset-capable dark-horse contender, moral victories are of little consolation.

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Vols announce addition of Memphis transfer Woodson

Vols announce addition of Memphis transfer Woodson, whose status for 2014-15 remains uncertain

      
 

 

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AP source: Vols adding Memphis transfer Woodson

Person close to situation: former Memphis forward Dominic Woodson transferring to Tennessee

      
 

 

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AP source: Vols adding Memphis transfer Woodson (Yahoo Sports)

Dominic Woodson is transferring from Memphis to Tennessee, a source close to the situation said. Woodson should be in class at Tennessee’s Knoxville campus on Thursday, said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because Tennessee hasn’t announced the move. The source said it remained up in the air whether Woodson would have to sit out the 2014-15 season. Memphis announced last week that Woodson was transferring.

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Can the Memphis Grizzlies’ Mike Conley Finally Be an All-Star This Season?

Mike Conley‘s incremental evolution will soon pay off. The Memphis Grizzlies‘ point man should tip the scale on his borderline All-Star ability in 2014-15 after validating his scoring ability last season.

Entering his eighth season, Conley keeps rising through the ranks at his position. His recent maturation as a scorer has made him a threat on both ends of the floor.

This spurred discussion of Mike Conley as underrated. As ESPN Radio Memphis’ Brad Carson tweeted, Charles Barkley was among those with this utterance on his lips.

 

Defense demanding attention

His defensive play garners the greatest respect. Conley earned an All-Defensive Second Team honor in 2012-13. He has placed in the top six in steals per game three times. In 2012-13, he allowed 100 points per 100 possessions.

Don Wade of the Memphis Daily News discussed Conley’s mastery of the steal, in which he describes his study of the art and says, “I think I’ve learned a happy medium to where I’m physical and then I can back off.”

Conley will easily bounce back from a subpar defensive year in which he allowed 106 points per 100 possessions while ranking among the top 20 with a steals rate of 2.4 percent.

Like any other Grizzly, Conley struggled to plug holes with Marc Gasol injured for 23 games, allowing 111 points per 100 possessions during that time. He experienced a small boost after Marc Gasol returned, allowing 105 per 100.

He allowed 103 per 100 or fewer in three playoff games against the Oklahoma City Thunder and had four games with multiple steals. While the team failed to slow the Thunder in Game 7, he snatched four steals.

For Conley, this won’t be as important to attaining his first All-Star spot as what he’ll do with the ball.

 

Meeting the scoring standard

Offensive figures play a large role in All-Star selections, even for point guards. All four Western Conference All-Stars at the position posted at least 19.6 points per 36 minutes last season.

After his best scoring campaign, Conley still must work to close the gap. He averaged 18.4 points per 36 minutes while shooting 45 percent from the field.

He removed dead spots in his shooting. He shot 61.3 percent at the rim, five percent better than a year earlier. His 37.9 percent from between three and 10 feet was a 4.3 percent improvement. 

Basketball Insiders’ Jessica Camerato pointed out that Conley can “see the path to the basket before it is created.”

He’s an above-average outside shooter, hitting 36.1 percent last year and 37.2 percent for his career. He justifies the 19.4 percent career portion of shots as long twos by hitting at a high clip. At this point, that figure will normalize in the neighborhood of his past two seasons, with 44.3 percent in 2012-13 and 42.6 percent last year.

His technique makes him an outside threat. SB Nation’s Andrew Ford broke down Conley’s jump shot, noting his quick release and the forward sway in his legs that relaxes his shoulders.

Conley will continue to be aggressive. He had a career-high 26 20-point games last season. Topping 30 is manageable with Conley’s 24.8 percent usage rate last season, which will likely increase as Zach Randolph eases off a bit in his later years.

Also, Conley will have more opportunities to commandeer the offense with Courtney Lee occupying a starting spot for a full season. Lee is a lower-maintenance offensive player than Tony Allen, who periodically takes inexplicable shots. Besides being more effective, Lee had a 16.3 percent usage rate, 3.8 lower than Allen.

 

Efficiency as an answer to low assist numbers

All-Stars tally more assists than Conley, even though he’s a solid offensive manager. He ranked 17th in the category last season. 

But assists are a function of an offense. For the Grizzlies, Conley shares facilitation duties with Gasol. Hence, he’ll never average much more than six assists per game, especially after the team ranked seventh in field-goal percentage.

Rather, one should view his low turnover numbers. He committed 2.2 turnovers per 36 minutes and had an 11.5 percent turnover rate. Lillard was the only All-Star point guard with a turnover rate that low. Also, Conley had the lowest turnover rate of anyone with six or more assists per game.

Unless otherwise noted, advanced metrics come from basketball-reference.com.

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Pastner announces Dominic Woodson leaving Memphis

Memphis coach announces sophomore forward Dominic Woodson transferring after 1 season

      
 

 

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Memphis Grizzlies: Courtney Lee must step up

The Memphis Grizzlies have a lot of returning players that are playing the roles they currently fill strong enough. However, one person that needs to step it up a bit is Courtney Lee.
Courtney Lee during his time with the Boston Celtics.
Lee joined the team in the middle of last season when he was traded away from the Boston Celtics. By giving up Jerryd Bayless, the Grizzlies were grabbing someone who was in the midst of a great season despite only averaging 16 minutes a game. However, when Lee joined the Grizzlies, some of his numbers dropped a bit, specifically his shooting percentages both from beyond the arc and from the field.
Throughout his career, Lee has been able to make shots beyond the arc to some extent. In most of his time in the league before coming to the Grizzlies, Lee shot above 40% beyond the arc. In the first third of last season while he was still on the Celtics, Lee even had a career high shooting percentage of 44.2% from three-point range.
However, in his 49 games as a member of the

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Realistic Expectations for Vince Carter’s Debut Season with Memphis Grizzlies

The Memphis Grizzlies get a scoring boost with Vince Carter, but they didn’t acquire the game that made his legacy. The days of Carter as a dunk contest winner are long gone. In the latter part of his career, he has reinvented himself as an outside gunner.

Carter, who scored more than 20 points per game in 10 consecutive seasons, doesn’t impose his will like he once did. He also doesn’t play above the rim anymore. 

While his overall effectiveness has diminished, shooting a career-low 40.7 percent from the field last season, he can still set a fire off the bench. Carter averaged 17.6 points per 36 minutes.

 

Instant perimeter scoring

Incrementally, Carter has become a three-point specialist through the past six seasons. He shot more than 45 percent of his shots from beyond the arc the past two seasons and made 40.6 percent and 39.4 percent from that range in 2012-13 and 2013-14, respectively.

In the playoff loss to the San Antonio Spurs, he knocked down 48.4 percent from long range.

Carter lit up from long range in the latter part of the past two campaigns. In 2012-13, he shot better than 39 percent in each of the last four months after hitting just 34.2 percent that December. This past season, he grew hotter each month from three-point range from November to March, improving by more than two percent every month.

Due to the volume of his three-point attempts, he will generate more scoring than former Memphis sharpshooter Mike Miller, even though Miller was the NBA‘s second-most accurate three-point shooter. Carter made 1.8 per game—0.5 more than Miller.

He sticks to the outside, taking 60.5 percent of his shots outside 15 feet. 

Carter played within himself for the Dallas Mavericks. As quoted by The Washington Post, Carter said, “I know my role. I know the system, it’s second nature to me now.”

Having said that, he demands an active role while on the court. Each of the past two years, he had usage rates of 23.1 percent.

 

No longer a finisher in the paint

Carter doesn’t power through the lane like he once did. He only took 32.9 percent of attempts in the paint last season.

Also, he struggles to connect when he chooses to penetrate the lane. The 37-year-old made 50.9 percent of his shots at the rim and was far worse from the rest of the paint, as shown by his NBA.com shot chart.

This isn’t terrible. Carter took only 3.3 shots per game in the key—and may attempt fewer because the Grizzlies already clog the inside—so he won’t adversely impact their interior game.

Additionally, anyone who dreams of watching the iconic dunker throw many down should reconsider that. The 14-year veteran has progressively trimmed dunks from his game. He only connected on 15 last season.

In the same vein, Carter has made fewer trips to the free-throw line than he did earlier in his career. He had a 24.2 percent free-throw rate last season, 5.7 percent lower than his career mark. He drew a career-low 0.81 shooting fouls per game.

The combination of sparse inside drives, occasional dunks and low number of shooting fouls drawn indicate that Carter is shying away from contact. Reducing potential body contact saves his aging frame.

 

Don’t expect anything defensively

Carter’s defensive performances have been erratic in the past eight seasons. In that time, he ranged from 103 to 112 points allowed per 100 possessions.

He followed two respectable defensive seasons with a poor one in 2013-14. After allowing 103 and 106 in 2011-12 and 2012-13, respectively, Carter allowed 110. He had a career-low 1.3 defensive win shares.

Against the Spurs, his defense was nonexistent, as he allowed 115 points per 100 possessions.

Even though the Grizzlies can’t expect him to resurrect much defensive effectiveness, that won’t hurt their defense. Miller didn’t put forth effort on that end. Dave Joerger offset that by inserting him with players who defended better, including Mike Conley and Kosta Koufos.

The same would be done for Carter.

 

Conclusion

Carter will provide a shot of scoring as a sixth man for the Grizzlies. Much of that will come from downtown. He’ll remain safe by staying away from contact.

Due to his struggles inside, his two-point percentage is falling. Waning in that area, he’s liable to have more games with low field-goal percentages, as he made 33 percent or fewer from the field in 31 of 81 games last year.

That means the Grizzlies will need other bench players scoring effectively.

Still, he makes a difference. Carter will help the Grizzlies in the three-point department and floor spacing while serving as their leading bench scorer.

Unless otherwise noted, advanced metrics come from basketball-reference.com.

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