A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

How to make the good times last, Memphis Grizzlies

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Left: Jim Calhoun, head basketball coach, Univ...

Fitting Rudy Gay in will be essential to the Grizzlies next season (Image via Wikipedia)

The Memphis Grizzlies’ memorable 2011 playoff run reminds me a lot of the LA Clippers in 2006. Like the Clippers, this is the Grizzlies first real playoff run after eons of terrible years. Both were built with strong frontcourts anchored by a 20 and 10 PF having his first real success in Zach Randolph and Elton Brand. Both ended with 7 game 2nd round losses.

The Clippers couldn’t keep it up and fell back to their usual ways the next year. The Grizzlies need to make the right moves to make sure they don’t follow suit.

So why did the Clippers fall back to earth? Sam Cassell’s decline played its part, as did Elton Brand and Chris Kaman both having lesser seasons – and Corey Maggette’s presence the whole year hurt the team’s ball movement. I’d also point the finger at Mike Dunleavy for not being a strong enough coach to keep the team’s defense and ball movement together for more than one year.

Here’s what the Grizzlies should do to get back to this spot next year:

Keep Marc Gasol

This is an obvious one. His presence with Randolph defines the team and no pricetag should be too high. Resign him even at 15 million a year.

Keep Battier and Allen together

The second thing that defined the team for me is how strong Tony Allen and Shane Battier played defensively. They presented a nightmare for opposing offenses with swarming help d, while moving the ball and getting open offensively. Memphis’ run was anchored by its defense and its defense was anchored by the Allen and Battier combination. Once again Michael Heisley should sign Battier at 6-8 million a year if he wants to keep winning.

Trade O.J. Mayo

With Rudy Gay’s return, having Mayo on the roster is overkill. You can have too many guys on the perimeter and too many mouths to feed offensively. Too many players leads to players who want more minutes than they’re getting which hurts team chemistry. I run out a 3 man rotation of Allen, Battier and Gay, guaranteeing a defensively superior perimeter at all times. Having Mayo in there would reduce Allen and Battier’s minutes both individually and playing together and would bring back the “too many on ball players” 2009-2010 lineup of Conley, Mayo, Gay, Randolph and Gasol, which is not what the Grizzlies need. The introduction of Battier and Allen and emergence of players like Darrell Arthur and Sam Young this year added off ball balance last year’s squad lacked. I’d try to get a 3rd big man who can defend and rebound in return for Mayo. Or perhaps just trade him to a team with capspace to clear enough salary to resign both Battier and Gasol.

Keep Rudy Gay in check

The most important part for the Grizzlies going forward, is likely making sure Rudy Gay fits going forward. The Grizzlies succeeded with the frontcourt as the focal point of the offense, Conley making the right passes and the perimeter players slashing and defending. If Gay commits to being a monster off ball slasher and defender as was his role on the 2010 World Championship team, the Grizzlies upside next year is huge. If he comes in expecting isolation plays every quarter and starts trying to outscore Zach Randolph, if he doesn’t commit defensively – the team’s culture could be submarined. He needs to be a poor man’s James Worthy, not a poor man’s Carmelo Anthony. His fit is the key to the Grizzlies taking the next step and becoming a title contender.

My best guess?

I think the Grizzlies are here to stay, unlike the rejuvinated Clippers. I see no reason why Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, or Marc Gasol wouldn’t keep this play up unlike Cassell, Brand and Kaman. I expect them to keep Shane Battier and not O.J. Mayo, they came within a few minutes of dealing Mayo this deadline. The combination of Allen, Battier and Gay should give them a potentially devastating perimeter defense. A dominant perimeter defense combined with elite interior scoring should be enough to guarantee success, if both hold. Gay’s play in the World Championship and improved defensive/slashing game before his injury makes me optimistic he will commit to this team’s newfound defense and ball movement style of play. And finally, I trust Lionel Hollins to make this all happen after the way he’s turned around the franchise. Don’t be surprised if the Thunder and Grizzlies meet again in the playoffs a year from now, perhaps in the Western Conference Finals this time.

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Written by jr.

May 16, 2011 at 8:08 pm

One Response

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  1. Yep.

    Crow

    November 6, 2011 at 3:06 pm


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