Memphis Grizzlies Report Card: Early Grades for the Team's Key Players

Tom Firme@TFirmeAnalyst IIJanuary 10, 2012

Memphis Grizzlies Report Card: Early Grades for the Team's Key Players

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    The Memphis Grizzlies have survived a significant portion of the 2011-12 schedule. With a 3-5 record to this point, the Grizzlies haven't lived up to the expectations set for them thus far.

    Meanwhile, the Grizzlies haven't been played as miserably as they have in some of their worse seasons.

    With that said, time has come to give an early assessment of the key Grizzlies players. Some, like Marc Gasol, are doing quite nicely. Some haven't done very well, while others yet have been weighed down by injuries.

    Certain criteria are used to judge which players will be graded. Those who have have started, played at least half of the Grizzlies games and/or at least 20 minutes per game will be graded. Thus, Dante Cunningham will be featured since he has played every game and started four, despite playing only 18 minutes per game.

    One exception is Zach Randolph, who went down with a partial MCL tear early in the fourth game of the season against the Chicago Bulls.

    Read along to see how key players have been graded for the first eight games.

Marc Gasol

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    Marc Gasol: B

    Gasol has done fairly well for his expectations. He isn't a 20-and-10 producer like Randolph, but he pulls down rebounds and does some scoring.

    Generally, Gasol has shot well this season. Through seven games, Gasol had been shooting 56.1 percent, but his dismal 0-for-9 outing against the Los Angeles Lakers brought him down to 49.3 percent. He's scoring more than last year's average (11.7) at 12.5 points per game.

    Gasol is carrying the rebounding load with Randolph out. In seven of eight games, Gasol has pulled down 10 or more boards. He's averaging 10.4 rebounds per game.

    Also, Gasol's averaging 2.4 blocks per game.

    Gasol is carrying a high minute load with Randolph and Darrell Arthur injured, averaging 39 minutes per game.

    Hopefully, Gasol picks up the shooting pace he had in the first seven games and continues rebounding as he has.

Rudy Gay

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    Rudy Gay: D+

    Gay looked to be functioning very well in lockout exhibitions. He scored 40 points or more twice.

    However, the exhibitions are long gone.

    Gay has been fluctuating to this point. He's has two games with 10 points or less and one game with 20 points or more. Gay is averaging only 16.3 points per game and shooting 42.3 percent from the field. Also, he's shooting 20 percent from three-point range and 72 percent from the line.

    Gay, typically a sharpshooter from all around, seems to be lacking his rhythm from before his shoulder surgery in March.

    Usually, star athletes recover fast and strong. Gay hasn't looked as such in most games.

    Meanwhile, Gay's doing a nice job on defense, grabbing 1.5 steals per game.

    With Randolph out, the Grizzlies desperately need Gay to pick up his shooting form to make up for lost scoring.

Tony Allen

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    Tony Allen: A+

    Tony Allen, who, along with Gay and Gasol, is one of three Grizzlies players to start all eight games, is grinding as usual on defense. Allen is averaging 1.9 steals per game to this point. Also, he's getting in passing lanes and applying defensive pressure as expected.

    On offense, Allen is played better than anyone would have expected. He's averaging 9.1 points per game, picking up a little bit of the scoring. Against the Utah Jazz, Allen scored 21 points, a rarity for him.

    Allen's shooting 49.1 percent from the field, a bit higher than his career figure (48.4 percent).

    Allen did a poor job handling the ball in the opener against the San Antonio Spurs, turning the ball over four times. Since then, Allen has improved greatly, turning it over only seven times.

Mike Conley

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    Mike Conley: C

    Conley hasn't had the brightest start to the season. He went down with an ankle injury in the first minute of the loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder and missed two games after that.

    Conley isn't shooting too well from the field (37.3 percent), including 26 percent against the Jazz and Minnesota Timberwolves. He's averaging 9.8 points per game and dishing out six assists per game.

    On the bright side, Conley is perfect on 11 free-throw attempts to this point.

    The Grizzlies will be counting on Conley to pick up and put the offense in proper function.

Jeremy Pargo

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    Jeremy Pargo: B-

    Pargo has risen to the challenge in the early part of the season. He filled in for Conley when Conley went down with an ankle injury. Pargo did quite well against the Thunder, scoring 15 points and putting up seven assists. He scored 14 points, but had only five assists against the Houston Rockets the next game.

    Then, he was as much a victim of the debacle against the Bulls as anyone else.

    After Conley returned to the lineup, Pargo went back to the periphery. He's averaging 5.9 points and 3.1 assists per game in eight games, with the only games in which he scored in double digits coming in his starts.

    It'll be interesting to see how he figures into the rotation, but he may average little more than 10 minutes per game down the stretch as long as Conley is healthy.

O.J. Mayo

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    O.J. Mayo: C

    All eyes have been on Mayo to see how he'd do after the pressure of the trade rumors in the offseason. Mayo has been up and down to start the season. Mayo has scored in double figures only three times in eight games, including one back-to-back set.

    Mayo is averaging 9.9 points per game and only shooting 43.2 percent from the field.

    The Grizzlies will be counting on Mayo to score in double digits as he did in previous seasons.

Dante Cunningham

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    Dante Cunningham: D-

    Whereas Pargo stepped up in a positive way when Conley went down, Cunningham stepped in when Randolph became injured, but didn't bring a great deal of energy. Cunningham has only put up 4.2 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. He's shooting a mere 40.5 percent from the field.

    Cunningham has only produced more than five rebounds twice.

    Cunningham hasn't been called upon for many minutes. He averaged 19 minutes per game and his season high is 26 minutes against the Jazz.

    The Grizzlies will be looking for much more from Cunningham on the boards. Lionel Hollins can't have a big man shooting this poorly.

Quincy Pondexter

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    Quincy Pondexter: C+

    Pondexter has done a decent job for his role. He's averaging 5.8 points and 2.1 rebounds per game while shooting 55.8 percent from the field.

    One might like to see Pondexter rebound more, but his 14 points against the Lakers were very helpful.

    The Grizzlies may need some more scoring like that if others can't hold up.

    Also, Pondexter may be called upon for more minutes if the minutes wear on Gasol.