How 4 Memphis Grizzlies Can Boost Free-Agent Stock During the NBA Playoffs

Tom FirmeAnalyst IIApril 20, 2012

How 4 Memphis Grizzlies Can Boost Free-Agent Stock During the NBA Playoffs

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    The Memphis Grizzlies are heading into the playoffs with a full head of steam. The Grizzlies have won 10 of their last 13. Each of their four free agents-to-be (O.J. Mayo, Gilbert Arenas, Marreese Speights and Hamed Haddadi) have pitched in to get the strong finish.

    Mayo has been a fine scorer as always. He's scored 20 points three times in the last 13 games.

    Arenas has been a good help since the Grizzlies signed him a few weeks ago. He isn't turning the ball over too much (2.1 turnovers per 36 minutes) and he's shooting 37.1 percent from three-point range.

    Speights has had some good performances recently. He's had six games with seven or more rebounds and five games with double-digit scoring.

    Haddadi has taken advantage of his relative boost in playing time to showcase his abilities. He had four blocks in 16 minutes before fouling out against the New Orleans Hornets on Tuesday. On Monday, Haddadi dropped eight points and blocked two shots in 12 minutes against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

    (Note: The Grizzlies also have another player who becomes a free agent after this season in Darrell Arthur, but he missed the entire season due to an Achilles injury suffered in practice before the season.)

    The four active players mentioned above who become free agents after the season will have to work hard in the playoffs to show that they deserve significant contracts. Following is a breakdown of what each one needs to do during the playoffs to boost his stock in the free agency.

O.J. Mayo

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    O.J. Mayo is a nice scorer who could see a handsome payday in the offseason. He averages 12.6 points per game and 16.9 points per 36 minutes.

    He's also a fine defensive player, averaging 3.1 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game.

    Mayo has to shoot a good amount to score a lot because he only shoots 40.6 percent from the field. He takes 11.2 field-goal attempts per game (fourth among Grizzlies players) and 15 field-goal attempts per 36 minutes (one less than Rudy Gay for the team lead).

    Also, Mayo shoots from three-point range far more than any other Grizzlies player, putting up 4.2 shots from beyond the arc per game, 1.6 more per game than Rudy Gay and Mike Conley, who are tied for second in the category.

    Mayo is 23rd in three-point attempts (258) and shoots 36.4 percent from three-point range. Since 14 of 22 players with more three-point attempts shoot better than him, one would expect him to shoot better from beyond the arc.

    Above all, the Grizzlies need Mayo to shoot more efficiently in the playoffs. Since he might not get quite as many shooting opportunities as he wants in the playoffs, Mayo needs to pick shots wisely so that he can shoot at a higher clip. A higher field-goal percentage should guarantee more scoring from Mayo in the playoffs.

    Mayo will be an attractive free agent, even considering that he'll be a restricted free agent. Teams will be lining up to make offers to him, but they'll be even more eager to sign him if he hits shots at a better rate than he has in the regular season.

Marreese Speights

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    Marreese Speights will make his game stand out in the playoffs by being a presence on the boards. His scoring has been nice in the regular season, especially down the stretch, as he's shot better and had fewer nights when he's been flat.

    Still, he'll have to clear out as others, such as Rudy Gay, O.J. Mayo and Marc Gasol, demand shots.

    Speights has had quite a few games in which he's stacked up a number of rebounds in a relatively short amount of time. He's picked up six or more rebounds while playing 24 or fewer minutes 17 times this season.

    His ability to rebound efficiently is also reflected in his 10 rebounds per 36 minutes.

    He'll have to continue to do that in the playoffs. Zach Randolph will likely receive more playing time than Speights. Thus, Speights will have his action compacted, often having to play 24 minutes or fewer. He'll have to get into the rhythm of the game and jump on the boards quickly.

    Since Speights' free-agent stock hinges largely on his ability to get rebounds—especially since he's shooting 45 percent from the field now—he needs to gobble up errant shots come playoff time. If he doesn't, then teams might not be enthusiastic about matching the Grizzlies' offer for him.

Gilbert Arenas

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    Gilbert Arenas is just starting to make his presence felt coming off the Grizzlies bench.

    He's hitting three-point shots at a good rate (37.1 percent), but some games have been better than others for Arenas. In four of the nine games in which he's taken multiple three-point attempts, he's made at least half of them.

    He's had a few sterling performances, including April 7 against the Dallas Mavericks when he dropped 14 points in 17 minutes, making three of five three-point shots.

    He aided a blowout win against the Miami Heat two days prior by hitting four of five shots from downtown.

    Arenas will have to showcase his three-point shooting prowess in order to attract free-agent suitors.

    Also, he'll have to control the ball well. Arenas has turned the ball over fairly often over the course of his career, averaging 3.2 turnovers per game. This season, he's averaging 0.8 turnovers per game and 2.1 per 36 minutes, which is 1.1 less than his career average.

    This may be because he handles the ball less than he did earlier in his career. Now, his turnover rate (15.2 per 100 possessions), which may be a more telling figure, is 0.9 more than his career average. Since he is playing on a second unit with demanding players like O.J. Mayo and Zach Randolph, Arenas should turn the ball over less.

    Hopefully, Arenas finds a way to cut down turnovers a bit. That would aid his free-agent stock significantly.

Hamed Haddadi

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    Hamed Haddadi didn't get much attention at all during free agency last year. That's partly because it was a fast-paced period and partly because no team wanted to mess with the Iranian government as much as the Grizzlies did to make sure he received his visa.

    Haddadi probably still won't get much attention from NBA teams during team offseason. Not many teams take flyers on centers who play 5.5 minutes per game.

    Still, Haddadi can be a valuable player in limited playing time. He blocks 0.8 shots per game, which is remarkable for someone who plays as sparsely as he does. Haddadi projects to 4.6 blocks per 36 minutes.

    His four blocks against the Hornets showed how menacing he can be in the post.

    Also, Haddadi stacks up rebounds quickly. He pulls down 2.1 rebounds per game and 13 rebounds per 36 minutes. Also, he pulls down 5.4 offensive rebounds per 36 minutes.

    The "3 Shades of Blue" blog called Haddadi the "classic 'stay as close as you can to the hoop for 2.9 seconds at a time' big man."

    Haddadi played only 3.3 minutes per game in the playoffs last year, and he likely will see scant playing time in the playoffs this year. In what playing time he gets in these playoffs, he'll have to grab rebounds and block shots as quickly as he can.

    If Haddadi does that, he might get a few looks when he becomes a restricted free agent after this season. A team might even be willing to try to match the Grizzlies' offer.