5 Reasons Memphis Grizzlies Bench Is Better Than Last Year
One strength of the Memphis Grizzlies last season was depth. The Grizzlies had a strong bench scorer in O.J. Mayo. They had interior defense provided by Dante Cunningham.
The Grizzlies lacked some things on defense last year, too. Point guard depth wasn't good. They typically could only turn to Mayo to come through with scoring off the bench. Along with that, the Grizzlies didn't have much three-point shooting off the bench.
With greater depth at every position except center, the Grizzlies are better able to cope with injuries.
Follow along to see each area in which Memphis has improved on the bench.
More Bench Scoring
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Last season, O.J. Mayo was the source of scoring energy off the bench for the Grizzlies. Mayo averaged 12.6 points per game, 7.4 more than any other bench player. Mayo scored in double figures 47 times, more than every other Memphis reserve combined.
Lionel Hollins’ team heads into this season with a few players who can put up points off the bench. Jerryd Bayless averaged 11.8 points per game last season for the Toronto Raptors. Josh Selby hinted at his potential by racking up 27.5 points per game in the summer league.
Tony Wroten, who averaged 16 points per game in his year at Washington, could make a bit of an impact as a slasher.
Marreese Speights moves to the bench as Zach Randolph reestablishes himself in the starting lineup after coming off the bench down the stretch. Speights developed an ability to score in short minutes late in the season.
With the growth of Speights and Selby, and the addition of a few reserves, the Grizzlies will be able to count on more than one player to score off the bench.
Better Point Guard Depth
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Last season, the Grizzlies had the tandem of Jeremy Pargo and Josh Selby backing up Mike Conley. However, neither player earned many minutes. Pargo averaged 9.6 minutes per game in 44 contests. Selby averaged 8.5 minutes per game in 28 games.
Selby was an unvarnished rookie, while Pargo had a couple of nice moments, but wasn’t that efficient. He averaged 3.9 turnovers per 36 minutes and had a 22.1 percent turnover rate.
This year, the Grizzlies appear to have ensured a great deal of depth behind Conley. Jerryd Bayless is expected to be the backup. Bayless would be capable of easing Conley’s minute load from 35 per game. He's a pretty good ball-handler who sees the floor well, and his scoring ability is impressive.
Indeed, he makes some mistakes, but his 2.7 turnovers per 36 minutes last season wasn't too bad for the amount of time he controlled the ball.
Lionel Hollins can feel relaxed about the point guard situation with a strong backup who can stand in for Conley for more than 20 minutes if needed.
More Three-Point Shooting
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The Grizzlies have been one of the worst three-point shooting teams in recent years. In each of the last three years, they placed in the bottom 10 in that category. Last season, they placed 25th with a 32.6 percent mark. They also shot threes infrequently, placing 28th with 12.9 three-pointers per game.
O.J. Mayo, Mike Conley and Gilbert Arenas were the only relevant three-point shooters on the team.
The small-market franchise acquired Wayne Ellington from the Minnesota Timberwolves to boost three-point shooting off the bench. While Ellington shot just 32 percent last season, he knocked down 39.5 percent and 39.7 percent in his first and second seasons, respectively.
Ellington, who turns 25 just before the season starts, should be able to bounce back in his new environment.
Josh Selby can hit three-pointers. He connected on 45.5 percent of three-pointers in his eight D-League games last season. He hit just above 70 percent from three in the summer league. While these aren't NBA numbers, the extraordinarily high rates show that he can knock down three-pointers.
Jerryd Bayless was a terror from three-point range last season, hitting 42.3 percent.
The three-point shooting ability of these reserves will not only boost the offense while the starters are resting, but also ensures that Mike Conley isn't the only one who opponents need to game-plan for beyond the arc.
Better Power Forward Depth
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The Grizzlies are in better shape at power forward than they were entering last season. After Darrell Arthur went down with a torn Achilles tendon, they had to scramble to acquire Dante Cunningham. When Zach Randolph went down, they pulled the trigger on the Marreese Speights trade.
The "Grindhouse" faced another challenge recently when Arthur suffered another preseason injury. This time, the Grizzlies are fine, with Speights in place to back up Randolph.
Speights is a strong backup for Randolph. The former Philadelphia 76er came into his own as a jump shooter last season and developed his ability to pile up points and rebounds in short minutes.
When Arthur comes back in four to six weeks, as The Commercial Appeal reports he will, he'll add perimeter shooting and a bit of rebounding. He's also a solid defender who can hang over pick-and-rolls.
As Randolph is moving past his prime, the Grizzlies can feel safe with two quality backups to help when he needs rest.
A Stronger Last Man
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An oft-conveyed idea is that a team is only as strong as its weakest player. That weakness has become stronger in the offseason.
Hamed Haddadi, the last player off the bench for the Grizzlies, had elective surgery on his right wrist to fix damage that had been inflicted in a non-basketball injury before he first joined the Grizzlies.
Haddadi has been the guy to rack up impressive numbers in very short minutes. He has averaged five or six minutes per game in each of his four NBA seasons. In that time, he racks up rebounds and blocks like few others. The Iranian center averaged 12.4 rebounds and 4.5 blocks per 36 minutes last season.
The knock on him has been that he doesn't have great stamina.
However, he has recovered well from his injury, as Ron Tillery of The Commercial Appeal tweeted:
Griz backup C Hamed Haddadi shooting well from mid-range w/ surgically repaired right hand today in FedExForum. Should be ready for camp.— Commercial Appeal (@CAGrizBlog) September 21, 2012
This is a good sign for a player who never had much shooting range. If he can play strong in camp and during the preseason, Haddadi just might be able to earn more than 10 minutes per game, which could help Marc Gasol, who was sixth in minutes played and 12th in minutes per game last season.