The Memphis Grizzlies enter the 2012-13 season with exactly what they want and need. They have a sound lineup with at least two strong scorers and three top-five players at their positions. Aside from those three, they have a promising point man and a 2 who provides excellent defense.
Going two deep, the Grizzlies have ample depth. At each position, this scrappy team has at least decent backups. The guard positions and the power forward position are stocked with talent. This was shown when Darrell Arthur broke his leg and Marreese Speights was immediately ready to step in as the backup.
Depth was a point of pride for the Grizz last season, and it's even better this year. Grizzlies backups, such as Speights, Jerryd Bayless and Josh Selby, will provide plenty of scoring.
Read along to see just how good the Grizzlies look going two deep in their rotation. Following are grades for each position going two deep.
Marc Gasol is the story at center. He averaged the 12th-most minutes per game (36.5) in the league last season and played the sixth-most total minutes (2,370).
He turned the corner last season, averaging 14.6 points per game. He started to become one of the toughest defending centers. Gasol blocked 1.9 shots per game.
The guy who Tony Allen refers to as “Big Spain” has worked to be more assertive in trying to score inside. Gasol has worked on taking more scoring opportunities that come his way and passing it back out a little less.
Gasol told The Commercial Appeal:
I can get better mentally—knowing when I need to be aggressive and when the team needs me. I'll keep making plays for my teammates, but, at some point, I have to dominate at some point and take over.
If Gasol develops his scoring ability further this season, he should give the Grizz a third dangerous scoring threat after Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph.
Hamed Haddadi will probably end up being the only backup center on the Memphis roster. He’s entering his fifth season with a small change that might make him a little more useful. Haddadi had elective surgery in the offseason to repair ligament damage in his right wrist suffered before he arrived in the NBA.
Haddadi was seen exercising a curiously fluid shot from mid-range before training camp began, as Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal tweeted.
Grizz fans may wonder if the Iranian center enters the season stronger than before. Haddadi, who averaged 12.4 rebounds and 4.5 blocks per 36 minutes in sparse playing time last season, has been a fan favorite. However, Lionel Hollins hasn’t shown interest in giving him more than 10 minutes per game.
If Haddadi can play a little more this season, then Gasol will face a little less pressure.
The question on the minds of many is whether Zach Randolph will come back strong this season after missing most of last year with a partial MCL tear. He took time to regain form before hitting his stride in the playoffs.
Now, Randolph is looking like he’s in better condition than he was late last season. According to The Commercial Appeal, Randolph went back to the "chameleon training" that he did last offseason. The training technique has given him more energy and developed various muscles.
Moreover, Randolph said that his knee felt "100 percent."
Randolph’s backup, Marreese Speights, is also looking good. Speights transitioned well into his current role. He averaged 8.9 points and six rebounds in 21.9 minutes per game in the second half of the season.
Speights came into training camp with a trimmer figure, according to The Commercial Appeal. This should help his ability to make a difference off the bench. He spaces out the offense well and knocks down jumpers. He could stretch defenses a little more this season with his improved condition.
Rudy Gay alone makes this a strong position. He’s easily the fourth-best small forward behind LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony. Paul Pierce and Danny Granger are close behind Gay, but Granger is ceding a bit of offense and Pierce is starting to decline.
Gay is a dynamic scorer. He’s dazzles on the fast break, drives nimbly off the dribble and throws down dunks. He had been a three-point threat in the past, but hit only 31.2 percent from downtown last season.
However, he hasn’t shown that he’ll become the type of scorer who will take over a game. He’s averaged between 18.9 and 20.1 points per game while shooting between 45 and 47 percent since his second season in 2007-08.
The most he's scored 25 points in a season is 19 times in 2007-08. That's also when he set a career high with 12 30-point games. Since then, he's never had more than five 30-point games in a season.
Gay showed a bit of hope in the preseason opener that he might break out as a scorer, posting 27 points against Real Madrid. Before that he was all over the place making plays on Oct. 2 in the second day of training camp, per The Commercial Appeal.
He’s a terrific defender, averaging 1.5 steals per game and allowing 102 points per 100 possessions.
Backing up Gay is Quincy Pondexter. Pondexter is simply decent. He can score occasionally. He shoots a nice 46 percent from the field. He plays decent defense, allowing 106 points per 100 possessions. The former New Orleans Hornet isn’t a liability on either end, but he rarely makes a difference, either.
Tony Allen, the defensive specialist, is the antidote to the four shooters in the lineup, similar to what Doug Christie was to the Sacramento Kings and Bruce Bowen was to the San Antonio Spurs 10 years ago.
He plays defense with an intensity like hardly anyone else shows. He steps up in passing lanes and swipes the ball in one-on-one situations. Allen received recognition for his defensive tenacity after last season, receiving an All-Defensive First Team nod.
He’s returned with the same defensive swagger as always. After his crew won a defensive battle in an early training camp practice, he was quoted by The Commercial Appeal as saying, “Get on my team if you want to win a defensive drill.”
Allen sent a clear message, as he often will during training camp and the preseason, that if Grizzlies players want to win, they need to follow his lead on defense.
The backup 2-guard is the new starlet of the team, Josh Selby. Selby spent last season on the periphery. Then, he had a huge summer league, averaging a summer league-leading 27.5 points per game.
Selby won’t score quite as much as he did during the summer series, but he should be able to flex some scoring ability. He’s a small, yet explosive player who can power up for big inside plays. Also, he’s capable of hitting three-point shots.
Mike Conley is a solid point guard. He pushes the ball in transition very well. He can punch it into the post. A 38 percent career shooter from beyond the arc, the Indianapolis native has a keen three-point eye.
He’s also pretty efficient. He turned it over twice per game last season.
Conley complements Allen’s zany defensive intensity well. The Ohio State product was second in the league in steals per game.
Conley makes up for his lack of height with his strength and quickness. He added muscle during the offseason and dropped his body fat to 4.5 percent, according to The Commercial Appeal.
Jerryd Bayless is a fine backup for Conley. The former Toronto Raptor can pile up points quickly off the bench. He averaged 11.4 points in 22.7 minutes per game last season. Bayless is a high-volume ball-handler who doesn’t always make the pass when he needs to. He averaged 3.8 assists per game last season.
Also, Bayless is a sharpshooter from long range. He knocked down 42.3 percent from three-point range.
As long as he can play for an entire season like he did in a small sample last season, Bayless will be a huge improvement on the Grizzlies’ reserve point guard situation last season. Jeremy Pargo averaged 9.6 minutes in 44 games. He was turnover-prone, averaging 3.9 turnovers per 36 minutes.
Josh Selby averaged 8.5 minutes in 28 games.
This forced Conley to play 35 minutes per game. This season, Conley will be able to rest a little more, considering the capable backup behind him.