NBA Preseason Memphis Grizzlies Player Power Rankings
Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay don't have any personal heat between them, but there is an unspoken race between the two players to see which is the No. 1 Memphis Grizzlies player. Gay brings the pure scoring ability that makes the team breathe while Randolph flexes the 20-10 ability.
This is a close duel. The same may be said for some of the key players on the bench. When healthy, Darrell Arthur may be at the same level as Marreese Speights. However, with him facing a setback due to a leg fracture, Speights has the upper hand until further notice.
In the backcourt, the assets that Josh Selby and Jerryd Bayless bring to the table make them close matches. The contest regarding the higher-scoring bench player could rage for most of the season if Selby plays like he did in the summer league.
Follow along to see where each player with a guaranteed contract ranks.
13. Hamed Haddadi
Hamed Haddadi has a vibrant following, with numerous people clamoring for him to receive more minutes. He’s admired for his ability to stack up blocks and rebounds in a short period of time. He averaged 4.7 blocks and 12.4 rebounds per 36 minutes, playing 6.2 minutes per game last season.
Meanwhile, he has a tendency to foul, averaging 7.4 fouls per 36 minutes last season.
Haddadi hasn’t shown this preseason that he deserves more minutes. He’s struggled with fouls and turnovers in the three preseason games. He had three points, two rebounds and two fouls against the Houston Rockets. He had seven rebounds in just 11 minutes, but he also committed three fouls in that time.
He avoided committing a foul in 13 minutes while putting up five points and two rebounds, although he turned the ball over four times.
With the mistakes he has made in preseason play, Grizz fans can expect to see him on the floor in the five- to 10-minute moments he typically gives every year.
12. Tony Wroten
Tony Wroten isn’t expected to be a big-time contributor in Memphis this season. He has a fine ability to score, but he only does it driving to the basket. Also, he can only go one way with the ball. He’ll take some development to become effective in the NBA.
He struggled against the Bulls, posting seven points and four assists while committing three turnovers and two fouls. After the game, he conceded to The Commercial Appeal that he’s adjusting to the tempo of the NBA game.
“The biggest difference is the pace,” he said. “You have to know where everybody else is and you have to know what it takes to get it to them.”
Wroten didn’t play in the last two exhibition games. Don’t be surprised if he has a sizable number of DNPs next to his name in box scores this season. The former Washington Husky will have some learning to do this season.
11. Quincy Pondexter
Unlike anyone else on the Memphis bench, Quincy Pondexter doesn’t have any one area in which he blows people away. He doesn’t score much. His defense is average at best. He isn’t much of a three-point threat, having shot 30.6 percent from long range last season.
He’s simply a nice guy to have coming off the bench who can periodically knock down a shot and won’t make too many mistakes. His field-goal percentage last season (45 percent) was good enough that he wasn’t a liability on offense.
The former New Orleans Hornet was a nice surprise with his scoring in the last two preseason games. He scored 12 points against the Hawks on Sunday and 10 points against Houston Wednesday night.
If he can keep up his scoring touch during the season, it’ll be a blessing to the Grizzlies.
10. Wayne Ellington
Wayne Ellington came from the Minnesota Timberwolves in a deal for Dante Cunningham with the hope that he could regain the dangerous three-point shooting that he showed in his first two seasons.
Ellington shot 39.5 percent from long range as a rookie and 39.7 percent in 2010-11. His three-point mark dropped to 32.5 percent last season.
Thus far, Ellington hasn’t been on target from three-point range in the preseason. He shot 2-of-5 from beyond the arc in the second game against the Atlanta Hawks, was 1-of-3 against the Bulls and missed both attempts against Houston.
The Grizzlies will be counting on Ellington, Jerryd Bayless and Josh Selby to help boost the team’s dreadful three-point profile. They placed 25th in three-point field-goal percentage last season.
They’ll hope that Ellington can find his stroke between now and Oct. 30 so that he can help bring a turnaround in that department.
9. Darrell Arthur
Darrell Arthur didn’t enter training camp on good footing. He broke his leg in late September during a pickup basketball game and was expected to miss four to six weeks.
Suffering a serious injury before the start of the season for the second year in a row isn’t a good sign for the Kansas product. He missed the entire 2011-12 season due to a torn Achilles tendon. The broken leg slows his transition to full rhythm of competitive NBA action. Arthur will end up with shorter minutes in the first half of the season.
He’s a significant asset to the Grizzlies. During the offseason, the Grizzlies re-signed Arthur and found themselves with two almost identical players in him and Dante Cunningham. Chris Wallace decided to keep Arthur and deal Cunningham. Arthur is a superior shooter and defends the high pick-and-roll better.
The three-year pro will have to adjust on the fly as he tries to reestablish himself as the most promising jump-shooting big man off the Memphis bench.
8. Josh Selby
Josh Selby has been one to watch since this offseason. He was co-MVP of the summer league, averaging 27.5 points per game.
That raised hopes that he’ll improve this season.
Selby has looked better as a shooter and ball-handler since last season.
His three-point stroke looks good. He shot 3-of-5 from beyond the arc Wednesday night after missing time due to an ankle sprain.
If Selby, Jerryd Bayless, Darrell Arthur and Marreese Speights can be productive scoring off the bench, the Grizzlies will have no problem improving upon the bench scoring from last year.
7. Jerryd Bayless
The name on everyone’s lips in Grizzlies camp is Jerryd Bayless.
Rudy Gay told The Commercial Appeal that Bayless “surprised me most in training camp.”
On Oct. 2, Ron Tillery of The Commercial Appeal observed that Bayless looked great shooting three-pointers and connecting on catch-and-shoot opportunities.
Bayless will plug a big hole backing up Mike Conley and likely proving to be the leading scorer off the bench. He averaged 11.4 points and 3.8 assists per game while shooting 42.4 percent from the field and 42.3 percent from three-point range last season for the Toronto Raptors.
He was the most important offseason acquisition for the Grizzlies. He’ll be the biggest source of scoring in place of the departed O.J. Mayo.
To this point in preseason, Bayless hasn’t disappointed. He scored in double figures in each of the first three exhibition games.
6. Marreese Speights
Marreese Speights looks to be the key frontcourt player coming off the bench this season for the Grizzlies. Since Darrell Arthur has been out with a broken leg, Speights will receive the bulk of the bench minutes up front for the first half of the season.
Speights played well overall in place of Zach Randolph when the regular power forward was out most of last season. He averaged 8.8 points and 6.2 rebounds in just 22.6 minutes per game on the season.
When Randolph came back, Speights did well in fewer minutes. After getting the starting job back after four unproductive games on the bench, Speights averaged 10 points and seven rebounds in the last four games of March. He averaged 8.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game in April.
This gives the Grizzlies plenty of hope that Speights can put away the struggles that he sometimes had last year while playing in short spurts.
He’s good enough that Memphis won’t lose anything when he steps in for Randolph or Mark Gasol. He’s a sound rebounder and a nifty jump shooter.
5. Tony Allen
If a player’s defensive credentials alone could make him an essential difference-maker for a team, then Tony Allen would be closer to the top of this list. Allen isn’t much of an offensive player, but he makes this team what it is defensively. Allen pushes a turnover-centered defensive mindset.
He’s the most aggressive player in the league in this area. Allen puts out an incredible amount of energy going for steals. He cuts off passing lanes.
Last season, he was fifth in steals per game and second in steals percentage. Also, he was tops in defensive rebounding percentage among shooting guards.
The “Grindhouse” is defined by grinding defense, and no one will determine the course of this team on that end of the floor more than Allen.
4. Mike Conley
Mike Conley has improved every year of his career. He increased his assists per game and steals per game every year thus far. He’s always improving his passing ability and on-court leadership. If he takes another step this year, he’ll be an item.
Conley is the surest thing of any Grizzlies player from three-point range. He’s a 38 percent three-point shooter for his career.
Conley sets teammates up well in transition, although he needs to work a little harder to enable less talented transition scorers when they get in front. He could also be more decisive in the half court.
The sixth-year player is a terrific defender and a nice scorer. He's not the most accurate field-goal shooter, having hit 43.3 percent from the field last season.
While he won’t be the biggest difference in whether the Grizzlies go to the NBA Finals, Conley will be counted upon to promote a more efficient offense than the team showed in the playoffs against L.A.
3. Marc Gasol
Marc Gasol took an expected jump last season, becoming a bigger all-around threat. He became the real defensive anchor inside that the Grizzlies need him to be. Gasol started to show the ability to steal and block shots that not many players demonstrate. He averaged 1.8 blocks and 0.95 steals per game.
His averages dipped in the second half of last season. He only averaged 6.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game in April.
Also, he struggled at the beginning of the playoff series against the Clippers.
Hopefully, he can stay strong throughout the season.
Also, Gasol is trying to become a bigger scoring threat. He explained to The Commercial Appeal that he’s working to be a more aggressive inside scorer. Gasol said:
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 this turns out as the seven-footer plans, the Grizz will have three big-time scorers instead of just two.
2. Rudy Gay
If Rudy Gay plays like he’s expected to, he’ll be a solid scorer for the Grizzlies. He’ll throw it down in transition and drive it inside to score in the half court. Maybe he’ll bounce back from shooting just 31.2 percent from three-point range last season.
For the Grizzlies to become true contenders, Gay will need to up his scoring from 19 points per game last season. At some point in the playoffs, the Grizzlies will need him to take over a game with his scoring. He rarely shows that ability.
Gay told The Commercial Appeal that he’s using his failed tryout for Team USA as a motivating force. He’ll need to show it in his scoring this season if it’s really a driving force.
1. Zach Randolph
Nothing raises the hopes of Grizzlies fans like a healthy Zach Randolph. Randolph said on Oct. 1, “I’m healthy. I’m 100 percent.”
When Randolph is healthy, he’s a top-three power forward. He’s a dominant offensive rebounder, a good defensive rebounder, a solid scorer, a slightly above-average defender and a nice passer for a big man.
He took time to come back to form after returning from injury. His rebounding and scoring wasn’t completely there.
With Randolph back in good health and strong conditioning, he’s a dangerous player underneath. To pencil him in as a 20-10 guy once again may be done with no second thought.