The Memphis Grizzlies have surged through the first 20 games better than ever before, and certain players are responsible for that. Players like Zach Randolph and Tony Allen have helped the Grizzlies play at contender level.
A few bench players, like Jerryd Bayless, Marreese Speights and Quincy Pondexter, have rotated strong performances, but one has stuck out more than the rest.
Following is a set of awards for Grizzlies players for the first quarter of the season. This includes most valuable player, defensive player of the year, sixth man, most Improved player, and best and least-effective acquisition or re-signing.
There's no rookie of the year since the Grizz have only one rookie, and that guy, Tony Wroten, has mostly been in the D-League.
Some awards, like defensive player of the year, were much easier to hand out than others. Follow along to see who won what.
Disclaimer: Stats are current through Friday's games.
This is only soft praise for the more active of the two reserve front men in the Grizzlies rotation. The pickups and re-signings haven’t exactly produced a bounty of impressive performances.
Marreese Speights’ overall numbers aren’t spectacular: He’s put up 6.1 points and 4.6 rebounds per game.
However, his rebounding has been pretty good for his limited minutes. Speights averages 11.3 rebounds per 36 minutes. While he’s only played 24 minutes in one game, he’s pulled down six or more rebounds seven times.
The biggest benefit of the re-signing of the former Philadelphia 76er is the simple fact that he capably held his role as the only backup frontcourt player in the rotation with Darrell Arthur out. That this situation would arise was likely, considering Arthur’s injury history.
As last season showed, the early part of the season is not the time to start evaluating Speights’ game in great detail. The second phase of the season has seen him receive fewer minutes, as it did last year. He played fewer than 15 minutes in four games before Friday.
A resurgence in playing time will see him pick his game up again, as he did last year, averaging 12 points and nine rebounds per game in the last nine games before the NBA All-Star Game.
Jerryd Bayless was supposed to be the primary replacement for O.J. Mayo. He was supposed to pick up the scoring with the starters resting.
But he hasn’t.
Bayless is averaging just 5.9 points per game and 12.4 per 36 minutes. His field-goal percentage is a plain 41.7. His three-point aim has been plain, sitting at 35.1 percent.
Bayless’ offense is generally unimpressive. He produces 100 points per 100 possessions. Memphis’ offensive rating is 12.9 points better per 100 possessions.
Whereas Mayo could deftly force turnovers, Bayless isn’t special in that regard. He grabs 0.9 steals per game.
On the bright side, he does take up a significant number of minutes backing up Mike Conley, unlike previous backup point guards. Bayless puts in 17.1 minutes per game.
To hand this to Zach Randolph for his comeback from injury would be tempting, but no one deserves applause more than a player who went from being nothing to being a key reserve.
Last year, Quincy Pondexter was a mid-rotation guy who made no impact on games. He averaged a mere 4.2 points per contest. After being incapable from three-point range last year, knocking treys down at a 30.1 percent clip, he’s hitting a remarkable 42.6 percent of his threes this year.
His offensive rating jumped from 107 points per 100 possessions to 118.
Lionel Hollins has clearly noticed, raising his playing time from 15.7 minutes per game to 23.6.
In a season that has seen much more sharing on the bench than the previous two years, Quincy Pondexter has stood out a bit more than the rest. He’s leading reserves in scoring and three-point field-goal percentage. Also, he’s the lead reserve in minutes per game by 6.5.
The third-year pro has filled in the scoring more often than the other reserves, with five double-digit scoring affairs, compared with three for Jerryd Bayless and two for Marreese Speights.
Once again, Pondexter has earned the minutes he has received this season. His periodic scoring burst has been more helpful than that of any other bench player.
To name anyone but Tony Allen the top defender for the Grizzlies would be strange, especially this year.
Allen has undoubtedly validated his status as the defensive leader. He averages two steals per game. His defensive rating is a career-best 96 points per 100 possessions. The Chicago native has pulled down 2.7 defensive rebounds per game, which is remarkable for a 2-guard.
Allen’s impact on defense is epitomized by the drop in steals percentage—3.7 percent—and rise in defensive rating—7.2 points per 100 possessions—the Grizz experience while Allen is off the floor.
There’s no “grit ‘n’ grind” without this turnover-forcing fiend.
Zach Randolph might be scoring less than he did in his last couple full seasons, but he hasn’t lost his impact. While he’s scoring 17.6 points per game, he’s draining 50.6 percent of his field-goal attempts—two percent better than his career average.
He’s returned to being a dominant rebounder. He’s averaging an amazing 4.8 offensive rebounds per game and pulling down 12.8 per game overall, second in the league.
While Randolph has normally been a replaceable defender, he’s allowing a solid 99 points per 100 possessions.
The return of Randolph has also made the Grizzlies offense smoother, as the team has gone from 104 points per 100 possessions (19th in the NBA) to 106.5 this season.