Ranking the Memphis Grizzlies' 5 Most Valuable Players

Tom Firme@TFirmeAnalyst IIFebruary 4, 2013

Ranking the Memphis Grizzlies' 5 Most Valuable Players

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    Since trading Rudy Gay, the Memphis Grizzlies have seen a small shift in the value of the players on their roster. The core changes a bit with Gay's departure. Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley—to whom the Grizzlies are committing a substantial portion of payroll—are each expected to carry the team to some degree.

    However, one guy who isn't explicitly part of that core has just about as big a part of their success as anyone else. Tony Allen forms the Grizzlies' defensive identity. Trade rumors that surfaced recently paid some respect to that.

    Allen could increase his value to the Grizz a little bit with added scoring.

    The shifting scoring responsibilities will help define who has the biggest roles in the stretch run for Memphis. Randolph and Gasol should have the biggest upticks in scoring.

    Follow along to see what gives each player value to the team.

    Note: Statistics are current through Feb. 3 games. Advanced metrics come from Basketball-Reference.com.

5. Tayshaun Prince

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    While Lionel Hollins tends to ease players into the rotation, Prince will soon be expected to step into the starting lineup and provide a reasonable amount of scoring and sound defense.

    He simply needs to be an adequate, efficient scorer, hitting the 11.8 points per game and 44.8 percent he’s done thus far. Shooting a little more from three-point range and hitting close to the 43.4 percent he’s made this year would help.

    If Prince can blend in like Rudy Gay did on defense, the result would be acceptable. However, if he can turn back the clock on his defensive game, the 32-year-old could make the team impenetrable.

    Veteran leadership hasn’t been common on this young team in the last few years, but Prince ensures the health of the Grizz lineup by bringing just that, playing fundamental ball like he has most of his career.

4. Marc Gasol

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    Marc Gasol makes a somewhat larger impact on defense than on offense.

    Gasol seals the inside with his tough grind. He blocks 1.8 shots per game (10th in the league) and allows 98 points per 100 possessions. His fourth-place standing in defensive win shares (3.0) shows how much he stands out as a difference maker on that end.

    His offensive impact ebbs and flows. He’s scored 15 or more points in only 18 games and 20 in only seven contests. However, his passing is always an issue other teams must plan around. He averages 3.6 assists per game and has dished out five or more 15 times.

    Gasol’s scoring responsibilities will grow with the shift in the roster.

3. Mike Conley

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    Mike Conley has steadily improved every year. This year, it’s been most noticeable on the defensive end, as he stands second in the league in steals per game (2.3) and third in steals rate (3.8 percent). He’s become the perfect complement to Tony Allen’s grinding effort.

    His management of the offense is hard to appreciate, especially when one considers the vast difference between the quick fast-break offense he can create and the slow half-court sets he runs.

    The less the team shoots the three, the more valuable his three-point stroke is. Conley had been the only three-point threat after Wayne Ellington was dealt. The acquisition of Tayshaun Prince relieves some of that pressure. Prince’s passing ability will also help open up the offense and enable downtown action.

    Conley’s three-point shooting remains an essential part of Memphis’ scoring. With the changes in the roster, he may be able to open up that part of his game and bring his percentage back up.

2. Tony Allen

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    To a large extent, Tony Allen makes the Grizzlies what they are. If not for his presence, there would be no “grit ‘n’ grind” defense of which to speak. He pushes his philosophy of hard-nosed defense and thrashing for steals.

    Memphis has rallied around that concept, leading the league in steals and turnovers forced the past two years and standing second in opponent turnover rate this season. That’s all thanks to the defensive leadership that Allen provides.

    He sets the standard by playing bruising one-on-one defense, cutting off passing lanes and laying out for loose balls.

    It’s no wonder why the Grizzlies considered trading Zach Randolph or Rudy Gay just to make room to re-sign Allen, according to ESPN.

    Now, Allen isn’t much of a scoring presence. He mainly scores in transition and lets the game come to him in the half court. When Randolph or Gay were injured, he could be expected to pick up his scoring. Expect to see more double-figure affairs from him as the season wears on.

1. Zach Randolph

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    No matter whether Rudy Gay was still a Grizzly, Zach Randolph would be the mantle on which the team’s hopes rest. The offense runs more efficiently with Randolph on the court. The Grizzlies score five more points per 100 possessions with him on the floor.

    With Randolph out last season, the team was successful in transition but struggled in the half court. The Grizz scored 7.7 fewer points per 100 possessions with Randolph off the floor. Marc Gasol was the only significant inside scorer to whom Mike Conley could punch the ball.

    The 31-year-old will likely shoulder the largest scoring load now that Gay is gone. He largely shared the shot opportunities with Gay the last few years. Moreover, he’s the only player on the team who has averaged 20 points per game in a season.

    He creates extra opportunities with his offensive rebounding dominance. He’s seventh in the league with a 14.2 percent offensive rebounding rate and second in offensive rebounds.

    Also, he’s second in rebounds per game (11.7).

    If the Grizz go to the NBA Finals, they’ll do it on his back.