3 Memphis Grizzlies Role Players Who Must Step Up by Playoff Time
The Memphis Grizzlies’ supporting cast provided a huge boost in the blowout win against the Orlando Magic on Sunday. Tayshaun Prince led all scorers with 14 points. Two bench scorers, Ed Davis and Quincy Pondexter, scored in double figures and four more had at least five points. Pondexter made a great showing from three-point land.
Davis had a great game all-around, filling up the stat sheet.
More will be expected of the supporting cast in the remainder of the regular season. Now that the bench players have discovered their roles on the team, they’ll have to prove their value.
Significant voids exist on the team. Scoring happens on an ad hoc basis with no clear leader in the department in the post-Rudy Gay era. Three-point shooting is a precious commodity on a team that shoots from three-point range less than any other team. Also, in the short term, big guys need to make up for the rebounding loss with Zach Randolph injured.
Here’s a look at a few guys who need to show Lionel Hollins what they can give the team in the postseason.
Which Grizzlies role player needs to step up more than anyone else before the playoffs begin?
Pondexter’s shooting figures since returning from an MCL sprain are spectacular. He’s shooting 57.1 percent from the field, 93 percent from the line and 44.4 percent from three-point range.
However, his three-point shooting has surged in the last three games. In that time, he’s hit six of 11 three-point attempts.
While he’s been great shooting from outside this season, this recent string is just a small snapshot of what the second half holds for him after he missed several weeks.
The Grizzlies are in desperate need of strong long-range shooting. Part of that will need to come from this player who has improved greatly in his third pro campaign. He’s one of only three Memphis players who take multiple three-pointers per game and one of two who hits 40 percent from three-point range.
If Pondexter shows a dead eye from downtown down the stretch, he’ll remind Hollins that the bench features a player who can carry the mantle behind the arc.
As much as the author of this space has bled ink on the subject, Arthur is sagging on the offensive end. While he’s taking away points at a spectacular rate, the Kansas product isn’t putting enough in the basket to make his impact complete.
Arthur’s scoring has dropped off significantly in the last month and a half. He’s hasn’t scratched double-digit scoring since Jan. 23. In the last 17 games since dropping 20 on the Los Angeles Lakers that night, he’s averaging 5.4 points per game and shooting 39.4 percent from the field.
For the month of February, he averaged 4.6 points per game. That was the lowest monthly scoring split of the three full months he’s played this season.
Due to Arthur’s slump, Lionel Hollins has cut the power forward’s playing time. Arthur has played fewer than 18 minutes in 12 of the last 13 games. During that time, he’s averaging 14.5 minutes per game. In February, he played less than his first two full months of the season, putting in 15.2 minutes per game.
As a result, Austin Daye and Ed Davis have played more than expected. Still, Arthur needs to start hitting shots again so that the team can enjoy the effect of his entire game. If he’s ineffective on offense, he won’t be able to supply his defensive help as much as the Grizzlies need.
With Randolph struggling through an ankle injury and Arthur flailing through shooting woes, an opening has emerged for Davis. For at least a brief period, the former Toronto Raptor has a chance to impress Hollins by grinding it out in the time he’s granted.
On Sunday, Davis capitalized on this opportunity, flashing 10 points, 10 rebounds and two steals in 24 minutes.
This was a major highlight in the beginning of his Memphis tenure. He’s averaged only 4.5 points and 2.5 rebounds per game in 12 games. Sunday was his third game scoring in double figures and his first pulling down 10 rebounds since throwing on the three shades of blue.
Raptors beat man Josh Lewenberg noted the opportunity for Davis.
Injuries have opened the door for Ed Davis in Memphis, sound familiar? First double-double w/ Grizz tonight, dude doesnt waste opportunities— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) March 4, 2013
The third-year pro is seen as possibly being an eventual successor to Randolph as the starting power forward. His thrilling affair in Orlando should give Hollins a little confidence in him. More substantive appearances could give Hollins reason to toss him at playoff opponents.
This short list focuses a bit more on frontcourt players. That’s incumbent on a Memphis squad that leans more on its big men than its backcourt players. Randolph and Marc Gasol represent the axis on which this team tilts. With Randolph out, a balance must be sought.
Each big man may have a shot at helping the short-term gap. Towards the end of the season, as Randolph and Gasol need rest, they’ll be able to put together performances that may persuade Hollins as to who merits the most playing time off the bench.
The function of the Grizzlies’ backcourt is more complex. Tayshaun Prince’s role is less tangible than that of others, consisting to some degree of simply providing leadership. Tony Allen generally best serves the team by doing less on offense and making his presence felt on defense, but his scoring has become necessary since the Grizz dealt Gay.
The West has once again started to fear the “grit ‘n’ grind” amidst the latest hot streak, and tension will rise higher with a more fearsome effort from a few big guys.
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