The Memphis Grizzlies might have the third-worst franchise winning percentage, but they have plenty of talent to show forth. A large chunk of that talent is about to bring the Grizzlies to its sixth playoff appearance, all of which came in the last 10 seasons, and likely its highest season winning percentage.
Only two players in franchise history, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, have made All-Star appearances, but that understates the amount of talent this franchise has seen. Some, like no-stats All-Star Shane Battier, are difficult to appreciate because of a lack of gaudy numbers.
Others, such as Shareef Abdur-Rahim, didn't get noticed because they played for a doormat team.
Nevertheless, they'll receive their due in this dream team for the Grizzlies, tracking the franchise's proudest members since its birth in 1995.
A couple positions forced this author to make tough choices about the starter.
Follow along to see who cracked the starting lineup and who else rounds out the roster.
While the Bryant Reeves fanatics once held some credence in the argument about the greatest Grizz center of them all—what few repeating starters there have been—that idea is long gone. Proponents of Reeves for this spot are now as scattered as those who believe that Jeremy Lin is a premier NBA point guard.
Gasol has now averaged more than Reeves’ career-high in scoring average three times.
Also, Gasol plays supreme defense, whereas Reeves wasn’t much of a defender at all. Gasol allowed 99 points per 100 possessions last season and is allowing 98.5 per 100 this season—12th in the league.
He’s the most efficient offensive player in franchise history. The Spaniard has a franchise-best offensive rating of 114.8 points per 100 possessions. He combines good all-around shooting with terrific passing and now accurate free-throw shooting.
Gasol is ninth in the league in free-throw percentage at 87.5 percent.
He brings such a great combination of scoring, passing, rebounding and shot-blocking that few in the league—let alone anyone in the franchise’s history—top him.
Maybe "close" is a bit of an exaggeration for the 4 spot in Memphis. Both Zach Randolph and Pau Gasol represent the premier players in their respective period for the team. However, Randolph holds it down better on the inside.
Randolph is by far the best rebounder of all Grizzlies. He averages 11.4 per game as a Grizzly, 2.8 more per game than Pau.
Randolph averaged 20 and 10 in his first two full seasons as a Grizzly, amounting 20.8 points and 11.7 rebounds per game in 2009-10 and 20.1 points and 12.2 rebounds per game in 2010-11.
Randolph’s overall value to the franchise is summed up by his No. 1 place for the Grizz in win shares per 48 minutes with .161, just ahead of Marc Gasol.
Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Rudy Gay were similar players for the Grizzlies—high-volume scorers who shot pretty well and rebounded especially well for the position. However, ‘Reef did each of those things a little bit better than Gay.
Abdur-Rahim was the most prolific scorer in Grizzlies history. He averaged 20.8 points per game—two more per game than the next highest averaging scorer in team history and 2.9 more per game than Gay. He has the two highest scoring averages in franchise history—22.3 per game in 1998-99 and 23 per game in 1999.
The California product shot 46.3 percent from the field, compared with 45.1 percent from the field for Gay.
Also, Abdur-Rahim averaged 20 per 36 minutes twice and Gay only averaged 19 per 36 once.
The star who played in Vancouver stands third in franchise history in rebounds per game with 8.2. He averaged 10.1 per game in 1999-00 and 9.1 per game in 2000-01—both times playing the 3 spot. Gay averaged 5.7 per game and topped out at 6.4 per game in 2011-12.
To call this position the "shooting guard" when the greatest period of the team's history has been defined by a player who isn't supposed to shoot would be irresponsible. Tony Allen has made the team what it is by enforcing his grinding defensive style as its mantra.
Memphis lead the league in steals and turnovers forced in his first two seasons with the team. This year, they're No. 2 in both categories.
The team's defensive rating went down precipitously after they picked him up. After giving up a horrendous 109.9 points per 100 possessions, they allowed 105.1 per 100 in 2010-11 and 101.8 per 100 in 2011-12. This season, the Grizz are No. 2 with 99.9 allowed per 100.
Allen is leading the way, allowing 98.4 points allowed per 100 possessions.
With that type of defense, it's hard to complain about his 91 points produced per 100 on a 17 percent usage rate.
Mike Conley’s total point guard skills reminds fans how subjective the assist rate statistic is. Conley’s career assist rate is eighth among Grizz dish men. His rate has never surpassed 30 percent, but that hasn’t kept him from succeeding.
Conley has improved his game markedly in the last three years. He averaged 6.6 assists per game in 2010-11 and 6.7 per game in 2011-12. This season, his rate is only 6.3 per game due to poor team shooting.
He runs a fairly steady half-court offense and pushes the team in fast break. After the Grizzlies force turnovers, he quickly spurs the team to score.
Also, he’s quickly becoming one of the best backcourt defenders in franchise history. Conley has quickly risen to third in franchise history in steals per game and is the all-time leader in steals. He did this by placing sixth in steals per game in 2010-11 (1.8), second in 2011-12 (2.2) and second this season (2.2).
Pau Gasol had a solid run with the Grizzlies before moving on to winning championships and having a brief moment at the top of the heap of the NBA’s power forwards with the Los Angeles Lakers.
He’s second in franchise history in scoring average (18.8 per game) and rebounds per game (8.8). Also, he's top in Grizz history in blocks per game (1.8). In 2006-07, he averaged 2.1 blocks per game.
His field-goal percentage (50.9 percent) was second among all Grizz players, just 1.1 off Marc’s mark.
Pau’s defense was only relevant in the team’s three playoff seasons. He allowed 102 points per 100 possessions in 2003-04 and 102 per 100 in 2004-05 and 100 per 100 in 2005-06.
Pau was the driving force behind the first three Memphis playoff teams. He combined powerful offense with solid defense in those years.
Fans could have waited forever for Rudy Gay to become an elite scorer. He averaged between 18.9 and 20.1 points per game for five straight seasons, shooting between 45.5 and 47.1 percent from the field each year.
Gay’s numbers never jumped, and John Hollinger finally came along and announced it was time to stop waiting.
Alas, Gay was a very good scorer who could rebound, pulling down more than six per game three times. He also learned to play solid defense, averaging 1.5 steals per game in his last three full seasons. He allowed 102 points per 100 possessions in 2011-12 and 100 per 100 before being traded this year.
Gay played more games, more minutes and took more shots than any other Grizzly. He nearly became the team’s all-time leading scorer, but was dealt approximately 23 games before he would have surpassed Pau Gasol for the record.
While he was a high scorer, Gay wasn’t very efficient. His offensive rating was only 104 points per 100 possessions as a Grizzly. He stands only eighth in offensive win shares with 12.6, far behind Shareef Abdur-Rahim, who had 23.4 in 104 fewer games with the team.
O.J. Mayo was a fine scorer in four years in Memphis. Mayo shone in his first two years, averaging 18.5 per game in 2008-09 and 17.5 per game in 2009-10.
His numbers dropped significantly in the following two years, when he served as the team's sixth man. His field-goal percentage dropped 5.1 percent to 40.7 percent in 2010-11. His three-point percentage was down 1.9 percent in 2010-11, but he still knocked them down at a nice clip, hitting 36.4 percent.
He averaged 1.1 fewer points per 36 minutes in 2010-11, but bounced back to 16.9 points per 36 minutes the next season.
Superficial fans will forever argue about whether the Grizzlies should have kept Mayo in the starting lineup after signing Tony Allen, but those fans don’t understand what Allen’s defense means to the team.
While Mayo’s scoring dropped after he went to the bench, his defense improved. He went from 1.1 steals per game in 2009-10 to 1.4 per game in both 2010-11 and 2011-12. His defensive rating went from 112 points allowed per 100 possessions in 2009-10 to 107 per 100 in 2010-11 and 103 per 100 in 2011-12.
Shane Battier would make the dream team of any of the three teams for which he's played. However, he wouldn't make it because he dropped a ton of points. He's averaged double figures in points per game three times, including twice as a Grizzly.
Anyway, Battier is a very efficient player. He's seventh in Grizz history in three-point percentage at 38 percent. Also, he's third in effective field-goal percentage at 51.3 percent.
Battier was a solid defender. He allowed 102, 103 and 102 points per 100 possessions in the team's three playoff seasons. By the way, he averaged 1.5 or more steals per 36 minutes only once during that time.
Hence, one can see how difficult it is to pick out his great play.
Additionally, he's third in team history in win shares with 34.9.
Mike Miller was a grindy gym rat who forced himself to be noticed in Memphis. His grind set him apart.
Also, he was the greatest Grizzlies three-point shooter ever. He hit a franchise-record 41.4 percent from downtown. In 2004-05, he hit 43.3 percent from three-point range to place fourth in the league. In 2007-08, he shot 43.2 percent from long range, ranking 10th best.
Also, he shot just over 50 percent from the field in 2004-05 and 2007-08.
Partly because of his long-range acumen and partly due to his overall effective shooting, Miller also holds the franchise records for effective field-goal percentage (56.6 percent) and true shooting percentage (59.4 percent). Miller's effective field-goal clip is 4.5 percent better than the No. 2 shooter.
In regards to Grizzlies centers, one doesn't have much of a choice for a backup for the dream team. Lorenzen Wright is the only Grizz center besides Bryant Reeves and Marc Gasol to have been a starter for three or more seasons.
The choice between the two is difficult. Reeves could score a fair amount and Wright couldn't shoot. Reeves shot 47.5 percent from the field to Wright's 45.8 percent. While both took a high number of jump shots, Wright lobbed a ton of shots up at the rim and made more than 60 percent at that distance just once in a Memphis uniform.
"Big Country" fared better at the charity stripe. Reeves hit 70.3 percent from the line, compared with 64.4 percent for Wright.
Wright was a solid defensive player in the last three of his five seasons, allowing 101 points per 100 possessions twice and 100 per 100 once. In his first two seasons, he allowed 104 per 100 and 106 per 100.
Meanwhile, the fan favorite in Vancouver in the late 1990s allowed 109 points per 100 possessions in his career and allowed less than 108 per 100 just once.
Also, Wright was a better rebounder. He averaged 11.7 rebounds per 36 minutes in 2001-02 and averaged 9.6 or more per 36 in four of five campaigns with the Grizz. Reeves never even pulled down nine per 36 minutes.
One would think that rebounding and defense would be a prerequisite for being a half-decent starting center.
Then again, the Grizzlies had to start somewhere at center.
Thus, Wright beats out Reeves to back up Gasol.
Michael Dickerson had a short run as an NBA player, but managed to be one of the more significant scorers in Grizzlies history. He averaged 18.2 points per game in 1999-00 and 16.3 per game in 2000-01. That made him one of only six Grizz scorers to put up more than 15 points per game in consecutive seasons.
He was a terrific three-point shooter. In 1999-00, he shot 40.9 percent from downtown.
Unfortunately, Dickerson was unable to make a prolonged impact on the team as he played just 10 games over the following two years due to injury before retiring.