What's Next for the Memphis Grizzlies?
Lionel Hollins and the Memphis Grizzlies are off to a difficult offseason. Hollins is going through difficult talks with the Grizzlies, and more change could be in store for this team after its best season ever.
Several personnel decisions are in store. Tony Allen is at the head of a five-man line of Memphis players heading into free agency. Allen was a key piece of the "grit 'n' grind" defense, and many will be interested in what it takes for the Grizz to keep him.
The Grizzlies should have several million dollars to spend under the luxury tax to obtain further assistance. Finding help on the perimeter is a must. Picking up another big man to ease the minute load on Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph would be keen.
With the first offseason of the new regime comes an opportunity for John Hollinger to start integrating advanced metrics in the team's strategy.
Following is a full breakdown on how the Grizzlies should approach each of these issues.
Advanced metrics come from basketball-reference.com.
Deciding on a Coach
After Lionel Hollins led the Grizzlies to their highest win total and first Western Conference Finals appearance in franchise history, Grizzlies fans might feel ready to welcome him back for a few more years.
Not so fast.
Hollins and the new regime haven't enjoyed sunny relations. After the Rudy Gay trade, The Oklahoman quoted him as saying, "When you have champagne taste, you can't be on a beer budget."
Yahoo! Sports reported that Hollins yelled at John Hollinger for interfering with a practice during the playoffs after seeing him instruct Austin Daye.
Chris Herrington of the Memphis Flyer discussed how the four-year full-time head coach appears to be unwilling to "implement a new organizational philosophy." That is, Hollins isn't keen on the analytics-oriented approach.
Herrington hinted that Hollins is hurt by his disinterest in the front office giving input in the team's on-court strategy.
Hollins told Yahoo! Sports that he wants to stay in Memphis, but those seem like the words of a man desperate to make fans optimistic.
According to The Commercial Appeal, the Grizzlies and Hollins' representatives will continue talks after negotiations broke down.
If the Grizzlies don't reach a deal with Hollins, they may simply go within. Assistant coach Dave Joerger is the front-runner, as Ron Tillery of The Commercial Appeal tweeted.
Re-Up Tony Allen
Memphis' most important personnel decision this offseason is re-signing defensive leader Tony Allen. The value of the "Grindfather" to their attack on that end of the court can't be overestimated.
Allen transformed the Grizzlies' defense upon arrival. They went from 20th in opponent turnover rate and 19th in defensive rating in 2009-10 to first and ninth in 2010-11, respectively. After a second straight season leading the league in opponent turnover rate and steals in 2011-12, they placed second and fourth, respectively, this year.
The three-time All-Defensive Team selection is second to none among perimeter defenders. He was sixth in steals rate (3.6 percent) and second in defensive rating (98.4 points allowed per 100 possessions) this season.
However, his market value will be diminished by his impotent offense. Allen averaged 8.9 points per game on 44.5 percent shooting and produced 102 points per 100 possessions. He put his ugly scoring ability on full display in the Western Conference Finals, when he shot 37.5 percent. In Game 4, he missed five of seven shots at the rim.
This will make it easier for the Grizzlies to retain his services for $3 or $4 million.
For a team that doesn't score fluidly, the identity lies with the "grit 'n' grind" defense. Mike Conley has emerged as an outstanding individual defender and Marc Gasol is a tremendous stopper inside who often assists Zach Randolph.
But the life of the turnover-forcing party is Allen. Memphis will recognize this and give the munificent amount required to keep him.
Choose Which of the Other Free Agents Should Be Retained
Aside from Tony Allen, the Grizzlies have four impending free agents. Only one earned significant minutes throughout the season.
Jerryd Bayless appears to be hitting the open market. According to USA Today, he'll decline his player option. Bayless may be worth keeping if the Grizz can't get an actual pure shooter. He struggled in the first half of the season, but emerged after the Rudy Gay trade, averaging 12.1 points per game after the deal.
However, as Grantland's Zach Lowe noted, he was much less effective when he wasn't playing alongside Mike Conley.
Keyon Dooling played a bit at the end of the regular season before catching significant playing time in most of the postseason games. He scored 13 points against the Dallas Mavericks in the next-to-last game of the regular season. In the playoffs, Dooling averaged 1.9 points on 33.3 percent shooting in 8.1 minutes per game.
He handled the ball as well as Lionel Hollins expected, but it's hard to tell if the Grizzlies—or any team—will give the 33-year-old a call. He's only a caretaker for about 10 minutes per game, and that time would be better used by Tony Wroten.
Restricted free agent Austin Daye has been a fascinating talent for his entire four-year career. He's a long guy who can defend and shoot three-pointers. Daye hit 41.8 percent from long range this season, but made 28.6 percent in the last two months.
Considering that he only showed flashes of potential in his fourth campaign, the former Detroit Piston didn't convince Memphis that he deserves the $4.1 million qualifying offer that would give them the right to match any offer.
Jon Leuer also looks to be a restricted free agent. John Hollinger had been a fan of Leuer, however, the Wisconsin product hasn't received enough love to earn much playing time. He saw 5.1 minutes per game in 19 contests with the Grizzlies, scoring 1.8 points per game.
He averaged nine rebounds per 36 minutes, which might give the Grizz reason to keep him at the end of the bench.
Pick Up a Perimeter Shooter
With everyone except Quincy Pondexter unable to hit shots in the Western Conference Finals, the Grizz showed a need to find another perimeter scorer.
Jerryd Bayless, who was signed to be that guy last year, was underwhelming from beyond the arc. He hit 35.1 percent after draining 42.3 percent in 2011-12.
The Grizzlies may have just enough money available to get J.J. Redick, who earned $6.2 million this season. Redick is a 39 percent career three-point shooter. He hit a career-low 36.5 percent this year, although his rate was dragged down by a 31.8 percent mark after being traded to the Milwaukee Bucks.
Kyle Korver appears to be an easier guy to grab. He was second in the league in three-point field-goal percentage (45.2 percent) and averaged 10.9 points per game.
Taking Korver with a midlevel exception would be a promising move. He's drained less than 38 percent of his threes only once in his 10-year career.
Martell Webster has slowly come along in his eight-year career. The 26-year-old averaged 11.4 points per game while shooting 42.2 percent from downtown. As SI.com's Rob Mahoney pointed out, he was one of the best corner three-point shooters in the league last year.
The Grizzlies placed 24th in three-point field-goal percentage and were last in three-point attempts. Acquiring one of these players could bring them out of the bottom 10.
Fortify the Frontcourt
Like any other offseason, the Grizzlies face a dilemma in the frontcourt. Behind the best interior combination in the league, they have no guaranteed helper.
Darrell Arthur and Ed Davis are talented, but both have problems.
Arthur hasn't entered a season healthy since 2010. After missing the 2011-12 season with an Achilles injury, he broke his leg in a pickup game shortly before this season's training camp began.
Keeping the four-year pro safe through the offseason will be key in helping him fulfill his role as a rangy forward.
Davis might someday succeed Zach Randolph as the starting power forward, but has a long way to go. His 10.6 rebounds per 36 minutes were reasonable, but he could show greater strength underneath.
If he gets stronger during the offseason, he may be able to convince the coach to make him the No. 3 big man.
Donte Greene, who was signed to fill a roster spot during the postseason, is under contract for another year. Considering he didn't play an NBA game this season, he's no sure bet for significant playing time.
Aside from re-signing Jon Leuer, the Grizz could go after a cheap big man. Gustavo Ayon, who shot 55.1 percent from the field and averaged 9.8 rebounds per 36 minutes, would be a nice backup center.
Ensuring that a couple players behind Randolph and Marc Gasol can play reliably will make the season easier for Memphis.
Implement the Analytics
John Hollinger arrived in Memphis in the winter to bring sabermetrics to this small-market franchise. He conceded in an NBA.com interview that he didn't have a chance to get it fully integrated midseason.
A full offseason—and perhaps an amiable coach—will help get the team immersed in his approach.
As noted in the previous slide, the Grizz could be shooting more threes. Hollinger said in the aforementioned interview that he'd like to see Tayshaun Prince take more three-pointers. A 37 percent career three-point shooter, he only takes 1.7 per game. Two more per game would increase his scoring average significantly.
Mike Conley will be entering his first season as the primary ball-handler in Memphis' offense. A slow decision-maker, he may need to study a bit to find how to remove inefficiencies from his offense. He shot under 36 percent in four straight months from December to March and could discover ways to get better opportunities from long range.
Also, Hollinger's ability to draft effectively while using advanced metrics will be interesting to see. They have no first-rounders, but three second-rounders.