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Ranking the Top 25 Players in Memphis Grizzlies History

Tom FirmeAnalyst IIJanuary 13, 2017

Ranking the Top 25 Players in Memphis Grizzlies History

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    The Memphis Grizzlies have assembled a respectable class of stars in their young history. They've been fearsome up front, showcasing Zach Randolph and Marc and Pau Gasol among their leaders of the past decade.

    That trio heads this ranking of the greatest Grizzlies players ever. Randolph stands tall with his scoring and rebounding, while Pau Gasol was productive for the Grizz in those areas as well as shot blocking. Marc Gasol plays brilliant offense and seals the paint on the other end.

    Others who figure highly in these rankings include high scorers like Rudy Gay and Shareef Abdur-Rahim, not to mention defensive stalwarts Tony Allen and Mike Conley.

    The Grizz are in an earlier stage than the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers. Therefore, readers may be surprised to encounter the names that round out the list.

    As with any franchise, the top 25 list evolves with time. Besides, Slater Martin would have been much higher on the Lakers' list after 18 years than he is now.

    Anyway, follow along to see where the grinders and fan favorites fall in line.

     

    Advanced metrics come from basketball-reference.com.

25. Quincy Pondexter

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    Quincy Pondexter has crept up the Grizz list after a poor first year with the Grizzlies. Pondexter went from 30.1 to 39.5 percent from three-point range. 

    The Washington product put out 114 points per 100 possessions, bringing him to seventh among the franchise's career leaders at 110.9. 

    He's also averse to turnovers, standing fifth with a 10.8 percent turnover rate. He's coughed it up 1.2 times per 36 minutes.

    While the San Antonio Spurs locked down on other Grizz shooters, Pondexter broke free to score 15.3 points per game in the series.

    With additional work and playing time, he could climb a bit higher in these standings.

24. Tony Massenburg

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    Even though Tony Massenburg largely played off the bench, he was a big help in his time with the Grizzzlies. Massenburg was a strong rebounder in short minutes. He averaged nine boards per 36 minutes in four years with the Grizz. He topped out with six per game in 1999 while scoring a career-high 11.2 points per game.

    He's ninth among career leaders in offensive rebounding percentage (9.4 percent), 10th in defensive rebounding percentage and eighth in total rebounding percentage (14.3 percent).

    Massenburg was also one of the finest shooter for the Grizz. He had a 47.2 percent field-goal clip, placing him eighth all-time. The then-31-year-old was second on the team in 1999 with a 48.7 field-goal percentage.

23. Sam Young

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    Among the scant number of good draft picks by Chris Wallace was Sam Young. The Pittsburgh product averaged 7.3 points on 45.1 percent shooting in 16.5 minutes per game in his 2009-10 rookie season, good for 16.2 points per 36 minutes.

    He stepped up in his sophomore campaign after Rudy Gay went down with a season-ending injury. Young started the last 34 games of the season.  He averaged 13.3 points per game that February, 7.4 per game that March and 12.4 per game in April.

    Young aided the Grizzlies' first playoff series victory ever by scoring 9.8 points per game on 54.5 percent shooting.

    The next season, he disappeared in 11.2 minutes per game in 21 games before being traded to the Philadelphia 76ers.

22. Bryant Reeves

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    Grizz fans rallied behind a thunderous 7-footer from Oklahoma, and he gave them decent returns. Bryant Reeves averaged double figures in scoring in his first four seasons and at least seven rebounds per game in his first three.

    Reeves is sixth in team history in rebounds per game (6.9). His 8.1 per game in 1996-97 is the 10th-best season average. 

    He was one of the better shooters in franchise history, placing seventh in field-goal percentage at 47.5 percent. His 52.3 percent in 1997-98 was the sixth-best year-long clip.

21. Mike Bibby

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    Mike Bibby rumbled through his early years as a fairly productive passer for the Grizzlies. 

    Bibby still has stacked up assists at a higher rate than any other Grizz guard. His 7.9 per game stands No. 1. With 8.4 per game in 2000-01 and 8.1 in 1999-00, he has the first- and third-highest averages in franchise history, respectively.

    His 38.3 percent assist rate in 2000-01 is fourth all-time.

    He did a nice job forcing turnovers, grabbing 1.5 steals per game during his Vancouver tenure. In 2000-01, he had 1.6 steals per game.

    Bibby scored well, averaging 14.7 points per game, which is seventh among career leaders.

    He pushed hard, playing 37.9 minutes per game, a figure that stands second among all Grizz players.

20. Stromile Swift

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    In 2001, Stromile Swift was handed a Grizzlies jersey. The "Stro Show" wasn't finished until he had thrown down more than 500 dunks.

    Swift is 10th among Grizz leaders in field-goal percentage (47.1 percent), although nearly half of his field goals made were dunks.

    He was a good defender, allowing 104 or fewer points per 100 possessions in his first five seasons with the Grizz. His 102.8 points allowed per 100 is eighth among career leaders. He blocked 1.4 shots per game, third in franchise history. His 5.6 percent blocks rate was sixth in the NBA and stands third in team history.

    Swift was also effective on the glass. He pulled down 8.5 per 36 minutes. His 9.5 offensive rebounding percentage is eighth on the career list.

19. Hakim Warrick

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    Other than those bearing the last name Gasol, only Hakim Warrick has made at least half his shots in a Grizzlies uniform. Warrick landed exactly at that clip, although, like Stromile Swift, most of his attempts were at the rim.

    Warrick averaged 10.1 points per game, putting up 11 per game in three of his four seasons with the Grizz.

    He was a productive offensive player after his rookie year, producing between 109 and 111 points per 100 possessions from his second to fourth seasons.

    Even if the ravages of time force this Syracuse product out of the top 25, he will never be forgotten by Grizz fans, if only for his rim-hanging ability.

18. Greg Anthony

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    In his two-year stay in Vancouver, Greg Anthony experienced reasonable success.

    Anthony is still one of the best assist men in team history. His average of 6.9 assists per game in 1995-96 stands fifth in team history, and his 6.3 per game the next year is 10th all-time. He's third among all Grizzlies with 6.6 assists per game.

    His 41.9 percent assist rate was fourth in the NBA and is second in franchise history.

    At age 28, Anthony scored a career-high 14 points per game, putting forth his only double-digit scoring average.

    He's also the franchise leader with 1.8 steals per game. His two steals per game in 1996-97 are fourth among season steals performances, and his 3.8 percent steals rate (second in the league) that year is tops in franchise history.

17. Marreese Speights

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    Marreese Speights quietly became one of the best frontcourt players in Grizz history. He's ninth in rebounds per game (5.6) while only averaging 19.2 minutes per game in his one-and-a-half years wearing the three shades of blue.

    Speights pulled down 10.5 boards per 36 minutes. He was one of the most efficient glass-cleaners in team history, standing third in offensive rebounding percentage (12.5 percent), defensive rebounding percentage (22 percent) and total rebounding percentage (17.2 percent).

    He was also a strong defender, allowing 101.3 points per 100 possessions.

    Too bad Lionel Hollins didn't believe him to be valuable enough to give him substantive minutes.

16. Bonzi Wells

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    Bonzi Wells did a few specific things to help the Grizzlies' first two playoff runs. 

    Wells was an aggressive defender. He had a 2.8 percent steals rate and allowed 101.9 points per 100 possessions, which rank sixth and fifth among career leaders, respectively.

    He provided a fair amount of scoring in the latter part of the 2003-04 season, placing third on the team after the All-Star break with 12.5 points per game.

    Wells stayed strong in the playoffs, scoring 11.8 points per game on 51.4 percent shooting. He was one of only three Memphis players to hit half his shots that series.

15. Chucky Atkins

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    Beyond Bonzi Wells, Chucky Atkins figured as one of the supporting shooters who helped the early Memphis playoff teams. Atkins was a more effective shooter who didn't need as many touches to make magic.

    Atkins had a 56.5 percent true shooting percentage, which is sixth on the career list and 5.3 percent higher than Wells', while having a usage rate 4.4 percent lower than that of Wells.

    Atkins was one of the most efficient overall offensive players for the Grizz, holding the second-best offensive rating (114.2 points per 100 possessions).

    He was also a solid three-point shooter, hitting 35.2 percent in 2003-04 and 37.9 percent in 2004-05.

14. Lorenzen Wright

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    Somewhere in the gulf between the two iconic Grizz centers, Marc Gasol and Bryant Reeves, lies Lorenzen Wright. Wright is the second-best center in the team's young history, far ahead of Reeves.

    Wright was a much better rebounder. He averaged 7.1 rebounds per game, 0.2 more than Reeves. He pulled down 9.7 per 36 minutes, whereas Reeves grabbed 8.2 per 36. Wright is seventh among career leaders in offensive rebounding percentage (10 percent) and fourth in defensive rebounding percentage (21.1 percent) and total rebounding percentage (15.6 percent).

    Meanwhile, Reeves isn't on the leaderboard in any of those categories.

    He was also much better defensively. The Memphis-born player allowed 102.3 points per 100 possessions, about seven fewer than Reeves. Wright also had 11.8 defensive win shares, 5.2 more in 59 fewer games played.

    Reeves wasn't a much better shooter than Wright. The five-year starter shot 45.8 percent from the field, just 1.7 percent lower than Reeves.

13. Michael Dickerson

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    Injuries shortened the career of Michael Dickerson, but the bug didn't catch him before he could put together a pair of fantastic seasons.

    After landing in Vancouver via a three-team trade, Dickerson was the No. 2 scorer, averaging 18.2 points per game in 1999-00 and 16.3 per game in 2000-01. He had 34 20-point games in his first year with the Grizz, including a 40-point affair in a win against the Los Angeles Clippers.

    He's fifth among all Grizz players with 16.7 points per game and in three-point shooting (39.2 percent).

    Despite having the seventh-highest usage rate (22.8 percent), he has the sixth lowest turnover rate (11.5 percent).

12. Jason Williams

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    Jason Williams aided the Grizzlies' first string of playoff campaigns with a strong offensive effort.

    He's one of the franchise's leading assist men, standing second with seven per game. His 39.5 percent assist rate is also No. 2.

    He scored 14.8 points per game in 2001-02 and then tapered to a more efficient low-scoring role in which he scored between 10 and 11 points per game and turned it over about 2.4 times per game from 2003 to 2005.

    He was a solid free-throw shooter, knocking down 81.7 percent.

    "White Chocolate" was also fairly effective forcing turnovers, grabbing 1.3 steals per game in his Grizz tenure.

11. O.J. Mayo

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    The Grizzlies received terrific scoring from O.J. Mayo during his four years in the "Grindhouse." 

    He's sixth on the career list with 15.2 points per game. In 2008-09, he earned a spot on the All-Rookie First Team with 18.5 points per game.

    After Tony Allen surpassed him as the team's starting 2-guard, Mayo became one of the league's premier bench scorers. In 2010-11, Mayo averaged 11.3 points per game and 15.5 per 36 minutes. The USC product posted 12.6 per game and 16.9 per 36 in 2011-12.

    He drove hard through it all. Mayo played every game in three of his four Memphis seasons. In his rookie year, he placed third in the league in minutes played (3,120).

    Mayo was also one of the Grizzlies' best long-range shooters, placing 10th with a 37.5 percent clip. He shot 38.4 percent in his first year and 38.3 percent in his second.

    He did well in most of his playoff games. In the 2011 run, Mayo scored 11.3 points per game while hitting 40.8 percent from downtown. He helped rally the team in the conference semifinals with four games scoring more than 15 points.

    In the 2012 first-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers, he led the victory effort with 20 points.

10. Mike Miller

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    Mike Miller scrapped his way to one of the most glorious Memphis careers. In Ron Higgins' book Tales from the Memphis Grizzlies Hardwood, Miller said that he took 500 or 600 shots per day in the summer.

    That work ethic helped him to become the most tremendous Grizz shooter ever, one whom Higgins referred to in a heading as "the shooting machine." He holds franchise records with a 59.4 percent true shooting percentage and a 56.6 percent effective field-goal clip. He has four of the top five year-long marks in the latter categories.

    In 2004-05, he was third in true shooting and effective field-goal percentage.

    The No. 10 three-point shooter among active NBAers (40.6 percent for his career) leads all Grizz players with a 41.4 percent mark.

9. James Posey

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    James Posey was one of the cleanest all-around Grizzlies.

    He was a strong defender. His 101.6 points allowed per 100 possessions is third among career leaders.

    His offensive production was sterling. He's second on the career list in true shooting percentage, offensive rating and free-throw percentage.

    Posey played as big a part in Memphis' first playoff season as Pau Gasol. The Cleveland native had 10 win shares, 1.9 more than his Spanish counterpart. He had .195 win shares per 48 minutes, .036 more than Gasol.

    Posey's offensive rating (119 points per 100 possessions) was 11 more than that of Gasol. 

    Gasol's 17.9 points per game after the All-Star break led Posey by only 0.6.

8. Rudy Gay

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    Just behind one of the smartest players in NBA history is one whose numbers are dumb.

    Rudy Gay was fourth highest scorer in Grizz history (17.9 points per game), but he didn't do it in a particularly efficient manner. Gay averaged between 18.9 and 20.1 per game from his second to sixth years, but shot better than 36 percent from beyond the arc and better than 80 percent from the line just once.

    His career-high 109 points per 100 possessions in 2009-10 were good, but not close to the league leaders.

    Nevertheless, one wouldn't want to discredit his offense completely. Besides, he did lead the team in scoring four of the past six years. His effective field-goal clip (48.5 percent) is 10th on the career chart.

    He steadily improved defensively while playing alongside Tony Allen, going from 110 points allowed per 100 possessions in 2009-10 to 101 in the first half of 2012-13. He had three straight seasons averaging 1.5 steals or more per game for the Grizz.

7. Shane Battier

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    While one would need a close look at his game, the "No Stats All-Star" slips in among the best Grizzlies players of all.

    Shane Battier earned a place on the All-Rookie First Team with 14.4 points and 1.6 steals per game, but he wouldn't need such gaudy cumulative numbers to raise his game.

    Increasing his shooting rates in all areas, Battier posted a 59.7 percent true-shooting clip, seventh in the league, and 120.3 points per 100 possessions, third in the NBA and what is now the No. 2 mark in team history.

    Battier only needed two double-digit scoring campaigns to become one of the most prolific men to grace Beale Street. He's third on the career list in offensive rating (113.2 points per 100 possessions) and effective field-goal percentage (51.3 percent).

    Battier also did a solid job on the other end of the floor, gathering 14.3 defensive win shares and blocking a shot per game. In the Grizzlies' first three playoff years, he allowed 102 to 103 points per 100 possessions.

6. Tony Allen

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    The Grizzlies would have no "grit 'n grind" defense of which to speak if not for Tony Allen.

    Allen is the franchise's banner-holder on that end of the floor. The three-time All-Defensive team honoree holds the franchise record with 99.6 points allowed per 100 possessions. Last season, he set a franchise mark with a defensive rating of 98.4, which was fourth in the league.

    He's second on the career list with 1.7 steals per game and a 3.6 percent steals rate.

    Allen's low usage has allowed him to attain the ninth-best field-goal percentage (47.2 percent) in a Grizz uniform.

    Even though his offense is generally unimpressive, the "Grindfather" is one of the most valuable players in franchise history. His .131 win shares per 48 minutes rank him fifth on the career chart.

5. Mike Conley

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    Looking closely at assist figures would fool the average fan when judging Grizzlies point guards, which is why one must traverse deeper to see why Mike Conley is the best.

    He's never punched in more than 6.5 per game, and he's fourth on that category's career list (5.5).

    But he's more efficient than Mike Bibby, Jason Williams and Greg Anthony were. Conley's career turnover rate is 14.9 percent. Three of Williams' four marks were higher than Conley's second-highest. Bibby's turnover rate was upwards of 17 percent. Anthony's was 14.9 percent in 1995-96 and 18.1 percent in 1996-97.

    Conley suddenly became a shooter in the second half of last season after three-and-a-half years averaging between 12 and 14 points per game. That 16.9 points-per-game average in the last 38 contests is likely a continuing trend for this emerging lead guard who sees his team's complexion remain the same.

    The Indianapolis native is a rising star defensively. He's the Grizzlies' career steals leader, having broken the record in a league-leading campaign (174). Each of the past two years, he set franchise marks with 2.2 per game. He allowed 100.3 points per 100 possessions last year.

    Conley is ninth all-time among Grizz long-range shooters, hitting 37.5 percent. He shot 40.6 percent in 2008-09.

4. Shareef Abdur-Rahim

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    Grizzlies fans didn't have much to cheer for in the team's early years, but they did have Shareef Abdur-Rahim. The California product was the only reliable Vancouver scorer from year to year.

    At that, Abdur-Rahim stands as the greatest scorer in Grizz history. His 20.8 points per game lead Rudy Gay by two. He holds the season scoring record (23 per game in 1999) and had three of the five highest season-scoring averages.

    Abdur-Rahim was also a solid rebounder. He's the only Grizz player besides Randolph to have averaged double digits in rebounds, pulling down 10.1 per game in 1999-00. He's third in career leaders, grabbing 8.2 boards per game.

    He was used more than any other Grizz player, averaging 38 minutes per game and posting a 26.7 percent usage rate. He's the only one to have played 40 minutes per game, having done it in 1999 and 2000-01.

    Hence, Abdur-Rahim's franchise-high scoring didn't make him more valuable than Randolph or the Gasols. His highest offensive rating was 108 points per 100 possessions. Randolph did that twice. Marc Gasol had ratings better than that every year and Pau never fell below that.

3. Pau Gasol

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    Pau Gasol was quite the star while playing for Memphis.

    He's second on the career list in scoring average (18.8) and rebounds per game (8.6) and No. 1 in blocks per game (1.8). He led the team in scoring and rebounding six and five times, respectively. Also, he led the team in blocks five times.

    But his metrics, while strong, don't stack quite as high on the franchise list as those core numbers. He's eighth in offensive rating (110.5 points per 100 possessions) and seventh in defensive rebounding rate (19.8 percent). 

    His sterling value to the franchise is shown with his .153 win shares per 48 minutes, but that and other figures put him behind his younger brother and the other leader of today's Grizz frontcourt.

2. Marc Gasol

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    Like Shane Battier, Marc Gasol is a smart player.

    He's a strong rebounder, great passer, keen shooter and robust defender.

    He has a perfect sense of when to dish it to a teammate. That awareness gained him 4.1 assists per game last season. 

    He earned the Defensive Player of the Year award while allowing 98.5 points per 100 possessions. He's 10th on the career totem, allowing 103.3 per 100 possessions.

    Gasol is fourth in rebounds per game (8.0), but is sixth in defensive rebounding percentage (20.3 percent) and 10th in total rebounding percentage (14 percent). That puts him ahead of Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Pau.

    He's No. 1 among Grizz career leaders in field-goal percentage (52 percent) and second in effective field-goal percentage (52.1 percent). That's spectacular for a player who does much of his damage from beyond 10 feet. He also holds the franchise standard with an offensive rating of 114.6 points per 100 possessions.

    The 28-year-old emerged as a playoff terror this year with 17.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game to equal Zach Randolph, including six 20-point performances in a span of eight games.

    But Gasol's rise hasn't quite brought him to par with the furious production of his interior compatriot.

1. Zach Randolph

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    Zach Randolph quickly became the best player in Grizzlies history. He had the two best season performances by a player wearing a Grizz jersey in his first two campaigns. In 2009-10 and 2010-11, he led the team in scoring average and rebounds per game, putting up 20.8 and 11.7 and then 20.1 and 12.2.

    Randolph has been by far the franchise's best rebounder. His 11.3 rebounds per game are 2.7 ahead of Pau Gasol's average. All three of his full seasons lead the season rankings in rebounds per game.

    Also, he's the third-highest scorer in team history, averaging 18 per game. His 2009-10 scoring average was third among all Grizz players.

    Randolph also happens to be the most efficient Grizzly ever. He has a 10.5 percent turnover rate while holding the fourth highest usage rate (24.1 percent).

    The 31-year-old was a major force in both of the Grizzlies' major playoff runs. In 2011, he averaged 22.2 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. To help clinch the Grizzlies' first playoff series victory, he knocked out the San Antonio Spurs by scoring 17 of Memphis' 29 fourth-quarter points.

    He posted 17.4 points and 10 rebounds per game in this past postseason, including seven double-doubles.

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