Players Who Need to Step Up for the Memphis Grizzlies This Season

Tom FirmeAnalyst IIAugust 25, 2013

Players Who Need to Step Up for the Memphis Grizzlies This Season

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    The Memphis Grizzlies didn't make waves in the offseason like other Western Conference playoff teams did. Their formula to triumph over other contenders is finding more production and efficiency from holdovers.

    The Grizzlies' core is evolving, but certain members should pick up their game to strengthen their contender status. Marc Gasol and Mike Conley are taking more touches, while Zach Randolph is getting less.

    As that happens, the latter two are in need of higher efficiency. Conley needs to smooth out his floor leadership and become a more effective attacker.

    Randolph must keep the bottom from falling out of his shot after he hit 46 percent from the field last year.

    Also, a few reserves need to raise their output in order to help a finals run. Ed Davis isn't entitled to a future starting spot, but he must improve a couple of core components of his game to make it happen.

    Time has come for Jerryd Bayless to prove that he's more than a regular shooter who rifles the ball imperiously.

    Follow along for a breakdown on each player's needs.

     

Zach Randolph

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    Mostly, Zach Randolph rebounded last year after missing the majority of the previous season. He had his second-best rebounding campaign, coming 0.3 per 36 minutes short of his career high and placed fourth in offensive rebounding percentage (13.8 percent) and fifth in total rebounding percentage (19.3 percent).

    Also, he had a remarkable defensive season, allowing 99.5 points per 100 possessions.

    But his shooting drifted as the season wore on. The then-31-year-old did just fine in the first two months, hitting 49.3 percent from the field. He shot 43.9 percent and failed to shoot 46 percent in the other four months.

    Meanwhile, the man who ranks 37th all time in usage rate saw a drop from previous seasons. Randolph's 23.1 percent mark was his lowest in 10 years. In November and January, he had usage rates below 22 percent.

    Indeed, that's part of the shift in offensive roles. Randolph's shooting a little bit less, while Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are shooting more. 

    As the trend continues, Randolph should avoid faltering with fewer touches. Being a player who hits most of his shots unassisted and often feeds on offensive rebounds, his value may decrease if his field-goal percentage tumbles again.

    Such an occurrence would raise the trade possibility of Randolph, who ESPN speculates may be on the market at the trade deadline.

Mike Conley

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    The Grizzlies won't make the NBA Finals unless Mike Conley continues his steady climb among the upper third of the league's point guards. He took a leap by averaging 16.9 points and 6.4 assists per game after the Rudy Gay trade.

    Now, he must show for a full season that he can be an excellent lead guard. He raised his scoring and remained efficient but continued his bad habits. Conley would still hesitate in starting the offense and pushing the ball inside.

    As new head coach Dave Joerger said in a speech to season ticket holders on Saturday, the team needs to pick up the pace on offense and avoid breakdowns with the shot clock dwindling.

    Better ball movement and a quicker pace starts with improved passing by Conley.

    Also, Conley's growth as a lead guard requires a better field-goal clip than 44 percent. He can make up for his short stature on drives by attacking speedily and getting separation. Better selection will lead to a higher three-point field-goal percentage than 36.2 percent.

    A deadly scoring Conley who can sustain his stroke deeper in the playoffs than this spring, when he knocked down just 39 percent from the field, is key to the Grizzlies' first finals appearance.

Ed Davis

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    With Kosta Koufos joining the Grizzlies, Ed Davis appears to be the second big man off the bench for the Grizzlies. Davis did well in short minutes last year, but he needs further growth if he is to inherit a starting spot.

    The former Toronto Raptor pulled down boards frequently, averaging 10.8 per 36 minutes. However, his 17.4 percent total rebounding rate leaves a want of finish. He still doesn't play the glass as strong as he could.

    His field-goal percentage precipitously dropped in his three months with the Grizz. He went from 62 percent in March to 50.9 percent to percent in April. 

    Davis is an effective inside shooter but should develop his range. He shot 67 percent at the rim, while taking half his shots there. From between five and nine feet and from between 10 and 14 feet, he hit 41.8 and 42.5 percent, respectively.

    Comparatively, Koufos shot 65.8 percent in the restricted area while taking 71.4 percent of his shots there.

    Memphis has a spacing problem, which is exacerbated with two backup big men in Koufos and Davis who take many of their attempts at the rim. Davis can make himself more enticing to the Grizzlies' front office by hitting more shots from mid-range.

Jerryd Bayless

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    Last season, Jerryd Bayless was the epitome of the replacement-level player. Bayless averaged 8.7 points per game, including 12.2 per game after the Rudy Gay trade. His three-point field-goal percentage was 35.3 percent, 0.6 percent below the league average. That rate only eclipsed 37 percent in one month.

    Additionally, as Grantland's Zach Lowe pointed out, Bayless' success was connected to being on court with Mike Conley. Hence, Bayless couldn't produce without the support of a more efficient player.

    Bayless was dead weight in the playoffs. He shot 35.8 percent from the field, including 34.8 percent in the conference finals. In his third career postseason, he shot 30.5 percent from beyond the arc.

    Now, he's in a fight to prove not only that he deserves to be the Grizzlies' sixth man, but also that he deserves a good contract his sixth season. While the Grizz might have hoped he'd be a good outside shooter and supportive backup floor general, he's turned out to be an ordinary shooter who's only a decent passer.

    The 25-year-old needs to take better three-point shots to make his attempts worthwhile. As his NBA.com shot chart shows, he took many of his threes from the wings but had subpar marks from both areas.

    Also, he could do a better job drawing fouls. After averaging 5.4 free-throw attempts per 36 minutes before arriving in Memphis, Bayless drew 2.5 per 36 last season.

Quincy Pondexter

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    Quincy Pondexter remains the only pure shooter among Grizzlies players who will receive significant minutes in the regular season, considering Mike Miller likely won't receive more than 15 per game. Thus, Pondexter will be asked to take more shots than ever before.

    The third-pro year blew up by hitting 39.5 percent from downtown last season. He was the only above-water performer in the conference finals, averaging 15.3 points per game on 53 percent from the field and 44 percent from behind the line.

    Indeed, that was partly because San Antonio Spurs defenders collapsed on Conley, Randolph and Gasol, leaving Pondexter open.

    As he should blossom more than the elder Bayless, Pondexter will see more shots come his way. Still, Pondexter will probably take just over half from three-point range as he did in 2012-13.

    If he keeps up his aim, his scoring will be a big aide for the Grizz.