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Pre-Training Camp Player Power Rankings for Memphis Grizzlies

Tom FirmeAnalyst IIDecember 24, 2016

Pre-Training Camp Player Power Rankings for Memphis Grizzlies

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    The Memphis Grizzlies will enter training camp in a few weeks with superior depth than in prior campaigns. Partly, that's because Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph have better players behind them. Also, it's due to growth throughout the roster.

    Two key Grizzlies players continue their rise. Gasol will look to solidify himself after posting a career high in win shares offensively (6.1) and defensively (5.4) and being named the league's top defender. Mike Conley tries to carry the offense after leading the team in scoring after the Rudy Gay deal.

    Memphis' depth has significantly improved. Quincy Pondexter is turning the corner. Kosta Koufos is the franchise's greatest backup center without having played a game. Ed Davis is expected to develop with more playing time. Mike Miller adds much-needed three-point shooting.

    Rookie head coach Dave Joerger can feel confident that this final four team won't miss a beat and that he'll be able to sit starters for a few minutes at a time without losing a lead.

    Here's a look at where every player stands, along with a peek at a few players' chances of making the roster.

    Advanced metrics come from

Outside the Top 10

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    16. Willie Reed

    Reed has much to prove if he is to win a roster spot. The St. Louis product put up just 6.5 points in 16.9 minutes per game in the Summer League. He was an All-Developmental League honorable mention, which means he fell short of winning something that was hardly an accolade.

    At 6'10" and 220 pounds, he's the same height as Jon Leuer with a little less bulk. He can put up a fight on defense, but if he doesn't have discernible qualities that differentiate him from Leuer, then Reed isn't worth keeping.


    15. Janis Timma

    Between the time the Grizz made Timma the last pick in the draft and his entrance at training camp, he will have produced little tape and fewer highlights. He shot 20.8 percent from the field in 13.9 minutes per game in Summer League play and missed out on a spot on the Latvian EuroBasket team due to an illness.

    Playing EuroBasket matches would have been valuable for the 21-year-old.

    Nevertheless, his lack of development and mechanical tuning has him destined to be sent abroad for further work in hopes of eventually playing an NBA game.


    14. Josh Akognon

    Akognon should be able to find a spot on Memphis' roster, unless they decide to restrict the roster to 13 players.

    He has enough offensive ability to show he can jump off the bench occasionally and hit a couple shots. In the Summer League, he caught attention by scoring 17.5 points per game and hitting 39.1 percent from three-point range.

    At all points in his career, whether in college, international ball or the Summer League, he's been great at the free-throw line. Since his junior year at Cal State Fullerton in 2007-08, he's never hit less than 86 percent of his free throws. That should earn him a few points.


    13. Jamaal Franklin

    The Grizzlies might have had a steal in Jamaal Franklin, but he won't make an early impact. His shooting and ball-handling need development. He can't be a rotation player until he shows a pro ability on offense.

    Seeing him burn in the Summer League would have been nice, but due to injury it wasn't in the cards.

    The defense of this former San Diego State Aztec who grabbed 1.6 steals per game might earn him short playing time in which he challenges opposing bench players.


    12. Nick Calathes

    After a couple of nice seasons abroad, Calathes may be able to attack the basket upon arrival. He was rated highly by ESPN's John Hollinger (subscription required) heading into the 2009 draft and is seen as someone who has genuine value.

    Calathes has some shooting ability, as he shot 48 percent in his two international seasons. Free-throw shooting and turnovers have been problems for him since college. He turned it over almost three times per game in Russia this past season and coughed it up 3.1 times per game at Florida.

    His free-throw mark hasn't been better than 75 percent at any point since starting in Gainesville.

    Calathes will score a bit but needs work to build his game.


    11. Jon Leuer

    Leuer has plenty of tools all around, as he is capable as a shooter, rebounder and defender. He hit 62.5 percent from the field, pulled down nine rebounds per 36 minutes and allowed 99 points per 100 possessions. 

    He's capable of filling minutes when a significant player goes down. Memphis will be happy having him on a bargain contract.

10. Mike Miller

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    Many Grizzlies fans are giddy for the return of Mike Miller, but they're also psyched for a return to his old Memphis form. The faithful shouldn't set their hopes that high.

    Miller was accurate, albeit not extremely accurate after leaving the Grizz, but he also often missed time. He hasn't played three-fourths of the season since the 2008-09 season. Last year, he was plagued by back problems and suffered from the flu.

    Memphis' franchise leader in effective field-goal percentage returns with the same long-range shooting, but that's all he'll do for them. He shot 45.3 and 41.7 percent in 2011-12 and 2012-13, respectively. Last year, he shot 75.6 percent of all attempts from beyond the arc.

    He'll play a limited number of minutes as the third backcourt player off the bench.

    The gym rat is back, but he won't win games before late April.

9. Ed Davis

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    Ed Davis should receive an extension before November comes, but that doesn't rule out any need for him to prove himself this season.

    As Zach Randolph ages, Davis needs to show he's ready to fill his elder's shoes. Davis' rebounding skills are impressive, but his per-36-minute figure has remained between 10 and 10.5, and his total rebounding percentage was 16.7 percent the past two years.

    Perhaps Davis could patrol the glass and shoot better than his 51.7 percent with the more consistent minute load under Dave Joerger. 

    Both Davis and Kosta Koufos take many of their shots at close range. Unless Davis develops his jump shot, he'll lose chances to the more accurate Koufos.

8. Jerryd Bayless

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    What Jerryd Bayless gives the Grizzlies isn't special.

    He'll run around with Mike Conley and score a fair amount. His 12.2 points per game after the Rudy Gay trade was fourth on the team. His shooting percentages were better during that productive segment of the season, which may be a good sign for the second half of a player's second season without missing more than 10 games.

    But one would expect the 25-year-old to drain a bit less than 38.1 percent after settling into his second year as the Grizzlies' off shooter.

    Bayless will be helpful on both ends. Still, an injury to the man who was their sixth man last season wouldn't pinch the Grizz, as Mike Miller and Nick Calathes could at least combine to replace his bench scoring with greater efficiency.

7. Kosta Koufos

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    According to Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal (via Dan Feldman of NBC Sports' Pro Basketball Talk), Dave Joerger plans to play his starters fewer minutes. Partly, that may indicate greater trust in the bench players than Lionel Hollins, but it also shows the luxury Joerger has with the arrival of Kosta Koufos.

    Koufos brings experience that previous backup centers lacked. Unlike Jake Tsakalidis, Hasheem Thabeet and Hamed Haddadi, he was a full-time starter before arriving in Memphis.

    He was effective in his role for the Denver Nuggets, posting eight points and 6.9 rebounds in 22.4 minutes per game.

    The first-year Memphis coach should feel confident that Koufos will put forth clean offense, as he shot 58 percent from the field and had an 8.7 percent turnover rate.

    Also, the Grizz won't sacrifice any defense by taking Marc Gasol off the court, as Koufos allowed 103 points per 100 possessions.

6. Tayshaun Prince

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    Tayshaun Prince sitting outside the top five doesn't mean that he shouldn't start. He simply doesn't do as much as the players ahead of him.

    He'll play well defensively after allowing 103 points per 100 possessions in 37 games with the Grizzlies.

    His offensive usefulness is miniature since he'll likely shoot less than five of his teammates. He was fifth in field-goal attempts per game from February onward.

    Taking fewer touches than others isn't terrible. He had a nine percent turnover rate while showing a 15.2 percent usage rate.

    He'll make smart, fundamental moves in offensive sets while staying within himself. That won't create many points, but it won't cost the Grizz.

5. Quincy Pondexter

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    While every other significant shooter struggled against the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals, Quincy Pondexter had a coming-out party. He scored 15.3 points per game on 53.6 percent from the field and 48 percent from downtown.

    Those numbers don't perfectly project that he'll become a solid starting wing man, but he's turning into a good perimeter shooter who doesn't demand many shots. The Fresno, Calif., native hit 39.5 percent from three-point range in the regular season.

    Also, Pondexter came along on defense, allowing 104 points per 100 possessions.

    With continued progress he may become a starter.

4. Tony Allen

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    One may feel the urge to insert Tony Allen as the No. 2 player on this list, but he only delivers on one end of the floor. He's an all-world defender but is ineffectual with the ball in his hands.

    Besides LeBron James, no one shuts down opponents like this three-time All-Defensive Team member. Allen takes out teams' key shooters, cuts off passing lanes and helps fellow defenders a great deal.

    Despite turning 31 this season, he'll be the same guy who held Kevin Durant to 35.8 percent shooting in the last three games of the conference semifinals.

    His play on the other end, where he scored 8.9 points per game and produced one win share, explains why he only earns $5 million per year in his new deal with the Grizz.

    As Matt Moore of said of Allen, "If you watch him and you're focused on offensive skill and polish, you're going to be disgusted. ... If you watch him and you're focused on defensive effort and ability, you're going to be amazed."

    Overall, he'll mess up enough with the ball in his hands to scuttle possessions, but his defense offsets it enough to strengthen the team.

3. Zach Randolph

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    Zach Randolph still has a ton of value but isn't the world-beater he once was.

    He had his second-best rebounding season, pulling down 11.2 rebounds per game and leading the league in offensive rebounds per game (four). 

    He's become a grounded, capable defensive player, allowing 99.5 points per 100 possessions.

    But his shooting has faded. He shot 46 percent, his worst clip in seven years and ceded shot opportunities to others down the stretch.

    Randolph's game is shifting to more of a supporting role offensively as he loses effectiveness while maintaining strength on the glass and on defense with his strong fundamentals.

2. Mike Conley

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    Mike Conley is taking on a greater responsibility in the Grizzlies' offense in his seventh season. After scoring 16.9 points per game after Rudy Gay's departure, Conley is ready to grasp his new role for a full year.

    As the team's new No. 1 scorer, he should take 14 shots per game and score 18 per game.

    One question about his offense is ball control with greater usage. His turnover rate was 15.1 percent last year, 0.9 more than the year before. 

    If he can't keep hold of the ball as well when his usage rate is past 22 percent as when it was 18 percent, then concerns may arise.

    On defense, he and Tony Allen will once again tighten the clamps on ball-handlers after Conley led the league in steals.

1. Marc Gasol

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    Marc Gasol provides more all-around than any other center in the league. He's a solid rebounder, having pulled down 7.8 per game, albeit deferential to Zach Randolph.

    He's the best passing center, having led men at the position with four per game. He looks to make sound plays, observing whether to pass or shoot.

    His range is as good as any at the 5 spot. Gasol shot 47.7 percent from mid-range last season.

    The Defensive Player of the Year winner locks down the interior, allowing 98.5 points per 100 possessions.

    The results will only get better and tweaks in the Grizz offense may lead him significantly higher than the 14.1 points per game that he put up last year.

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