Memphis Grizzlies

2013-14 Season Preview Player Power Rankings for Memphis Grizzlies

Tom FirmeAnalyst IIOctober 15, 2013

2013-14 Season Preview Player Power Rankings for Memphis Grizzlies

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    Joe Murphy/Getty Images

    The Memphis Grizzlies’ championship hopes lie largely with a core that is the same as before, but bolstered by a few newcomers. Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley carry heavy burdens.

    Each one has a little more help from a backup. Gasol will be spelled by Kosta Koufos, who will give even more intense rebounding action than Gasol does. Ed Davis will try to supplant Randolph, although Randolph will maintain his place in Memphis through the year.

    Nick Calathes will serve as more of a traditional backup point guard than Jerryd Bayless as Calathes supports Conley in his rookie season.

    Besides Calathes and Koufos, Mike Miller is another newcomer the Grizz hope will improve the team’s outlook. His outside shooting is more threatening than anyone from last year’s roster.

    The standing of the top four—the aforementioned core trio and Tony Allen—is cemented, while the place of role players is more fluid.

    Take a look at where each player stands.

Other Guaranteed Contract Players

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    Lance Murphey/Getty Images

    13. Jamaal Franklin

    Franklin is finding his fair share of preseason minutes, averaging 20.7 per game. However, he's not making much of it, posting 6.3 points on 37.5 percent from the field and 4.3 rebounds per game while grabbing two steals.

    Even though he likely won't be in the regular rotation, Franklin would help himself by shooting better. Hitting better than 40 percent in the preseason might give Dave Joerger a reason to play him a few minutes in games that matter.

    The San Diego State product must improve a few aspects of his game, including his jump shot and ball-handling. After this month, Franklin's opportunities to show improvement will be solitary since his minutes will be sparse. His limited minutes will allow few attempts, forcing him to do almost all work in practice.

     

    12. Nick Calathes

    Calathes could be a helpful care-taking point guard. He has fine passing skills.

    Playing time won't be great for the Florida product. A large portion of the point guard minutes will be consumed by Mike Conley and Jerryd Bayless. Even though Bayless will play mostly alongside Conley, he'll see some time without the starter.

    Hence, Calathes may not average double-digit minutes.

     

    11. Jon Leuer

    Leuer has been the star of the Grizzlies' preseason. He had 10 points and 12 rebounds against Maccabi Haifa after scoring 17 points against the Mavericks

    All that means for the regular season is that Joerger will feel more confident about playing the third year pro 15 minutes or more. 

    Leuer, who averaged 3.7 points and 2.1 rebounds per game in 74 games for three teams in his first two years, should settle in as a reliable emergency option at the 4 spot. His shooting (50.2 percent) is good enough to fill in gaps in the event that Zach Randolph or Ed Davis becomes injured.

     

10. Mike Miller

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    Lance Murphey/Getty Images

    For a bruised veteran who will stray from contact, Mike Miller has received an outsized amount of preseason minutes. He's averaging 23.3 minutes per game through three exhibitions.

    That will change in the regular season. Miller played 15.3 minutes per game in 2012-13, a figure he will hover around this year.

    The goal will be to see him make an impact with his three-point shooting while staying healthy. The 40.6 percent career long range shooter can change the complexion of a squad that ranked No. 25 in the category last season.

    However, the Grizz need to take care of him in order to make that happen. Besides, he missed more than a quarter of the past four seasons. 

    At least the Grizz can save him for the playoffs, where they have been lacking beyond the arc.

9. Ed Davis

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    Lance Murphey/Getty Images

    The ball is in Ed Davis' court this season. After arriving in Memphis in February, he averaged 5.1 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 15.1 minutes per game. Davis shot 51.7 percent from the field with little success away from the rim.

    Lionel Hollins wasn't bullish on the former Toronto Raptor. CBSSports.com's Zach Harper said that while others were impressed by Davis, Hollins questioned whether he knew how to win.

    With a new coach, Davis must prove that he can play tough and expand his game. Most of his shots come at the rim. He shot 41.1 percent away from the basket last season. Improvement in that area would help Memphis' spacing greatly.

    He consistently averages more than 10 rebounds per 36 minutes, but he must show it against the stronger players in the league.

    Davis won't simply inherit the starting job from Zach Randolph. Only with substantial gains will it come his way.

8. Kosta Koufos

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    Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

    Going from being a serviceable starter for the Denver Nuggets to a backup for the Memphis Grizzlies won't be a difficult move for Kosta Koufos. He saw 22 minutes per game in Denver.

    Koufos did well on both ends of the floor. He shot 58.1 percent from the field. His rebounding is outstanding, as he pulls down 11.1 boards per 36 minutes. He allowed 103 points per 100 possessions.

    Dave Joerger has good reason to feel confident in reducing Marc Gasol's minutes. He'll have a strong, accurate seven-footer filling time.

7. Tayshaun Prince

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    Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

    Among those who have received valuable rest during the preseason is the Grizzlies' most senior member, Tayshaun Prince, who hasn't appeared in any warm-ups. 

    His role remains the same. As noted previously, he serves as a glue guy who boosts the offense with his facilitation skills and fundamental play, but doesn't put up significant numbers. 

    Seeing him take more of his limited attempts from beyond the arc would be nice, but it's hard to expect a player's game to change after he averaged 1.7 three-pointers per game for 11 years.

    Prince is valuable on defense. His ability to use his length to force mistakes offsets his loss of quickness. He allowed 103 points per 100 possessions for the Grizz last season, which should stay steady this year. His discipline and awareness will make a difference in his first full season with Memphis.

6. Jerryd Bayless

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    Lance Murphey/Getty Images

    Having Jerryd Bayless sandwiched between Tayshaun Prince and Quincy Pondexter demonstrates the balance between the spark Bayless provides and Prince doesn't and overall cost of having Bayless on the floor.

    Unlike Prince, Bayless changes what an offense can do. He allows the Grizz to run faster and score more. However, opponents score 7.5 more points per 100 possessions with Bayless on the floor. Indeed, that's only 1.5 more than Pondexter's differential. Still, opponents shoot better with lineups including Bayless than Pondexter, with an effective field-goal differential half a percent higher for Bayless.

    Bayless will make his presence felt on offense. The 24-year-old who averaged 12.2 points per game after the Rudy Gay trade should average double figures in scoring for a full season. 

5. Quincy Pondexter

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    Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

    Quincy Pondexter's value as an outside shooter can't be underestimated. His 39.5 percent three-point field-goal percentage was the best among any Grizzly who stayed on the team the entire season.

    As the Grizz look to grow their offense, he should take more than the 2.6 threes per game from last year. Dave Joerger told The Commercial Appeal (subscription required) that spacing is an issue. Pondexter's threat as a shooter from the corner helps space the floor. His presence provides a passing outlet from the inside.

    Pondexter, who played a minute less per game than Jerryd Bayless last season, will again play a bit less than the sixth man, but will be a bigger difference-maker because of his shooting from downtown. He shot 4.2 percent better than Bayless from deep, and will widen the gap this year.

    With improved ball-handling and defense, Pondexter increases his advantage.

4. Tony Allen

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    Lance Murphey/Getty Images

    Tony Allen's new four-year, $20 million deal validates his impact on the Grizzlies. Few defensive specialists earn $5 million per year solely for their contributions on that end of the floor.

    For three years, Allen made the Grizz one of the two most prolific turnover-forcing teams in the NBA. Meanwhile, he was in the top 10 in steals rate the last two seasons.

    In each of those campaigns, he reached the All-Defensive Team.

    Allen is almost unrivaled in his capacity as a defensive stopper. He defends multiple positions, shuts down passing lanes and torments leading scorers. Only LeBron James breaks opponents' attacks better.

    Allen's defensive playmaking allows the Grizz to live with his poor offense. When a player allows 98.4 points per 100 possessions as a perimeter defender, he can get away with producing 102.

3. Zach Randolph

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    Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

    Zach Randolph's stature is diminished a bit due to his drop-off as a shooter after the calendar turned to 2013. He went from shooting 49.4 percent from the field in the first two months to 43.9 in the ensuing four months. 

    The Grizz hope for some sort of bounce back. Even if he's a little better than his career mark of 47.2 percent, it would help. The looks that he creates with Marc Gasol are more credible if he can hit a reasonable percentage of shots.

    Even with a modest increase, the 31-year-old remains a great all-around threat. 

    After posting the second-best rebounding rate of his career and leading the league in offensive rebounds, he's fearsome as ever on the glass.

    His defense is better than ever after placing eighth in defensive win shares.

    While Randolph is the subject of trade rumors, he emphasized to The Commercial Appeal (subscription required) his desire to win a title with the Grizzlies. 

    "I just want to win a championship. That's all I want to do right now. I've made all the money. What else is there left to do?," he said.

    A veteran who has rebuilt his career in a small market after several years of controversy needs large contributions from two other central players to make it happen.

2. Mike Conley

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    Lance Murphey/Getty Images

    Mike Conley started to approach his potential last season. After the Rudy Gay trade, he averaged 16.9 points and 6.5 assists per game. High assist numbers were never expected on a lackluster shooting team, but scoring was needed to boost his standing among point guards.

    In his seventh season, Conley must show the complete portrait of himself as an elite floor general. After hitting a little more than half his shots at the rim, leading the slowest offense in the league and shooting inconsistently from long range, he has room to make up.

    But under a new coach who wants to push the pace, Conley has an opportunity. He can work a genuine structure to polish his distribution skills. If he utilizes more of his speed, he will have completed part of the test. Also, he should ensure that the ball moves more.

    His defense needs no more finish. He was tops in steals and made the All-Defensive Team.

1. Marc Gasol

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    Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

    With Dwight Howard floundering through injuries and indifference last season, Marc Gasol took the chance to build his case as the NBA's best center. Gasol led all centers with four assists per game while averaging 14.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game and placing fifth with 98.5 points allowed per 100 possessions.

    After the Rudy Gay trade, he scored 15.2 points per game. That portends a possibility of a further increase in scoring.

    With new offensive schemes and Zach Randolph likely shooting a bit less, Gasol will find more shot opportunities.

    Few players make a bigger overall difference on a team than Gasol, as he was seventh in win shares per 48 minutes.

    His free-throw shooting, which was second among all big men, illustrates how well-rounded he is.

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