Memphis Grizzlies Power Rankings: Rating Every Player After Six Weeks
Mike Conley is dragging the sled of a plodding Memphis Grizzlies offense. Combining his traditional caretaker skills with his fairly new scoring leadership, Conley leads a Grizzlies unit that produces just enough offensively while barely holding up defensively.
Conley showed off his lead guard credentials against the Phoenix Suns, leading the Grizz with 15 shots while tossing 14 assists and helping two supporting big men tally 20 points.
The seventh-year player is one of a few highlights in Memphis' player power rankings.
Also, Tony Allen is the only player who's strong on both ends thus far.
Mike Miller is doing a great amount of work for someone who is brittle. Miller is playing almost half the average game, giving Memphis their bit of outside shooting while working the hustle board.
Zach Randolph tapered before having an ingrown toenail. He became more active offensively and working hard on the boards.
The rankings are based on players' overall contributions. Those who are performing well on both ends are rewarded. Players' expectations are taken into account. For example, Quincy Pondexter's expectations are based on his ability to shoot three-pointers.
Follow along to see where each player stands.
Statistics are current through Dec. 3 games. Unless otherwise noted, advanced stats come from basketball-reference.com.
The Bottom Three
13. Jamaal Franklin
Franklin is scrapping as hard as he should be in the short minutes he'll receive as a rookie. He's hit 4-of-7 and has 10 rebounds in five games. He's only turned it over once to this point.
Franklin is reputed to be a strong defender, but he'll need more minutes to give any indication of his ability as a rookie.
Some NBDL action is likely for Franklin, who might not appear in many Grizz games.
12. Nick Calathes
Calathes is struggling to find his footing as he starts his NBA career. He's shooting 35.7 percent from the field, having hit half his shots in just one game when taking multiple shots.
With 29 assists to 17 turnovers, he has work to do on ball-handling.
Calathes' troubles appeared to be nothing new to ESPN Memphis' Jon Roser, who tweeted, "Nick Calathes reminds me of Conley's first 4 yrs."
11. Jon Leuer
Leuer occasionally gives an inspiring performance when no one expects. One moment was his 11-point showing in 12 minutes against the Charlotte Bobcats in the next-to-last game of the 2012-13 season.
He provided another on Tuesday by leading the way against the Phoenix Suns with 23 points and nine rebounds. His 10-of-13 shooting raised his field-goal percentage to 50 percent.
Leuer is relatively strong, but one shining performance isn't enough for him to steal minutes from Ed Davis.
10. Quincy Pondexter
Coming off a nice four-year extension, Quincy Pondexter has been a more ordinary shooter than last season.
His three-point stroke isn't what it was last year. After hitting 39.5 percent in 2012-13, he's putting down 35.7 percent. He's made multiple long-range shots three times.
Pondexter lit up on Saturday against the Brooklyn Nets as he scored 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting. He gained no goodwill for the performance, but a spot on the bench against the Suns since he showed up Dave Joerger against Brooklyn, as ESPN Memphis' Chris Vernon tweeted.
If the Grizz are to improve their outside shooting, they'll need better aim and attitude from Pondexter. If he can't contribute for 20 minutes per game, Memphis' offense has little chance of becoming less compact.
9. Jerryd Bayless
Only in moments has Jerryd Bayless been helpful for the Grizzlies.
His shooting has been underwhelming. Bayless is shooting 34 percent from the field and has made more than two shots in six of 15 games. His 25.7 percent three-point field-goal clip is far from desirable.
Bayless' shot selection is disappointing. As his NBA.com shot chart shows, he's overloading it with long two-pointers and above-the-break downtown attempts.
His saving grace on offense is that his free-throw mark is 82.1 percent and he's turning it over at an 11 percent rate.
On the other end, Bayless isn't supportive. He's allowing 107 points per 100 possessions.
As he struggles to shoot, Bayless is losing floor time and placing a greater burden on Mike Conley.
8. Ed Davis
Ed Davis finds his way in the top eight in the rankings because of the lack of quality play from the reserve backcourt players, not so much out of his own merit. He needed a Zach Randolph injury to flash his ability.
Davis posted nice numbers in the two games Randolph missed. He totaled 31 points and 20 rebounds. Against the Suns, Davis had his sixth career 20-point, 10-rebound performance.
However, the fourth-year player didn't prove his worth with either performance. The Suns had only one credible big man in Miles Plumlee. Facing Brooklyn, he went toe-to-toe with an aging Kevin Garnett.
His recent performances boosted his rebounding pace to 10 per 36 minutes. That's closer to his career average, but results must also come against quality opponents. He's pulled down five or more rebounds three times against winning teams.
Davis' shooting is inconsistent with his shot. He's shooting 52 percent from the field, but has made more than half of his shots six times.
He'll need to take every opportunity to prove himself as his contract year winds down.
7. Tayshaun Prince
While Tayshaun Prince won't rack up numbers, he should be a bit more effective.
Prince may have a decent shooting percentage at 43.1 percent. However, that's pulled by a few good games. He's hit better than 40 percent from the field in five games in which he's taken five or more shots.
While he's done a good job with the occasional three-pointer in his career, he's shooting 21 percent.
The 33-year-old is as clean handling the ball as usual, with an 8.7 percent turnover rate.
His defense is sour. Prince is allowing 109 points per 100 possessions.
6. Mike Miller
With the rest of the Grizzlies' bench backcourt group underperforming, Mike Miller is doing more than the team could ask of him.
Miller is doing his job from beyond the arc. He's shooting 45.6 percent, standing as the only Grizz player hitting better than the league average.
With 6.4 points per game, he's leading Memphis reserves in scoring.
He's also crashing the boards, averaging 3.2 defensive rebounds per game.
Miller's minute load is surprising. He's playing 22.5 minutes per game. He's seen at least 20 minutes in 12 games. The Commercial Appeal's Chris Herrington (subscription required) reasonably called this "unsustainable."
But the disparity in production between him and the other bench perimeter shooters gives Joerger little choice as long as they compete for the playoffs.
5. Kosta Koufos
Kosta Koufos is serving fairly well with Marc Gasol out.
Koufos is attacking the glass. He's averaging 12.3 rebounds in the last four games. For the season, he's pulling down 10.8 per 36 minutes.
His defense has been fantastic. He's allowing 101 points per 100 possessions and blocking 1.2 shots per game.
Now, his shot is far below expectations for someone who takes many of his attempts at the rim. He's shooting 47.7 percent. Koufos has shot below 40 percent five times while taking at least three shots.
Koufos won't replace everything that Gasol does, but he should at least work the inside better with his strength to bring more effective shooting.
4. Marc Gasol
The Grizzlies miss Marc Gasol in several ways, although one must admit that he didn't start the season well.
He shot 45.8 percent from the field before suffering an MCL sprain. From midrange, a typical hot spot of his, he made 37.5 percent, as shown by his NBA.com shot chart.
His passing has been sound, as he's dished out 4.3 assists per game.
Also, he was on the mark at the free-throw line, hitting 88.5 percent.
His defense wasn't the spectacular level at which he played while earning the Defensive Player of the Year award last year. He allowed 104 points per 100 possessions. While he mostly protected the basket and helped teammates, he suffered some of the same lapses as others.
If Memphis is to look competitive as the playoffs approach, Gasol must return strong from his injury, shooting and defending better than his first 13 games.
3. Tony Allen
Tony Allen is a decoy on offense, but now he's an effective decoy. Accustomed to wreaking havoc on the Grizzlies' attack by making poor decisions and taking questionable shots, he's keying in on his attempts.
Allen is hotter than ever from the field. He's shooting a team-high 53.1 percent. NBA.com's John Schuhmann tweeted that the defensive specialist is starting as one of the most improved effective field-goal shooters in the league, with a 10.8 percent jump.
He's doing it by primarily attacking the basket, as 59.4 percent of his shots are coming at the rim.
His defense is as solid as usual. Allen's averaging 2.3 steals per game. He's allowing 100 points per 100 possessions. At age 31, he's still relentless, with five games of three steals or more.
While his defense should remain the same throughout the year, the marksmanship of this erratic attacker will be an item to watch as he's only topped 50 percent shooting twice in his career.
2. Zach Randolph
Zach Randolph looks indispensable for the Grizzlies. He's averaging 16 points on 49 percent shooting. With Gasol out and the supporting cast failing to pick up scoring slack, Randolph is taking the call to shoot a little more than he might otherwise.
He's starting on the right foot at the free-throw line, hitting 79.3 percent.
On the boards, Randolph isn't doing his typical spectacular job. He's pulling down offensive rebounds at a 9.1 percent rate, 4.7 percent lower than last season. His 24 percent defensive rebounding rate is a touch lower than in 2012-13.
Still, his rebounding is valuable. He has notched double figures on the boards in nine of 15 games. His strength and positioning give the Grizz an advantage, especially when combined with Gasol and Koufos.
His defense isn't bad, as he's allowing 105 points per 100 possessions, although he's taking a hit with Gasol out and unable to help him.
1. Mike Conley
Producing more than ever, Mike Conley is pulling the Grizzlies offensively.
He's adjusting well to a greater scoring load. He's sporting career highs with 18.3 points on 14.6 field-goal attempts per game and 48 percent shooting.
These figures should continue. His three-point field-goal clip will improve from 30.8 percent to something around the league average.
Dave Joerger told The Commercial Appeal (subscription required) that his team depends on Conley to stack points on a regular basis. He said, "We're trying not to wear him out over the course of the season, but you have to play him as much as you can to give yourself the best chance to win. I told him he's got to put up big numbers for us to have a chance to win."
Conley is distributing the ball better than ever while raising his scoring. He's averaging 6.5 assists per game while turning it over 1.8 times per game. His turnover rate is a mere 9.8 percent.
On the other end, Conley isn't quite pulling weight the same. He's allowing 107 points per 100 possessions. After placing second last season with 2.2 steals per game, he's grabbing 1.5.