Who Will Replace the Memphis Grizzlies' Quincy Pondexter?

Tom Firme@TFirmeAnalyst IIDecember 16, 2013

Quincy Pondexter's three-point shooting helps complete the Memphis Grizzlies, whereas Marc Gasol makes them a contender. These two major injuries have unequal impacts on the Grizzlies. Still, losing Pondexter puts Memphis' season in the balance.

The Grizzlies' outside shooting rarely wins games for them. They're 21st in the NBA at 34 percent from three-point range. For that matter, they don't do enough from downtown to inspire, as they take the fewest threes in the league.

While Pondexter didn't start well, shooting 32.4 percent from beyond the arc, his ability and spacing added dimension to a compact Grizz offense. His 2.3 three-point attempts per game were a significant slice of the total.

Now, Memphis has only a couple options on the perimeter. Mike Conley and Mike Miller, who combine for 7.4 long-range attempts per game, have taken 52.5 percent of the team's threes for the season.

They felt the pain on Sunday, as the Minnesota Timberwolves outgunned them on the perimeter, going 12-of-26 from downtown as Memphis made a third of their 15 attempts.

With Conley and Miller as their only active three-point shooters, they can't look from within for help. Jerryd Bayless, who's the only other player launching more than 1.5 treys per game, is hitting 26 percent and has little track record from deep.

Now, with the Grizz two games out of eighth place in the West and waiting for Gasol's return, the question looms regarding how they'll address the perennial shortage of outside shooting.


Trade possibilities

In a podcast last week, CBSSports.com's Matt Moore said that with Pondexter out for the season and Gasol expected to come back eventually, Memphis has hope of trading and making a surge.

"If you're the front office, you want to know 'Is this team good or did they hit the apex?' ... But now, it's going to be like, 'We don't know. They could still be good. Maybe we just need a shooter,'" Moore said.

Ideal acquisitions include Francisco Garcia, Thabo Sefolosha and Steve Novak. Garcia and Sefolosha have expiring contracts.

Like Pondexter, Sefolosha is a three-and-D player. However, Sefolosha is a more effective one. He shot better than 41 percent from three-point range the previous two seasons before starting at 28.2 percent. He's allowing 101 points per 100 possessions and grabs 1.6 steals per 36 minutes.

According to Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman, the Oklahoma City Thunder may not re-sign him. In the interest of getting value for him, they could trade him. Memphis' problem is that they don't have a backcourt player to send other than Jerryd Bayless without putting Oklahoma City past the luxury tax threshold.

Garcia and Novak help exclusively from downtown. Garcia is hitting 35.3 percent this season and 36.1 percent for his career. Novak shot better than 42 percent the past two years before starting at 34.7 percent this year. They don't turn it over much, each with turnover rates below 11 percent.

Novak, who makes $3.75 million this year, is the easiest to acquire since he doesn't play for an NBA Finals contender. The 30-year-old isn't a long-term piece for the Toronto Raptors. He plays 13.4 minutes per game and would be past his peak by the time the Raptors become a playoff team.

If the Grizz can offload Bayless' contract on Toronto, they would have a terrific catch-and-shoot player to boost their three-point figure.


Miller as a Starter?

It is quite possible that the Grizz don't seek an acquisition for perimeter help. They didn't made a deal to tweak the rotation in the past two seasons.

At that, Hoopsworld's Steve Kyler ruled out anything big via Twitter.

One rotation switch is possible, albeit risky.

Replacing Tayshaun Prince in the starting lineup with Miller is a thought. Prince has fared dismally to this point. After missing preseason with a stomach illness, Prince is averaging 6.3 points per game on 38.9 percent from the field in 27.3 minutes per game.

Miller has been much more effective in four fewer minutes per game, but has been more productive and more effective. He's scoring 0.6 more per game shooting 5.5 percent better from the field with 45.9 percent from downtown, while Prince has all but stopped taking shots from that distance. 

Adding Miller's superior free-throw shooting, his true shooting percentage is 60 percent, 12.4 better than Prince's.

Like his fellow 33-year-old, Miller would be the low-usage player who performs a specific offensive function. Whereas Prince takes long two-pointers and tosses a few passes, Miller passes and hits threes. Those shots from a few feet farther make up for the marksman's higher turnover rate.

As a starter, Miller would play a few more minutes and take an additional shot each game. This doesn't add outside shooting as much as it jump-starts their performance. The Grizz are slow starters, shooting 42.3 percent from the field and 30.9 percent from beyond the arc in the first quarter, according to NBA.com.

Some might be concerned by Miller's height disadvantage and historic defensive weakness. However, Miller makes up for the loss of length with hustle, as his hard work earns him 0.3 more rebounds per game than Prince. 

The starting small forward isn't better than Miller defensively this year. Both allow 110 points per 100 possessions. 

The risk is that Miller might increase his chance of becoming injured. Various ailments have plagued his body the past four seasons, preventing him from playing three-quarters of those campaigns. Indeed, it'd only raise the risk marginally from that which Dave Joerger is already running by playing Miller several minutes more than he saw the past two years.


Conclusion: The Grizzlies gain nothing by standing pat

Currently, this banged-up team has few credible scorers. Conley and Zach Randolph are their only effective scoring starters. Miller and Jon Leuer are the only reliable reserves.

While waiting for Gasol to heal, they can add a long-range shooter and stretch their modest perimeter capacity.

This would be more of a boost than starting Miller. More shooting from Miller lifts their scoring just a bit. Acquiring a player like Novak would open the offense and increase its effectiveness. 

If they don't adjust at all, the Grizz remain a low-scoring team that predictably attacks the basket most of the time. Lacking balance, they don't challenge opposing defenses. Such an attack leaves Memphis hamstrung in an attempt to climb back into the playoff race.


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