Giving any Memphis Grizzlies players passing grades is tough this season. Most are posting disappointing performances. Even Mike Conley, who's showing growth, isn't doing everything he should to make the Grizzlies work.
Most players receive low grades in this piece, with some failing as the calendar year comes to a close. The five Grizz players shooting below 40 percent from the field have no place to hide from critique.
However, a couple players merit praise. No one can complain about Mike Miller being one of the best three-point shooters in the league. James Johnson has injected a bit of shooting for a team that is starving in that department.
Some players have real hopes for turning their seasons around. Zach Randolph can hope that Marc Gasol will help open doors for him upon return. Jerryd Bayless may await another second-half renaissance. Nick Calathes might find greater ease as his first NBA campaign rolls along.
Follow along to see grades on each player and explanations for each one.
Statistics are current through Dec. 23 games. Unless otherwise noted, advanced metrics come from basketball-reference.com.
The past two games have provided relief for Zach Randolph, who had been sliding. He had back-to-back 20-10 performances for the first time in more than a month.
Before making 53.1 percent in the last two games, Randolph had been going through a slump in which he made less than half his shots in 10 of 11 games.
With the recent drop, he's now at 45.5 percent from the field.
Randolph has maintained his fantastic defensive rebounding, but he has slipped on the offensive boards. He's pulling down 26.2 percent of available defensive rebounds, his best mark while in Memphis. His 9.5 percent offensive rebounding percentage is 4.3 percent below last year.
Playing next to Kosta Koufos hurts. Koufos isn't as deferential as Marc Gasol on the boards, and he doesn't create shots for Randolph like the regular starting center.
While 2012-13 saw January as the beginning of Randolph's tumble, he may hope that it brings his recovery of form with his buddy's return from injury.
Conley is moving in the right direction as an offensive threat. He's averaging 17.4 points and 6.3 assists per game.
His shooting is closer than previous years to what one would expect from a star lead guard. He's hitting 45.7 percent from the field, while it's pulled by a strong showing inside. As seen on his NBA.com shot chart, he's shooting 60 percent at the rim. He's made one-third of his long-range attempts.
Also, he's making it happen at the line, draining 83.8 percent.
Defense has been an issue for Conley, who is allowing 110 points per 100 possessions. His 1.9 percent steals rate is 1.5 lower than last year.
Monday saw a rare big defensive game for Conley. He had four steals, posting three or more for only the fifth time this season.
Tony Allen isn't shutting down opponents like he did the past couple years. He's allowing 103 points per 100 possessions, four more than last year. He allowed a shaky Kobe Bryant to score 21 points on Dec. 17.
He's working his gloves, producing the highest steals rate in the league at 4.5 percent.
Allen is making up for it with 10.8 points per game on 50.3 percent shooting. He has 14 games scoring in double figures in 22 games, compared with four at the same point last season. With only three games shooting below 40 percent, he's less erratic than usual.
He's as tough as usual on the boards, pulling down 5.9 per 36 minutes.
With solid production on both ends of the floor, Allen has been one of the most reliable players for a tenuous team.
Tayshaun Prince has had an unfortunate 12th season thus far. He's put forth very little production.
Prince is averaging six points per game. Meanwhile, his 8.1 per 36 minutes are by far the fewest in his career. His 38.7 percent field-goal clip is also a career low.
Prince's status as a below replacement-level player is represented by his minus-0.008 win shares per 48 minutes.
He's allowing 110 points per 100 possessions. However, his length still makes a difference, as the Grizz allow 4.4 fewer per with him on the floor, according to NBA.com.
SI.com's Ben Golliver put Prince on his All-Atrocious Team, noting Prince's diminished scoring and horrific all-around shooting.
Golliver noted what little return on investment the Grizz are getting, $7.2 million this year and $7.7 million in 2014-15, which Golliver calls "a fact that is sometimes forgotten in the trade analysis surrounding the deal that sent [Rudy] Gay from Memphis to Toronto."
Marc Gasol may return in the next 10 or 20 days, as 92.9 FM Memphis' Chris Vernon tweeted on Sunday, which one would see him playing better than before his MCL sprain.
He didn't hit shots as expected. His 45.8 percent field-goal clip was 3.6 lower than the year before. Gasol shot a disappointing 37.5 percent from mid-range, as his NBA.com shot chart shows, which is uncharacteristic for one of the better shooters from that range.
Any progress made last season on the offensive glass was lost, as he's pulling down 5.2 percent of available offensive rebounds, 2.4 lower than 2012-13.
However, his passing was terrific. He dished out 4.3 assists per game.
The Commercial Appeal's Chris Herrington said (subscription required) of how sorely the Grizz miss Gasol's ability to create for others:
Without Gasol, Zach Randolph has faced a steady diet of bigger defenders, and has struggled. Without Gasol, open jumpers and slashing opportunities are harder to find for guards such as Conley and Jerryd Bayless, and they've struggled. Without Gasol, the Grizzlies have looked to Tayshaun Prince and Nick Calathes to supply more ball-handling and playmaking, and they've struggled.
If nothing else, the Grizz can look forward to Gasol stretching defenses with his perimeter shooting and easing scoring opportunities for teammates.
In the short time Quincy Pondexter had to build on a strong second year in Memphis, he didn't take the next step.
Pondexter shot poorly, particularly from three-point range. He drained only 32.4 percent from downtown before suffering a season-ending foot fracture in his 15th contest. He managed to get inside a fair amount, but he made just half his attempts from inside eight feet, according to his NBA.com shot chart.
He didn't help on defense, allowing 112 points per 100 possessions.
Mike Miller has done more than Dave Joerger could have asked from him. Not only is he doing his customary three-point job, but he's also playing hard in other areas.
Miller's hitting 46 percent from downtown, which puts him in the league's top 10. He's taking 3.2 long-range attempts per game, his highest rate in four years.
He's scrapping on the boards, pulling down 3.4 rebounds per game.
Miller's managed to stay in playing condition the entire season, standing as Memphis' only player to appear in all 27 games.
If he can stay reasonably healthy and perform well all season, he will have been a remarkable value for this small-market team.
Without the full facilitation that happens when the Grizz are at full strength, Jerryd Bayless is struggling. He's averaging 7.9 points per game on 36.1 percent shooting. His three-point shooting is typically invisible, as he's shooting 29 percent.
His performance on Monday against the Utah Jazz was an anomaly. He lifted the team to victory by scoring 17 points on 6-of-11 from the field, his fourth game in which he made more than half his shots.
To his credit, Bayless has been safe with the ball, turning it over at an 8.5 percent rate, 6.6 percent better than last season. He's avoided a turnover in nine of his last 12 games.
Kosta Koufos is below expectations set for a big man who sweeps the glass and dumps in buckets from close range.
His 5-of-7 shooting against the Utah Jazz was a welcome reprieve from his slump. He had shot 39.8 percent for the month before Monday. He made less than half his shots in seven of eight games between Dec. 5 and 18.
That brought his field-goal clip down to 44.3 percent for the season.
Part of the problem is that he doesn't fare well while sharing the post with Ed Davis, who is also tied to shooting at the rim. Koufos shoots 35 percent with Davis on the floor, according to NBA.com.
Rebounding hasn't been a problem. He's pulling down 11.7 per 36 minutes. He's overtaken Randolph in terms of offensive rebounding dominance. Koufos is grabbing offensive boards at a 13.5 percent rate (seventh in the league), four percent better than his frontcourt mate.
His defense remains solid as he allows 103 points per 100 possessions. Koufos is blocking 1.9 shots per 36 minutes.
While Ed Davis struggles to prove himself, Jon Leuer is showing the Grizz that they're getting a ton of offense for $1 million per year.
He's scoring 9.4 points per game on 50.8 percent shooting. He's surprising with 56.8 percent from three-point range. On Dec. 17, he hit three of four three-pointers against the Los Angeles Lakers.
His rebounding isn't spectacular. He pulls down 8.7 rebounds per 36 minutes. Much of Leuer's production on the boards has been squeezed into an eight-game streak of six rebounds or more to start December.
Defensively, he hasn't been as bad as others, as he allows 106 points per 100 possessions.
With reasonable defense and shooting that challenges opponents, Leuer could find a place as the main reserve big man after Gasol returns.
Davis' 8.2 rebounds per 36 minutes tell the Grizz all they need to know about his future value to them. He lacks the strength to battle underneath.
That he hasn't received enough minutes isn't an issue. He's averaging minutes per game. In only two of the 10 games in which he's seen 20 or more minutes, he's grabbed more than five boards.
His 17.2 percent defensive rebounding rate is 5.6 percent below last season.
Davis is making more shots than he did in the first month. After hitting 48.1 percent through a month, he's knocked down 60.7 percent in December. His 54.5 percent field-goal percentage is more in line with the standards for someone who takes 69.9 percent of his attempts inside eight feet, per his NBA.com shot chart.
While the shooting figure is nice, it doesn't make up for his poor defense and rebounding.
Calathes is running through a rough NBA beginning. He's neither shooting nor handling the ball well. He's hitting 38.5 percent from the field, with six games below 40 percent from the field. He's turning it over 3.8 times per 36 minutes and at a 30.1 percent rate.
However, he's improving a bit with a 2.3 assist-to-turnover rate in December, 0.8 better than in the first month.
Johnson was signed from the NBDL to add shooting, and he has provided some sparks. He's averaging 6.8 points per game on 50 percent shooting and 50 percent from three-point range. He tallied 11 points on 3-of-5 from the field against the Mavericks on Wednesday.
The fourth-year player has provided rebounding in some spots. He has pulled down 13 rebounds in his last two games after grabbing two in his first two while wearing the three shades of blue.
Franklin hasn't made the best of the playing time that has fallen to him due to injuries. He's hitting just 35.5 percent from the field. He's made half his shots in two of the seven games in which he took multiple shots.
His defense is lagging, as he is allowing 108 points per 100 possessions.
Fortunately, ball control hasn't been an issue for the rookie from San Diego State. He's averaging 1.7 turnovers per 36 minutes and has only coughed it up multiple times in one affair.
Franklin attacks the boards. He has 5.5 rebounds per 36 minutes and has two games with three or more boards.
Leuer praised Franklin's effort telling The Commercial Appeal (subscription required), "He's got great work ethic. And he's got a great attitude."