Final First-Half Player Power Rankings for Memphis Grizzlies

Tom FirmeAnalyst IIJanuary 7, 2014

Final First-Half Player Power Rankings for Memphis Grizzlies

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    Zach Randolph and Mike Conley have carried the bulk of the load in keeping the Memphis Grizzlies close to the .500 mark. A few rotation players have flashed effectiveness to help, but are far from the top two on the team due to their lower usage rates and overall impact.

    Randolph and Conley have been the mantle for the Grizzlies offense. They've combined to take a third of the team's field-goal attempts and score 33.6 percent of their points. Conley has launched 26.9 percent of the team's three-point heaves.

    Marc Gasol looms in the background, forming a seal between the aforementioned pair and the rest of the roster in terms of value. Gasol's absence leaves a gaping hole on both ends of the floor for the Grizz. His scoring, passing and defense will be greatly appreciated upon his return.

    A crowd of respectable contributors file in behind the core trio. Tony Allen has produced well offensively, but isn't performing as expected on the other end. Jon Leuer is opening eyes as a scorer. Ed Davis finds himself ahead of two starters because of his scoring impact.

    One of those starters found himself outside of the top 10 on the roster due to his small contribution.

    As this discourse alludes, the ranking weighs the overall impact of each Grizzly while placing him, comparing players who excel in different areas.

    Follow along to see which ones may surprise with their standings.

     

    *Statistics are current through Jan. 6 games. Advanced metrics come from Basketball-Reference.com, unless otherwise noted.

11. The Bottom Four

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    14. Nick Calathes

    Calathes is playing poorly enough to be vilified by fans less than halfway through his rookie campaign. He's shot 38.2 percent in 22 games while producing 85 points per 100 possessions. His free-throw aim wasn't good in Europe, but he's hitting 53.8 percent for Memphis, which is unfortunate for someone who takes 3.4 free throws per 36 minutes.

    He struggles to handle the ball, as he turns it over on 29.6 percent of possessions.

    While his start is disheartening, the 2013 Euroleague MVP can improve if he sees action in a large percentage of Memphis' games. As the Memphis Flyer's Kevin Lipe said, "If the Grizzlies want Calathes to develop his game and grow into a role as the backup point guard, they have to play him, even if it's just in limited minutes, on a consistent basis."

     

    13. Jamaal Franklin

    Franklin finally found his way to the NBDL after a sluggish start to his pro career. He averaged 1.9 points per game and shot 34.4 percent from the field in 14 contests.

    Heading to the D-League isn't a bad thing for Franklin. He'll be able to get the playing time required to build offensive rhythm and refine his jump shot. His 15 points on 4-of-13 shooting in his debut for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants indicates he could use several games with them.

     

    12. Quincy Pondexter

    Pondexter didn't jump off well after receiving his extension. His 32.4 percent three-point percentage was no step forward after knocking down 39.5 percent last season.

    He wasn't productive before going down for the season, averaging 6.3 points per game and posting a 14.2 percent turnover rate and an 11.2 percent assist rate.

    To his credit he did make 21 of 26 free-throw attempts (80.8 percent).

     

    11. Tayshaun Prince

    As Prince is practically absent of any impact, he lacks functionality in the Grizz rotation.

    He's invisible on offense. Prince has career lows of 96 points per 100 possessions, 41.2 percent from the field, a 9.8 percent assist rate and a 13.9 percent usage rate. Such a low usage rate deprives him of the absorbent role he had last year with a 9.2 percent turnover rate.

    Age wears on him as he allows 110 points per 100 possessions.

    If Pondexter were still playing, he'd be higher than Prince. Simply being in the rotation gives a player greater value than Prince, who was on SI.com's All-Atrocious Team

10. James Johnson

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    James Johnson provoked excitement with a fast start in Memphis. He averaged 8.8 points per game on 57.6  percent shooting in his first six games.

    But he has slowed down recently, scoring 5.8 per game on 32 percent from the field. He turned it over five times in the first six games, but has coughed it up seven times since then.

    One cannot expect Johnson to jolt the Grizz offense for an extended period of time. He didn't produce more than 97 points per 100 possessions in his first four NBA seasons. The 26-year-old isn't suddenly becoming a terrific perimeter shooter. 

    However, a respectable second half may be in line for the former D-Leaguer if he maintains respectable minutes.

     

     

9. Kosta Koufos

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    Koufos is facing the opposite predicament of Davis. The former Denver Nugget is performing fantastically on defense and on the boards, but isn't pulling his weight on offense.

    He's been one of the best defenders for the Grizz this season, allowing 104 points per 100 possessions and posting a 4.2 percent block rate. He's blocked shots in 21 of 33 games, swatting multiple attempts in 10 contests.

    Koufos is ascending the ranks as a rebounder. He's third in the league in offensive rebounding percentage (14.4 percent) and 17th in defensive rebounding rate (24.2 percent). He's jumped from 19th in total rebounding rate last year (17.3 percent) to eighth this season (19.2 percent) despite playing beside Randolph.

    However, his shooting clip is undesirable for someone who takes many of his shots from point-blank range. He hits just 45.3 percent from the field, despite taking 84.8 percent of his attempts from inside eight feet, as shown by his NBA.com shot chart.

    Perhaps, he could get more room to take better shots with Lee arriving, but Koufos' relegation to playing off the bench next to Davis, who takes a similar proportion inside, will negate that.

8. Ed Davis

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    Ed Davis is improving to the point that he isn't killing his opportunity for a respectable second NBA contract, but doesn't demand a place as Randolph's replacement. 

    Davis improved his shooting as his playing time stabilized. Since playing more than 20 minutes consecutively for the first time at the end of November, Davis is averaging 10.4 points in 21.2 minutes per game on 59 percent shooting. That's 11.6 percent better than his first 11 games when he was putting in 12.6 minutes per game.

    He's defended well recently, allowing fewer than 100 points per 100 possessions, but hasn't defended effectively for long stretches this year. Davis is allowing 105 points per 100 possessions for the season, but allowed 109 in November and 108 in December. His blocks rate is solid at 4.1 percent, but he has blocked shots in only 14 games.

    Davis isn't rebounding nearly well enough to replace Randolph. He's pulling down 8.7 per 36 minutes. His defensive rebounding rate is 17.8 percent, five percent lower than last season.

    His offensive contribution is enough to make him more valuable than Kosta Koufos. Davis has .144 win shares per 48 minutes, compared to Koufos' .093.

7. Courtney Lee

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    The acquisition of Courtney Lee is almost as inspiring for Grizz fans as Leuer's development. His outside shooting should add dimension to Memphis' offense, but he doesn't take enough three-pointers to make a great impact. Lee is hitting 44.2 percent from three-point range, but has taken 28.4 percent of his shots from beyond the arc.

    For his career, Lee has taken 32.3 percent of his attempts from long range. Putting it into perspective, his career proportion is 11.2 percent less than Mike Miller's and 23.8 percent less than that of Kyle Korver.

    As Noam Schiller said in a Hardwood Paroxysm article, the Grizzlies traded for the idea of Lee. Schiller stated:

    The issue is that Courtney Lee isn't the Idea of Courtney Lee. ... Yes, he's a good three-point shooter, but too few of his shots come from outside the arc to lift his True Shooting percentage to much beyond slightly above average (again, strong start to 2013-14 notwithstanding). He defends well, but is not elite. He's athletic, but has never been able to translate that into a high free throw rate. He looks like a potential emergency ball-handler, but struggles to create for himself or for others, and has only once had an assist rate that was higher than his turnover rate.

    The real Lee shouldn't be a letdown for the Grizz. He's enough of an upgrade over Jerryd Bayless to instill order in the offense. His field-goal (49.2 percent) and free-throw clips (81.8 percent) are high enough to make up for his insufficient three-point rate. Also, his shot selection is better than Bayless'.

    Having another efficient backcourt player in the rotation can only bring the Grizz closer to the playoffs.

6. Jon Leuer

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    Jon Leuer has been a pleasant surprise in his third season. In his first year as a member of an NBA rotation, he's contributing enough to make himself a valuable part of the Grizzlies bench.

    He's posting terrific offensive numbers. Leuer is averaging 9.2 points per game on 50.3 percent from the field and 52.9 percent from three-point range. His 9.5 percent turnover rate is impressive for someone who maintains a 22.3 percent usage rate. 

    Since Dec. 3, he's averaging 11.8 points per game on 52.6 percent shooting.

    His rebounding might seem disappointing on the face, as he pulls down 8.7 per 36 minutes. However, he's grabbing defensive boards at a solid 20.4 percent rate.

    His defense is passable as he allows 106 points per 100 possessions.

    Heads are starting to turn when Leuer hits the court. Bleacher Report's Maxwell Ogden tweeted that Leuer is the league's most underrated player. CBSSports.com's Zach Harper spoke approvingly of Leuer, tweeting, "He can ball."

5. Mike Miller

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    Mike Miller's first half has been too good and too stable to believe. The 33-year-old is tied for the team lead in offensive rating (117 points per 100 possessions) and has played every game despite not appearing in three-quarters of his games the past four years.

    The 14-year-veteran has been a beacon of light on a team that struggles from beyond the arc. He's 11th in three-point percentage (43.4 percent) and was one of only two Grizz players hitting better than 35 percent from downtown before Courtney Lee's arrival.

    Miller's pushing himself hard for a player who hasn't held together well since he was on the right side of 30. He's averaging 22.8 minutes per game, his highest amount of playing time since 2009-10, and is averaging 5.2 rebounds per 36 minutes. 

    With Lee coming off the bench, Miller may be able to find some rest, which he'll need to stay healthy enough to keep up his spectacular Memphis return.

4. Tony Allen

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    Tony Allen has been healthy and effective enough to be helpful, but not a difference-maker like in prior seasons. He's missed six games due to assorted injuries.

    His offensive production is pronounced. He's averaging 10.2 points per game (second-best in his career) and shooting 49.3 percent from the field. He has scored in double figures 16 times.

    Meanwhile, his defense has been a bit of a disappointment for a three-time All-Defensive Team honoree. Allen's allowing 104 points per 100 possessions. Still, his 3.9 percent steals rate is second in the NBA.

    A Grizzlies team that depends on tough defense needs Allen to step up in order to scrape together a rally for the playoffs, even if Gasol comes back strong.

3. Marc Gasol

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    Marc Gasol's rolling towards returning to action in the not-too-distant future. He started light workouts on Monday while still wearing a brace, as to Fox Sports Southwest reporter Rob Fischer tweeted.

    Grizz fans can't help but feel excited, even if the Spaniard underperformed before his MCL sprain. He didn't shoot well, hitting 45.8 percent from the field.

    His defense lagged; Gasol allowed 106 points per 100 possessions and had a career-low 2.6 percent block rate.

    Having said that, the Grizz need his facilitation, the one steady aspect of his game this year. He started with 4.3 assists per game, 0.3 more than last season. The Commercial Appeal's Chris Herrington mentioned (subscription required) how key players have missed Gasol's passing ability.

    A strong return that catapults the Grizz into the playoff picture would see him reappear as the team's best player.

2. Zach Randolph

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    Zach Randolph won't go quietly into the good night. The 32-year-old is putting together enough strong performances to remind the league that he remains a force. He has 21 double-doubles, fifth in the league, and six 15-point, 15-rebound performances.

    Randolph has been inefficient on offense, but remains productive. He's shooting only 45.4 percent from the field, but is scoring 18.3 points per 36 minutes. He has 13 20-point games. 

    With Gasol out, Randolph has taken a more active passing role. He's averaging career highs of 2.8 assists per 36 minutes and a 13.5 percent assist rate.

    Kosta Koufos has overtaken him on the offensive boards, but Randolph is better than ever on the opposing glass. Randolph's grabbing 26.5 percent of available defensive rebounds, ninth in the league. His 11.2 rebounds per 36 minutes are only 0.6 less than last year.

1. Mike Conley

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    Mike Conley is going through an injury-induced slump that has temporarily reduced his effectiveness. Dave Joerger faulted injuries in telling The Commercial Appeal (subscription required), "Everybody's got nicks and pains. He's not different than nobody. He's trying to fight through."

    He's shooting 32.2 percent from the field and 23.8 percent from downtown in six games from Dec. 21 to Jan. 2.

    However, this likely won't hold him down for long. He hit 48.3 percent from the field and 6-of-11 from long range in the last two games.

    That brought him back to his regression towards the league average from beyond the arc, as his three-point mark currently stands at 34.4 percent.

    Conley has been efficient as ever. His turnover rate is only 11.3 percent, which is fantastic for someone with a 24.2 percent usage rate.

    His defense is missing, as he's allowing 109 points per 100 possessions. That doesn't knock him out of the top spot since all Grizz players other than Koufos are underwhelming on that end.