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Grading Every Key Memphis Grizzlies Player Heading into the All-Star Break

Tom FirmeAnalyst IIFebruary 10, 2014

Grading Every Key Memphis Grizzlies Player Heading into the All-Star Break

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Marc Gasol's lack of scoring progress since rolling off the Memphis Grizzlies' injured list was on display in his 14th game back. Gasol couldn't help the Grizzlies the way he did last year.

    Overall, Gasol's return has been a mixed bag. He's elevated the team's defense, but he is still feeling his way on offense.

    These grades all are about judging where each player stands at this point in the season against their expectations. 

    Some players, like Nick Calathes and Mike Conley, needed growth. Calathes began fumbling again after a stretch of encouraging ball-handling. Conley is fulfilling himself as a lead guard.

    Older players, such as Tayshaun Prince and Zach Randolph, simply needed to avoid significant regression. Randolph has managed to hold together, despite not shooting as well as in most years. On the other hand, Prince is deteriorating dramatically.

    Follow along for a look at how each Grizzlies player stacks up to how he should be playing.

    Statistics are current through Feb. 9 games. Advanced metrics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.

Marc Gasol

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    Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

    Grade: C+

    Marc Gasol isn't where he was offensively last season. Struggling to regain form after coming back from an MCL sprain, Gasol is shooting 43.8 percent in 14 games since returning, bringing his season clip to 44.6 percent.

    Since stepping back to the court, he's had five games in which he made one-third or fewer shots.

    However, Gasol is starting to reassert himself as one of the Grizzlies' key passers. He has 12 assists in the past two games, compared with 30 in the first 12 since returning.

    On the other hand, he's just fine on defense. The reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year is allowing 100 points per 100 possessions since coming back. He grabbed three steals and blocked four shots against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday.

    What's strange is the absence of Gasol's rebounding. Sunday was the fifth time he had at least nine rebounds. He's posting career lows of seven rebounds per 36 minutes and an 11.2 percent total rebounding rate. 

    While Randolph and Kosta Koufos both are imposing rebounders, Gasol appears to be underperforming in this respect.

Zach Randolph

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    Grade: B+

    Zach Randolph needed to step up offensively this year after floundering last year, and he has responded amid injuries to three other starters.

    Randolph is powering the Grizzlies without efficient play. Shooting 45.3 percent from the field, he's just above his career low. His 12.1 percent turnover rate is his highest in six years.

    That doesn't take away from the fact that the 32-year-old attacks harder than any other Grizz player. He averages 18.4 points per 36 minutes on 16.2 field-goal attempts and 4.9 free-throw attempts per 36. The combined attempts per 36 minutes leads the next Grizz player, Mike Conley, by two.

    He's much more active than last year, leading the team with a 26.7 percent usage rate that is 3.6 percent higher than in 2012-13.

    While Kosta Koufos has taken the mantle as the leader on the offensive glass, Randolph retains his rebounding preeminence. Randolph's 15th in defensive rebounding percentage and 17th in offensive rebounding percentage. His defensive rebounding rate is only 1.2 percent off his career mark set in 2010-11.

Mike Conley

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    Joe Murphy/Getty Images

    Grade: B

    Mike Conley is becoming the offensive star the Grizz need. After breaking out with 16.9 points per game after the Rudy Gay trade last year, Conley is putting up 18 per game on 45.8 percent from the field and 36.9 percent from downtown. He has 15 20-point games, already two away from last year's total.

    What's most impressive is that Conley is scoring efficiently, while holding a high usage rate (24.3 percent) and a low turnover rate (10.5 percent). 

    Few are capable of this high-volume, high-efficiency playmaking. Goran Dragic's true shooting percentage is 6 percent higher, but his turnover rate is 4.3 percent higher. Stephen Curry's true shooting percentage is 3.9 percent higher, but his turnover rate is 5.7 percent higher.

    Conley's also growing as a passer. The seventh-year pro has a career-high 31.6 percent assist rate.

    He's sorting things out defensively, allowing 107 points per 100 possessions. After leading the league in steals last season, Conley's attacking the same. He's averaging 1.6 steals per game, but he has a 2.4 percent steal rate, 1 percent lower than in 2012-13.

     

Tayshaun Prince

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    Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

    Grade: F

    Tayshaun Prince's role as an absorber of others' inefficiencies has disappeared, and others now are charged with having to negate his ineffectiveness.

    Prince is posting career lows in most categories. His 38.1 percent field-goal mark is 4 percent worse than his previous low. He's hitting less than one-third of his threes for the first time.

    His trademark low turnover rate (7.6 percent) means little next to his 13.5 percent usage rate. 

    The soon-to-be 34-year-old is doing little on defense, allowing 108 points per 100 possessions.

    His decline has the Grizzlies looking for a small forward who can do more than him, according to USA Today.

    Some might wonder if he'd remain relevant after such a deal.

Tony Allen

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    Joe Murphy/Getty Images

    Grade: B

    Before spraining his wrist, Tony Allen wasn't having his best season defensively. His defensive rating stood at 102 points allowed per 100 possessions.

    Granted, that doesn't mean he wasn't producing on that end. That mark is just off his career rating of 101. He has a 4 percent steal rate and averages 2.7 steals per 36 minutes.

    Allen might not have been able to do it all on defense with Marc Gasol out, but he helped close the gap on offense. The 32-year-old is in his second double-digit scoring season. He's rebounded as a shooter, hitting 49.3 percent from the field, 4.8 percent better than last year.

    He also stepped up as a passer, boasting a 12.1 percent assist rate and dishing 2.7 assists per 36 minutes.

Mike Miller

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    Joe Murphy/Getty Images

    Grade: B

    Mike Miller is working his way back from a slump in his primary area of value. After shooting 32 percent from three-point range in January, Miller has shot 36.4 percent in his last five games.

    The 14-year pro is taking 2.8 threes per game, a typical rate for someone who touches the ball infrequently. With that, his impact is marginal.

    His 41.4 percent three-point percentage keeps him in the top 20 in the league.

    Miller hasn't been of much use on defense, as he allows 109 points per 100 possessions.

    With 18.8 minutes per game in the calendar year, Miller is receiving the proper rest for his soon-to-be 34-year-old frame. Perhaps this will help sustain his long-range aim.

Courtney Lee

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    Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

    Grade: A-

    Courtney Lee is producing at a remarkable rate. He's averaging 13.8 points per game on 51.8 percent shooting. The 28-year-old has scored in double figures in 13 of 17 games with Memphis. His 37.2 percent from three-point range has helped lift the Grizz from the bottom third of the league in the category.

    With a 9 percent turnover rate, Lee has secure hands.

    He puts forth a reasonable defensive effort, allowing 105 points per 100 possessions.

    Balancing solid scoring with decent defense, Lee will force head coach Dave Joerger to decide whether to start him or Allen after the All-Star break.

Kosta Koufos

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    Joe Murphy/Getty Images

    Grade: C

    Kosta Koufos has bounced back after some shooting struggles. He's shot 55.4 percent from the field this calendar year, after hitting 44.1 percent in December. That sets his clip at 48.2 percent, 9.9 percent worse than 2012-13.

    Since he's taking two more shots per 36 minutes, Koufos is averaging 13.4 points per 36, 0.6 more than last year.

    Koufos is doing an excellent job protecting the rim. He's blocking 1.9 shots per 36 and allowing 102 points per 100 possessions, which is a point better than his career average. His 4.4 percent block rate ties his career high.

    The sixth-year pro is becoming one of the best rebounders in the league. His offensive (13.8 percent) and total rebounding (18.8 percent) rates would be in the top 12, if he qualified.

    Aside from his shooting percentage, Koufos is doing everything the Grizz could have hoped for as their first relevant backup center in several years.

Ed Davis

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    Grade: C-

    Ed Davis is closer to the expectations set for him. He's improving on the boards and shooting a bit better.

    His 9.7 rebounds per 36 minutes are more than a rebound higher than his stats indicated in late December, and his 21 percent defensive rebounding rate is more than 2 percent higher than it was at that point.

    Davis' shooting normalized in December and January. He shot 58.3 percent across those two months, after hitting 48.1 percent through the end of November. His 3-of-9 start in February brings his mark to 54.9 percent, which is fine for someone who takes a large portion of his shots inside eight feet.

    He's hitting harder on defense. He's allowing 104 points per 100 possessions, with a January split of 100.

    Continued effectiveness after the All-Star break would make him an attractive free agent.

James Johnson

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    Joe Murphy/Getty Images

    Grade: B+

    James Johnson is doing more than anyone could have expected. He's the Grizzlies' top bench scorer, averaging 8.5 points per game on 44.4 percent from the field and 85.7 percent from the line.

    His 105 points per 100 possessions are nine more than his career average.

    With a 20.3 percent assist rate, Johnson is spreading the ball on the reserve unit in a way that Jerryd Bayless didn't.

    Johnson is putting forth a phenomenal effort on defense. He's allowing 99 points per 100 possessions, while collecting 2.5 blocks and 1.9 steals per 36 minutes.

Others

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    Nick Calathes

    Calathes began his string of starts in place of Conley right, with 22 points and no turnovers. But that clean play didn't last. He turned the ball over 16 times in the past three games.

    Calathes' shooting is fine, as he's averaging 14.6 points per game on 50.8 percent from the field. His season mark is 44.6 percent.

    Now, his defense is coming around. He's allowed 102 points per 100 possessions in his starts, compared with 107 as a reserve. He has 12 steals as a starter.

    Grade: C

     

    Jon Leuer

    Leuer has been largely absent recently, as he's been stuck behind Ed Davis and Kosta Koufos in the rotation of reserve big men. He's averaging 7.9 minutes per game since Jan. 10. 

    Coach Dave Joerger explained that he's trying to use the right players in particular spots with Marc Gasol back, telling The Commercial Appeal (subscription required), "The fact is that Marc and Zach [Randolph] are going to play 36-40 minutes a game. After that, it's just a matter of what flavor are you looking for?"

    Leuer isn't doing well with short minutes, scoring 12 points on 4-of-17 shooting in his last eight contests.

    Notwithstanding, Leuer is having a fine season, averaging 7.6 points per game on 48.8 percent shooting and 47.4 percent from downtown. He took advantage of the opportunity to play 12 games of 20 minutes or more, scoring 14.8 per game.

    He'd surely reap bounties if given another shot at significant minutes.

    Grade: B+

     

    Jamaal Franklin

    Franklin hasn't acclimated yet to NBA speed. He's done little offensively, playing 7.9 minutes per game, attempting three shots in the last five games and posting a 13.6 percent usage rate. In the time he's had, he's dropped 29 points, but he also committed 22 fouls.

    His defense is improving, with a defensive rating of 101 points allowed per 100 possessions in the past five games, bringing his season mark down to 107.

    Grade: D

     

    Darius Morris

    Morris is doing a decent job as a stand-in on a 10-day contract, according to The Commercial Appeal (subscription required). He's averaging three points, two assists and 1.7 rebounds in 13.7 minutes per game. 

    He had four points, three rebounds and three assists on Sunday against the Cavaliers.

    Whether he can get another 10 days with the Grizz after the All-Star break is yet to be seen.

    Grade: C

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