Monday, November 1, 2010

Deflections: Road-Trip Preview (Part 1), Power Rankings, Our First Made-Up Trade Scenario

Posted by on Mon, Nov 1, 2010 at 10:21 PM

Surveying the Griz landscape, one week in:

Z-Bo Might Go: Good news out of Grizzlies practice today, as an MRI on Zach Randolph's injured tailbone came back negative, revealing no fracture and confirming the original diagnosis of a bruise. Randolph is being called a gametime decision for tomorrow night against the Los Angeles Lakers and even if he doesn't suit up tomorrow night, he's expected to return to the lineup sometime on the team's four-game West Coast trip. Additionally, rookie Xavier Henry, who missed Saturday's game with a neck strain, has been cleared to play. Marc Gasol continues to nurse his sore ankle, but you'd imagine he'll play.

Some Gasol-on-Gasol action on tap for Tuesday night.
  • Some Gasol-on-Gasol action on tap for Tuesday night.
Road Trip Preview (Part One): A road test against the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers isn't likely to result in a win, but should be a very interesting game regardless. With Andrew Bynum out for the Lakers, Pau Gasol is starting at center, and was just named Western Conference Player of the Week after putting up a 25-10-5 in the first week. He'll match-up directly against little brother Marc and should see much more time checking each other than they would if Bynum were playing.

Perhaps more interesting is seeing what the Grizzlies do with their guard rotation against the Lakers. New signee Tony Allen guarded Kobe Bryant very well in the Finals this past summer and with O.J. Mayo giving up several inches to Kobe, should be called upon to check the Laker star for a good chunk of tonight's game. But with Mayo in a groove right now, you'd think the team would want to keep him on the floor too. Given that the Laker point guards — Derek Fisher and Steve Blake — aren't exactly dynamic pressure defenders and given how little Acie Law has given the Grizzlies in the back-up point guard role, this would be the perfect match-up to test out a Mayo-Allen backcourt when Mike Conley goes to the bench. (Which may not be for long, as this is also potentially a very good match-up for Conley.) Another possibility is to go small, with Rudy Gay matching up with Lamar Odom at the power forward spot and Allen and Mayo manning the wings. Mayo would be guarding Ron Artest in this alignment, and though Artest would have a considerable size/strength advantage, that might actually work in the Grizzlies favor, baiting the Lakers to give more touches and shots to Artest at the expense of Kobe and Pau. I'll be interested to see if the Grizzlies use either of these lineups or if they stick to a more conventional rotation.

As for the Golden State game Wednesday night: The second night of back-to-back games, on the road, is a traditionally tough game to win and these games particularly plagued the Grizzlies last season where they went 4-12, including losing the first eight. But I think this game is a good chance to reverse that trend. The Warriors are 2-1, but their two wins came against teams that are a combined 0-6 right now and they got pounded by the Lakers (107-83) Sunday night. The Warriors' best player, Stephen Curry, missed Sunday's game with a sprained ankle and looks questionable for Wednesday night. The Warriors frontline — David Lee and Andris Biedrins — is weak defensively, which could lead to a big night for Randolph and/or Gasol if they play. (The duo averaged 21/12 and 17/12, respectively, against the Warriors last season.)


Conley Drawing Notice: Basketball Prospectus counts Mike Conley among five early surprises from the season's opening week.

Dreaming is Free: From the ever-popular pointless fantasy trade department, there's a report out of Cleveland that some teams have called about the availability of Cavs' big Anderson Varejao. I doubt the Grizzlies are among them, but I would endorse a play for Varejao. Hasheem Thabeet and a throw-in (say, DeMarre Carroll) would work. Why would Cleveland do this? Well, if they would it would be to save money — a little now while the team has no chance of winning and potentially more by getting off Varejao's long-term contract — and add a potential key piece to the rebuilding project if Thabeet could get back on track. If Thabeet's going to turn things around, it would probably need to be somewhere he could get consistent minutes without pressure to win right away, and that would be Cleveland right now. For the Grizzlies, the deal would be a serious move towards playoff contention this season, giving the team one of the deepest and most versatile frontcourt rotations in the league and plenty of protection against injuries. Going forward, Varejao's considerable but still reasonable deal ($7, $7.7, $8.4, $9.1) would be a hedge against the free agency of both Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, with the likely endgame being that it would allow the team to concentrate its resources (and scoring load) on the trio of Gay-Gasol-O.J. Mayo while creating a better defensive team. But this is just me thinking out loud.

Power Rankings: The Grizzlies moved from 16th to 12th in the ESPN.com power rankings. The Griz are also 12th on the NBA.com rankings, up from 15th.

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