BREAKING DOWN THE MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES 

BREAKING DOWN THE MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES

Well, the Grizzlies have certainly been busy campers. Multiple drafts and trades give the team a new look for the 2001-2002 season. But what is the final product? Generally, they have a bunch of young fellows who can play multiple positions. In many ways, this sort of flexible athleticism is the future of the NBA, though dominant single position players like Shaquille O’Neal would argue otherwise. But more and more, the emphasis has been on Ôtweener bodies and players who don’t fit cleanly into any one spot. Here’s a breakdown by position, barring any more trades. Guard: At first glance, the Grizzlies are thin at the shooting guard position, relying heavily on the efforts of Michael Dickerson. But the acquisition of Jason Williams and Nick Anderson from Sacramento suggests that Dickerson will be able to get some help though Anderson may have more to offer there than Williams. Also, it is apparent that guard Will Solomon will play at that spot as well. Solomon is small (only 6-1), but he is supposed to be very fast. If he were a half-foot taller we would be calling him the next Latrell Sprewell. Solomon can also score (20 points a year for Clemson his sophomore year). It’s good that Williams and former Hawk Brevin Knight will be able to concentrate on the point while Dickerson, Anderson, and Solomon will be able to perform at the two. But the trade of Mike Bibby to the Kings for Williams is still an open question. Bibby was a talented scorer and avid passer. More importantly, he makes better decisions than the brilliantly erratic Williams. The best explanation I have heard so far on this comes from espn.com’s Mark Kreidler who looks at this way: Jason Williams has one year on his contract. He’s a name player who has a tendency for flair over substance. The Grizzlies are probably not going to be that good next year, so at least Williams will keep the crowd entertained. Williams’ contract is up next year and, not by coincidence, the 2002 draft will feature some of the best point-guards in years including one Jason Williams (not the same guy) coming out of a grand career at Duke. There is talk of re-uniting Shane Battier with this star guard for a scary amount of talent for the Grizzlies. Don’t imagine that the Grizzlies are relying on this turn of events. The hope is that Williams (the current Grizzly) will flourish in a new environment and do some serious growing up. If under control, Williams could be a force. Forward This is the most intriguing position for the Grizzlies because they are so loaded with young talent in Battier, Pau Gasol, Stromile Swift, Grant Long, and Antonis Fotsis. Look for Battier and Swift to start, giving the Grizzlies a whole bunch of talent at that position. Lorenzen Wright can swing between center and forward, and it looks like the Grizzlies will need plenty of help in that area. As with the guard position, there will be some fluidity as to who will play which position with Battier and (maybe) Gasol being at both power and small forward spots. Also, since Anderson has been known to switch into a forward should the situation call for it, the Grizzlies forwards have excellent ball-handling and outside shooting skills (for forwards). Swift is a defensive presence and should be able to contribute heavily there. He’s also one of the best athletes on the team. However, he’s not much to watch offensively and given the team’s lack of proven scoring punch, he will need to step things up in a big way to contribute as a potential starter. The real problem with this position is that the Grizzlies are woefully undersized (in terms of weight, not height) here at the power forward position and too slow at the small forward position. Last year, the two places the Grizzlies hurt the most were in rebounding and defense. Too small bodies at the power forward position makes for tough rebounding and too slow bodies at the small forward position makes for ample opportunity for penetration by opposing teams. The zoning rules in the NBA could help this, but it will be a while to see if it pans out. Center This is still the Grizzlies’ weakest aspect. With Bryant Reeves and Ike Austin as the only true centers, Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson, Tim Duncan, and Hakeem Olajuwon will have there way in the middle. Yeah, Reeves is a big guy but he has been a no-show for the last couple of years and Austin is not a starting-caliber center. The Grizzlies are going to be interested in running and gunning this year, so watch out for Wright and Swift to come in at the center position on occasion. Wright could actually start at that position. That will make the Grizzlies extremely fast but vulnerable in a half court set. Here’s this writer’s projected starting line-up point-guard: Jason Williams (Brevin Knight, Will Solomon back-ups) two-guard: Michael Dickerson (Nick Anderson, Will Solomon back-ups) small forward: Shane Battier (interchangeable with Pau Gasol) power forward: Stromile Swift (interchangeable with Lorenzen Wright) center: Lorenzen Wright (Bryant Reeves, Ike Austin back-ups).

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