Friday, November 6, 2009

Weekend Three-Pointer

Posted By on Fri, Nov 6, 2009 at 8:46 AM

Griz Advice? Feed the beasts on the block.
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Griz Advice? Feed beasts on the block.
Three quick, relatively Iverson-free suggestions for curing what ails the Grizzlies.

1. Slow it Down, Pound it Inside: The Grizzlies three most dynamic scorers are O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay, and Allen Iverson. But the team's most efficient scorers have been interior tandem Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Randolph is averaging 20 points a game on 56% shooting. Gasol is averaging 18 points a game on 60% shooting. Each player is averaging four offensive rebounds a game and shooting better than 78% from the foul line. They have also established quick chemistry together, hooking up on several high-low plays.

With Randolph so-far correcting the sloppy shot selection that had grown to infect his game in recent years and a slimmed-down Gasol making a mini-leap as an offensive threat, the Grizzlies suddenly have one of the best offensive frontcourts in the league. On most nights, this is where the team's advantage will be and the team has been at it's best when exploiting it. But with all the firepower on the perimeter, it's been too easy for the team to neglect feeding the beasts on the block. Wednesday night, in losing to the undersized Golden State Warriors, Randolph had only nine field-goal attempts, with 6 of those coming in a first half in which the Grizzlies were only behind by one point.

Slowing the game down a little and focusing on the interior game could also help the team's porous defense as the Grizzlies don't have great depth and have been losing track of outside shooters in up-and-down games.

2. Give the Rookies Some Rope: The Grizzlies knew they needed more defense and more energy players who could play without the ball, and spent all three of its draft picks this summer addressing this need. You could argue that the team would have been wise to retain or recruit at least one defensive-minded veteran role player (Quinton Ross, or maybe even Greg Buckner, would help this team), but the roster is what it is right now.

Coach Lionel Hollins has given his rookies a short leash. Center Hasheem Thabeet is averaging 7 minutes in four appearances, with one DNP and one single possession appearance. Swingman Sam Young is averaging 8 minutes. Combo forward DeMarre Carroll has been a regular at 20 minutes a game, mostly out of necessity.

It's easy to understand Hollins' approach: He's under pressure to win some games early to calm what is looking like a rocky locker room and these guys don't seem ready. Thabeet is averaging a foul every three minutes and shooting 33% from the floor despite not being asked to create shots or attempt anything outside the paint. Young is shooting 36% from the floor and 25% from the three-point line. And Carroll has been abysmal offensively, with both horrendous shooting — 17% from the floor — and too much of it — nearly 5 attempts per game.

Still, the Grizzlies need the defense these players could provide when better acclimated and need to worry about riding its six core players too hard. It's no accident that the one victory the Grizzlies have had this season is the one game where Carroll played really well. The thought here is that the team should give this trio more minutes and be a little bit more patient with mistakes to try to accelerate their development, though Carroll's shot-happy tendencies should be kept more in check.

3. Give Everyone Else Less Rope: If the rookies need a little more leeway, the veteran core needs more tough love, and this needs to start with Rudy Gay. With the presence of four other potential 20-point scorers in Mayo, Iverson, Randolph, and Gasol, Gay's offense is not quite as important to the team as it once was, while the enormous gap between Gay's defensive ability and defensive performance has become far more detrimental. Because of the position he plays and the size, athleticism, and versatility he brings to the position, Gay should be the starting lineup's best defender. Instead he has arguably been its worst. Perhaps Gay's playing time should be tied strongly to his defensive effort. If he's not playing hard on the defensive end, let Young or Carroll do so and funnel Gay's shots to the team's other scorers.

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