The Grizzlies used “Grit and Grind” to make it to the second round of the Western Conference Playoff gauntlet before running into the eventual champion Warriors. Memphis needed to make a few upgrades, such as adding shooters to surround their skilled front-court. Their big task, however, was simple: re-sign center Marc Gasol.
Memphis eventually did bring back the face of their franchise, in fact, Gasol didn’t give anyone else the time of the day. By all accounts Gasol loves Memphis and proved it by agreeing to spend at least the next five years there while making a cool $110 million.
The Grizzlies are going to look largely the same in 2015-2016 as far as their starting lineup goes. Conley will still be running the point with Courtney Lee as his back-court mate. Tony Allen, Zach Randolph and Gasol will still likely be manning down the front-court unless Jeff Green emerges as the starting small forward.
The offseason was spent solidifying the bench and stretching the court. Gone is Kosta Koufos who is off to the Sacramento circus. In comes Brandan Wright at a far cheaper cost. Memphis also ended up with Matt Barnes after they dealt Luke Ridnour (in one of the many Ridnour trades so far) to Charlotte for the former Clipper.
Leaving Memphis is the aforementioned Koufos, Jon “The Tackle Box” Leuer and Nick Calathes. Kufos has been replaced, The Tackle Box played a very limited role last season and Calathes got exposed in the playoffs filling in briefly for and injured Conley.
Last season Wright was dealt from Dallas to Boston as a part of the Rondo trade. Wright was then sent to Phoenix where he played 40 games. He averaged a little over a block per game and held defenders to 49.5 percent at the rim, per SportsVU data. This put him at almost the exact same rim-protection numbers as his new teammate and former Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol. SportsVU data shows Gasol holding defenders to 49.4 percent at the rim.
Wright is more of the athlete than Koufos and shows it by spending most of his time above the rim. Last season, per basketball-reference, Wright dunked 99 times (making 95) while playing for three different teams. Those 99 dunks accounted for a little more than 27 percent of his attempted field goals.
When he wasn’t dunking, Wright still attempted more than half his shots near the rim. Around the rim is is bread and butter. According to basketball-reference, he shot 58.7 percent of his shots from 0-3 feet, while shooting them at a 78.4 percent clip.
So where does Wright differ from Koufos? Koufos isn’t quite the defender that Wright from an athletic standpoint. However, Kosta is massive and holds about 55 pounds on Wright. That kind of leverage helps him stand his ground in the post better than most. Wright shoots at a higher percentage than Koufos and both aren’t particularly great in the mid-range.
With the ground and pound philosophy Memphis runs Wright adds a bit more juice off the bench than Koufos did. The biggest difference, however, is the salary. Koufos got paid from the Kings. According to Basketball Insiders, Koufos is going to make $7.7 million next year in Sacramento. Wright, on the other hand, is in line for the mid-level exception from Memphis, earning him $5.4 million.
Koufos is going to be missed in Memphis, but fans are going to enjoy what Wright brings to the table athletically.
This fit is incredible. The Grizzlies immediately become a team that if you see them on League Pass, you watch the game just to see some 80’s-esque trash talking.
At one point Barnes was a top-of-the-line defender. Age has caused him to slip, but he fits into a perfect situation in Memphis. No longer will Barnes have to take on the best opposing wing, that job goes to Tony Allen until someone can wrestle the title form him. Barnes will go from the only person in the Clippers’ wing to really stop anyone to guarding the second (or third, thanks to Mike Conley) best threat.
Lineups including Barnes and Allen are going to be immediately offensively deficient and will cause spacing issues that are going to make things difficult. But man, oh man, defensively that’s going to be a blast.
Barnes isn’t a complete black hole on offense, however. He actually helps the Grizzles from beyond the arc. Last season Barnes shot 36.2 percent from deep. The Grizzlies shot 33.9 percent from beyond the arc. Barnes had above average percentages from the right side of the court, especially shooting the corner 3, a league favorite shot.
Ideally, the addition of Barnes is going to impact Jeff Green. Green has gone from a top-5 pick to a player without a position. He went from power forward to a small forward who takes questionable shots. If Joerger chooses he can slot Green at the power forward position and play small ball with Wright now that Barnes adds wing-depth.
The Grizz also brought back mid-range specialist Beno Udirh. He knocks down seemingly everything in the mid-range. Sure, it’s a shot that is dissolving by the second thanks to Rocket-ball, but having someone who can knock if down consistently is insanely valuable.
Bringing Udrih back on a one-year deal worth $2.1 million is a good value and helps solidify the second unit.
The Grizzles also have a variety of draft picks they’re still developing. Last year they drafted Jordan Adams and Jarnell Stokes who probably should not expect a ton of minutes unless there is an injury, but are intriguing options. Jarell Martin may not see much time this year either, but all of them add versatility and size for their position.
Memphis did what they needed to do in the offseason. Unfortunately, they reside in the West which somehow got better than it already was. Memphis is going to be in the playoffs, probably somewhere in the middle of the pack in the loaded conference. However, as with most teams out West, if Memphis made a sustained run in the West few would be shocked.