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Final Regular-Season Grades for Every Memphis Grizzlies Player

Luke PetkacFeatured ColumnistApril 18, 2014

Final Regular-Season Grades for Every Memphis Grizzlies Player

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    How did the Grizzlies' "Big Three" play this season?
    How did the Grizzlies' "Big Three" play this season?Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The Memphis Grizzlies' roller coaster ride of a season has ended with the Grizz in possession of the seventh seed in the Western Conference and a postseason date with the Oklahoma City Thunder. It wasn't always pretty, but considering how banged up the team was throughout the year, it's hard to call that anything but a success.

    Now it's time to dole out some grades and take a look at how each individual player performed in the regular season. Grades are based both on preseason expectations and actual production, and players are ordered according to total minutes played. Let's do this.

     

    All statistics accurate as of 4/17/2014 and courtesy of NBA.com unless specifically stated otherwise.

Reserves

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    Pondexter's injury was a big blow for Memphis.
    Pondexter's injury was a big blow for Memphis.Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Beno Udrih

    Beno Udrih has played a whopping total of 55 minutes (almost exclusively in garbage time), so there's not exactly a lot to work with here.

    Udrih has looked solid since Memphis acquired him, and should someone get hurt or the Grizzlies ever want to run some funky, multi-guard sets, he'll be able to step in and provide some good minutes.

    Grade: C

     

    Jamaal Franklin

    Like Udrih, Jamaal Franklin didn't see the floor much this season, but he showed some positive flashes in the little time he had. Franklin hit 46 percent (5-11) of his triples, played solid defense for a rookie and rebounded the ball at a decent rate.

    If everything works out, Franklin projects to be a solid three-and-D guy with the ability to make some spectacular plays in transition. Should be fun to watch moving forward.

    Grade: C+

     

    Quincy Pondexter

    Because Quincy Pondexter missed almost all of the season with a stress fracture in his right foot, he's the only member of the Grizz who isn't getting a grade.

    Pondexter was only so-so prior to his injury—he was playing poor defense and was only shooting 32 percent from deep—but he was so terrific for Memphis last year that it's hard to imagine he wouldn't have broken out of that eventually.

    Grade: INC

Jon Leuer

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    Leuer deserves to see the floor.
    Leuer deserves to see the floor.Joe Murphy/Getty Images

    Jon Leuer doesn't get much burn now that Marc Gasol is back, but he played a huge part in holding the team together in the big man's absence.

    Leuer can't play anything approaching Gasol's space-eating defense, but his shooting gives Memphis some much-needed offensive spice. Leuer's hitting 47 percent from deep on the year and jacking up nearly three shots from beyond the arc per 36 minutes.

    Memphis added shooting last summer, but its offensive spacing still gets cramped at times, and Leuer helps alleviate that. He doesn't do much more than spot up on the wing or in pick-and-pop sets, per Synergy Sports Technology (subscription required), but the Grizz don't need much more than that.

    Leuer's probably the worst defender among the Memphis bigs, but his defense isn't team-killing, and he plays hard on that end. It's a shame the Grizzlies have so many talented big men because Leuer is fun to watch and deserves to see more minutes than he has recently. Maybe next year.

    Grade: B+

Ed Davis

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    Davis didn't make the leap Memphis fans hoped for.
    Davis didn't make the leap Memphis fans hoped for.Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    It's hard not to be a little bit disappointed with Ed Davis's year.

    Davis wasn't bad in the regular season. He was a valuable contributor off the bench and a great rim-protector and rebounder. He's a solid player. But he also looks to be the exact same player he was when he arrived in Memphis last year, and that could be a problem.

    Both Davis's numbers and the overall framework of his game are nearly identical to last year. He is a good defensive player who can do little more than finish in the paint on the other end. He's definitely improved in the pick-and-roll (he's smashing teams as a roll man, per Synergy), but unless he picks up a consistent mid-range jumper, his time in Memphis might be limited.

    As mentioned earlier, the Grizz still have spacing issues, and Davis does nothing but make those worse. Memphis has also gotten killed when he plays alongside Marc Gasol, a problem for obvious reasons.

    Davis has been productive this season and the team has played well when he's on the court. His lack of improvement is troubling though, and barring a playoff explosion, there's reason to be concerned for his future with the club.

    Grade: C

James Johnson

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    James Johnson has brought some athleticism to Memphis.
    James Johnson has brought some athleticism to Memphis.Joe Murphy/Getty Images

    Where the heck did this guy come from?

    Grantland's Zach Lowe wrote about James Johnson's swiss army knife play a few months ago, pointing out Johnson was the only player in the league to have grabbed at least 10 percent of all available boards, assisted on 20 percent of his team's baskets and blocked five percent of all shots while on the floor.

    Johnson no longer meets all those criteria (his assist rate is down to 18 percent), but he's still the only player who comes even close, and the fact he hasn't dropped off severely is both surprising and exciting.

    Johnson brings some much-needed athleticism and shot-creation to the Grizz.

    He's a creative attacker off the dribble (something Memphis desperately needed earlier in the year), and he gives Dave Joerger a little more lineup flexibility. His inability to hit from deep hamstrings his usefulness against a lot of teams, but he can usually do enough to make up for it in other ways.

    Defensively, Johnson is solid. He plays hard and can guard multiple positions. He also is freakishly good at blocking perimeter shots, some of which lead to easy transition opportunities for Memphis.

    Tony Allen's return puts a ceiling on Johnson's minutes heading into the playoffs, but for a player that the Grizzlies took a flier on, he's been outstanding.

    Grade: A-

Nick Calathes

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    Calathes has been a steadying force for Memphis.
    Calathes has been a steadying force for Memphis.Joe Murphy/Getty Images

    Trading Jerryd Bayless to the Boston Celtics was a bit of a gamble for the Grizzlies, but Nick Calathes' uptick in play over the latter half of the season has made it pay off.

    Since taking over as backup point guard, Calathes is averaging 12 points, six assists and five rebounds per 36 minutes on 53 percent true shooting. He still turns the ball over way too much, but he's cut down on that in recent months to the point where he's become a legitimate weapon off the bench.

    Calathes is a poor shooter and only a so-so defender, but he's a steady presence on both ends and has been a big part of some really strong bench units. He provides a little dribble penetration, but his greatest strength is that he never tries to force his offense.

    Calathes sticks with simple stuff—pick-and-pop sets with Marc Gasol, hitting Mike Miller off of curls, easy transition passes to trailing shooters, etc.—and it's worked out great for Memphis.

    Grade: C+

Tony Allen

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    Allen is one of the toughest defenders in the league.
    Allen is one of the toughest defenders in the league.Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    Tony Allen has been Tony Allen this season—a defensive terror who mostly just gets in his team's way on the offensive end.

    That's probably fine with the Grizz though, who sorely missed Allen's infectious energy and defensive intensity in the games he sat out due to injury. Mike Conley, Courtney Lee and even James Johnson are all strong defenders, but they're not multi-positional destroyers like Allen.

    ESPN.com's real plus-minus system ranks Allen as the league's third-best defensive guard, but you could make a case that nobody is better in every phase of defense. Allen's well-known for locking guys down in one-on-one situations, but what's even more impressive is his ability to stick with his man through screens. It's uncanny.

    Allen is still a disaster shooting the ball. He's hit 23 percent of his threes this year, and at times he can be damaging on the offensive end (in a bad way). He's a smart cutter though, making him a great fit with Marc Gasol, and his toughness and defense help give the Grizzlies their identity.

    Grade: B

Kosta Koufos

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    Koufos is a terrific backup.
    Koufos is a terrific backup.Ned Dishman/Getty Images

    What a great pickup this turned out to be. Koufos is averaging 14 points and 11 rebounds per 36 minutes this season, and his play has made sitting Marc Gasol for stretches much easier to swallow.

    Koufos isn't the defender Gasol is, but he's been very good according to some advanced metrics, and he's protected the rim well.

    He's not the most athletic guy, but he's strong, and most players have a tough time pushing him around on the low block. Opponents are shooting just 31 percent against Koufos in post-up situations, one of the 10 best marks in the league, per Synergy.

    Koufos is a limited offensive player. He's mediocre at best in the post and doesn't have a mid-range jumper to keep defenses honest. He has, however, been terrific on the offensive glass and racks up a lot of easy points on putbacks.

    This Grizzlies team is definitely deeper than the one that made it to the Western Conference Finals last season, and Koufos is a big reason why. He's not flashy, but he gets the job done on both ends.

    Grade: B-

     

Courtney Lee

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    Lee's shooting has been valuable.
    Lee's shooting has been valuable.Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    Courtney Lee hasn't shot the ball quite as well as Memphis fans hoped when he joined the team in January, but he's still provided it with a nice offensive boost.

    Lee has only hit 35 percent overall from deep with the Grizzlies, but he's shooting 39 percent on spot-up threes, per Synergy.

    Along with Mike Miller, Lee is one of the biggest reasons why Memphis is considered such a threat in the playoffs this season despite being the Western Conference's seventh seed. For the first time the Grizzlies can pair their big men with actual shooting threats.

    Even when he doesn't have the ball, Lee spaces the floor, opening up easy opportunities for his teammates. Tony Allen is great, but he's such a non-factor offensively that his defender will often cheat well off him. Stuff like that ripples throughout the entire offense. With Lee out there, the Memphis starters score at a top-10 rate.

    Lee's not much of a playmaker, but he's able to create some offense of his own by cutting from the corners or scoring in the pick-and-roll with pull-up jumpers. Few players in the league shoot better on pull-up jumpers than he does, and Memphis runs a good bit of fun hand-off sets to take advantage of that.

    Defensively, Lee's a step down from Allen and James Johnson, but considering how good both of those guys are, it's hard to hold that against him. There's not a lot to complain about here.

    Grade: B

Mike Miller

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    Miller's defense is questionable, but he's been on fire from deep.
    Miller's defense is questionable, but he's been on fire from deep.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Who on earth would have guessed the only Memphis regular to appear in every single game would be Mike Miller? Anybody? Didn't think so.

    Miller has been the anti-Tony Allen this season. He's connected on 46 percent of his threes, and he's posting a blistering true shooting percentage of 62 percent. He basically does nothing but spot up and shoot, and he does it very, very well.

    The problem is Miller is by far the worst defensive wing on the Memphis roster, and its defense collapses when he's in the game. With Miller on the floor, the Grizzlies are surrendering 106 points per 100 possessions—a bottom-10 rate roughly in line with that of the New York Knicks.

    Obviously that can't all be blamed on Miller, and he does try on that end. But opponents can get to the rim at will by attacking him in the pick-and-roll. When Miller's guarding the ball-handler in a pick-and-roll, opponents are shooting 55 percent (!!), per Synergy. Not great.

    With all that being said, the spacing Miller provides is invaluable, and aside from maybe Zach Randolph, no one on the roster can pile up points quicker. He could be a handful in the playoffs.

    Grade: B-

Tayshaun Prince

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    Prince's post game has evaporated.
    Prince's post game has evaporated.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Tayshaun Prince was bad this year. Really bad. It's still hard to believe he racked up 26 minutes a game in the regular season.

    Prince is a decent defender, but he'd have to be a Tony Allen-Marc Gasol hybrid on that end to justify getting 25 minutes a game considering his offensive output. Prince's true shooting percentage this season is 44 percent, second-lowest in the league of anyone who has played 1,000 or more minutes.

    He's hitting 29 percent from three, and his once very good post game has gone out the window. Prince is shooting just 34 percent on post-ups this season, per Synergy.

    Prince is a shell of his former self at this point, which is sad considering how good he used to be. He plays hard every night and is by all accounts a consummate professional, but there's no way to justify his seeing the floor that much.

    Grade: D

     

Marc Gasol

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    Gasol's as sturdy as ever.
    Gasol's as sturdy as ever.Joe Murphy/Getty Images

    Marc Gasol's production took a slight step backwards from last year, but that can probably be chalked up to his knee problems. And a 90 percent healthy Gasol is still better than almost every player in the league anyways.

    Gasol hasn't connected on his mid-range jumper as much as he did last season, but defenses still have to respect it, and his post and pick-and-roll games have still been strong this year, per Synergy. The big knock on Gasol offensively is the same as its always been: He's not aggressive enough.

    Gasol's usage rate rose to nearly 22 percent this season, and while that's a step in the right direction, it's still low for a player as versatile as he is. He's one of those guys who's unselfish to a fault at times. He never wants to break the flow of the offense.

    That's often a good thing, but not if it means that Tony Allen or James Johnson are getting as many offensive opportunities as he is.

    Defensively, Gasol's as awesome as ever. The Grizzlies always try to funnel the action toward him, and his paint-clogging presence and crisp rotations are the lynchpin of their defense, which ranks second in the league since his return.

    Gasol deserves a great grade for his play in the Grizzlies' final regular season game against the Dallas Mavericks alone, a virtuoso 19-point, nine-assist, nine-rebound performance that personified the big man.

    Gasol was stonewalling players at the rim, slinging cross-court passes while doubled, feeding cutters from the high post, hitting elbow jumpers...he was being Marc Gasol, basically.

    Grade: A-

Mike Conley

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    Conley creates a ton of offense for the Grizzlies.
    Conley creates a ton of offense for the Grizzlies.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Mike Conley will probably always be underappreciated. He's not as highlight-friendly as players like Stephen Curry or Chris Paul, but he's a rugged defender and a brilliant pick-and-roll player who deserves way more attention than he gets.

    Conley is responsible for manufacturing a huge chunk of the Memphis offense and somehow does so efficiently. He averaged 17 points and six assists per game on 55 percent true shooting in the regular season, despite playing a hefty chunk of minutes without Marc Gasol.

    His numbers may not hold up against other star guards, but in the context of the Grizzlies' offense, what he's doing is impressive. Especially when you consider nearly two-thirds of his baskets are unassisted, per 82games.com.

    Memphis runs a lot of pick-and-roll for Conley, and he's one of the best in the league in those sets, per Synergy.

    Few players are as tricky getting to the hoop as he is, and he has a variety of crossovers, in-and-out dribbles and spins. And if anything, he's added a few moves this season. Pair those with his weird layup-runner hybrid, and he's a tough cover for anyone.

    Throw in the fact Conley drastically cut his turnovers even while upping his offensive responsibility, and his grade this season is a no-brainer.

    Grade: A

Zach Randolph

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    Randolph's post game is as unique as they come.
    Randolph's post game is as unique as they come.Matt York

    New year, same old Zach Randolph.

    Randolph and his herky-jerky post game define this version of the Grizzlies, and both are as good as ever. Well over half of Z-Bo's offense came from post-ups in the regular season, and he shot 46 percent from the post, per Synergy.

    Considering just how much of his offense came from down low, that's pretty efficient work.

    Randolph is still an absolute handful in the post and one of just a few players who often requires a double team. He's as good at facing up and driving for baby hooks in the lane as he is backing opponents down for quick spin moves. He can hit mid-range jumpers. He's relentless in getting to his spots. Not a lot of ways to guard a guy like that.

    Z-Bo's rebounding fell a bit this season, but he's still very good on the boards, and only Kosta Koufos is better at crashing the offensive glass. Defensively, he's also been his typical solid self. He's limited vertically and can't really protect the rim, but he's usually in the right place and has a good rapport with Marc Gasol.

    Yet another great season from Randolph.

    Grade: A

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