Biggest Needs for Memphis Grizzlies During 2014 Offseason
After pushing the second-best regular-season team in the league in a seven-game series that included four consecutive overtime contests, the Memphis Grizzlies are finally done with their 2013-14 campaign.
They've been in an uphill battle for months, after starting the season 10-15, thanks in large part to an injury to center Marc Gasol.
One of the biggest reasons most of Memphis' season felt like a dogfight (bear fight?) was clearly a lack of offense. It had a lot to do with the pace at which they played, but the Grizzlies finished 27th in the league at 96.1 points per game.
Adding firepower on that end of the floor will definitely be a need they should address in the offseason. But that's not all.
The Grizzlies were dead last this season in threes made, and it wasn't even close:
|29||New Orleans Pelicans||486||99.7|
Mike Conley and Mike Miller combined to make 212 of those threes or 52.3 percent of the team total. The team needs more long-distance firepower in addition to the two Mikes to bring some balance to the offense.
With the way the Grizzlies are currently constructed, opposing defenses can pack the paint and focus all their effort on protecting the rim without much worry.
Even one more threat at the three-point line would open things up inside for Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, and it would make it easier for Conley to find driving lanes.
A Scoring Wing
The Grizzlies have two good—not great—scorers in their point guard Conley and their power forward Randolph. They need that in-between scorer on the wing to complement them.
According to HoopsStats.com, the Grizzlies were dead last in scoring from the small forward position at 15.1 per game. They were 26th in points from shooting guards at 17.1 per game.
Courtney Lee, Tayshaun Prince, Tony Allen and James Johnson are all solid players, particularly on defense, but none of them have the ability to consistently relieve Conley and Randolph of some pressure on the other end.
Balanced lineups are part of what made high-scoring teams like the Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets and Minnesota Timberwolves so potent offensively. The Grizzlies are one or two pieces away from having that kind of rotation.
The Grizzlies have a very good point guard in Conley, but they could use some more playmaking beyond him. They had 57.4 percent of their baskets assisted this year, which ranked them 19th in the NBA.
A high ranking in that stat doesn't necessarily translate to success on offense—the Chicago Bulls were second—but ball movement could create more open looks for everyone.
The coaching staff could start by giving reserve forward Johnson more time. He was third on the team in assist percentage behind Conley and backup point guard Nick Calathes and ahead of Marc Gasol.
His ability to create for and distribute to his teammates is unique for a 6'9" forward. Spending more time on the floor with scorers such as Conley and Randolph would boost those numbers even more.
Re-Sign James Johnson
Johnson was a fantastic midseason pickup for the Grizzlies and an analytics beast. Just check out his team rankings for a few advanced stats.
He was second in player efficiency rating, fifth in true shooting percentage, fourth in offensive rebounding percentage, third in assist percentage, first in block percentage, first in defensive rating and second in win shares per 48 minutes.
All that production, and yet, Johnson still somehow finished ninth on the Grizzlies in minutes per game at 18.4.
He didn't play much, but when he did, he was always bringing a ton of energy on both ends of the floor. He's shown that he deserves another deal.
A bigger role should be in line too.
Following a tumultuous couple of seasons under Mike D'Antoni in Los Angeles, Pau Gasol may be heading for a different team this offseason.
In April, Gasol took to his personal website to say:
Re-signing for the Lakers is a possibility, but I’m not sure whether to say it’s a remote one. If there’s anything or anyone who could make me stay it’s Kobe Bryant. I’d stay for him, but there’d have to be significant changes.
I've said it many times: I want to be in a team that has a solid chance to win another tournament and where I can be an important factor in the game.
Granted, one significant change has already taken place with D'Antoni stepping down, but you still have to think Gasol's time as a Laker is likely done.
He's 33 years old, and L.A. needs to retool and get younger, looking to the future with a lottery pick in this year's draft.
If the team does in fact let Gasol walk, Memphis could be an option. It would have to be a sign-and-trade, which could get tricky, but combining the Gasol brothers would obviously be intriguing.
CBS Sports' Matt Moore talked about the possibility, but added that it might not make the most sense:
This makes a lot of sense on a lot of levels... and the fanbase would hate it. Gasol has spoken negatively of the city on repeat occasions since leaving and he symbolizes the powerless, rudderless Grizzlies that never won a playoff game when Gasol was there. It's not a great fit.
As a part of a "Grit 'n' Grind" lineup with his brother, Allen, Johnson and Conley, though, it's hard to imagine Pau symbolizing "powerless, rudderless Grizzlies" anymore.