This article is part of our NBA Team Previews series.
STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
In 2013-14 the Grizzlies survived a 15-19 start largely due to the absence of Marc Gasol (knee, missed 23 games) to make the playoffs in the deep Western Conference. Though they ultimately fell in seven games to the Thunder in the first round after leading 3-2, to call the season a disappointment would be a misinformed opinion. Coach Dave Joerger deserves credit for helping to orchestrate the Grizzlies' playoff run despite the team being without their two top defenders in Gasol and Tony Allen (hip, hand, missed 27 games) for extended stretches.
Mike Conley and Zach Randolph both played at an All-Star-caliber level all season long, and Gasol, who returned smoothly to form, is in the best physical shape of his life and hasn't been experiencing any knee pain for months. As analytics lovers, it's befuddling that the Grizzlies finished last in the league in three-pointers made per game with 4.9 last season. However, with the Grizzlies signing Vince Carter and drafting Jordan Adams, they added two versatile offensive players who can spread the floor, more than making up for the loss of Mike Miller via free agency.
There was an extremely awkward stage early in the offseason when it was unclear whether the Grizzlies were going to let Joerger sign a deal to coach the Timberwolves. Ultimately, Joerger signed a contract extension to stay with the Grizzlies, with Randolph following suit soon thereafter.
Next up is Marc Gasol, who will likely have the choice to accept a three-year, $55 million extension or test free agency. Regardless of how that plays out, it'd be beyond shocking to see Gasol traded during the season. Assuming the Grizzlies can stay relatively healthy, they'll be one of the better sleeper picks to win the West.
PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION
The Grizzlies will rely heavily on Conley, Randolph, and Gasol. Apart from those three, no one is likely to play 30 minutes per game on a regular basis. Allen, Carter, Adams, and Courtney Lee will see time at shooting guard. However, with Allen and Carter both capable of sliding over to small forward, Tayshaun Prince in decline, and Quincy Pondexter coming back from a stress fracture, there should be enough minutes to go around despite the apparent logjam at two-guard. Prince might start at small forward to open the season, but it's doubtful he'll average much more than 20 minutes per game. Kosta Koufos will see close to 20 minutes off the bench while the sharpshooting Jon Leuer is the frontrunner to receive the next most minutes among the Grizzlies backup big men. Second-round pick Jarnell Stokes should also be able to carve himself out at least five minutes per game. Beno Udrih will start the year as the backup point guard given that Nick Calathes is suspended for 13 more games. However, when Calathes returns, he'll be the favorite to play 10-15 minutes as Conley's primary backup.
Marc Gasol: Gasol is entering his seventh NBA season. Last season, he averaged 14.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.3 blocks, and 1.0 steal in 33 minutes per game through 59 games. He shot 47 percent from the field on 12.1 attempts per game and 77 percent from the free-throw line on 4.1 attempts per game. Gasol missed time early in the year due to injury (knee) but came back with a vengeance, helping lead the Grizzlies to the playoffs in the loaded Western Conference. In seven playoff games versus the Thunder, he posted 17.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.7 steals, and 0.9 blocks in 43 minutes per game. He shot 41 percent from the field on 16.6 attempts per game and 79 percent from the charity stripe on 4.9 attempts per game. After the end of the season, Gasol reported that he's no longer wearing a knee brace and that his knee feels strong and stable. The 2012-13 Defensive Player of the Year turns 30 years old in January, and provided he can stay healthy, he should again be one of the Grizzlies' top producers along with Zach Randolph and Mike Conley. Gasol is a solid contributor in every category except the three-point shooting department, and he'll likely be taken in the first few rounds on draft-day in virtually every type of league.
Kosta Koufos: Koufos is entering his seventh season in the NBA. Last season, he averaged 6.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.9 blocks, and 0.4 steals in 17 minutes per game through 80 games. He shot 50 percent from the field on 5.7 attempts per game and 65 percent from the free-throw line on 1.2 attempts per game. In seven playoff games, he averaged 2.6 points, 2.1 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 0.4 blocks, and 0.3 steals in six minutes per game. The Grizzlies elected to guarantee his contract for this season, and while they did draft Jarnell Stokes in the second round to fill the void left by Ed Davis' departure, Koufos still figures to see the most consistent playing time among the reserve big men. Mike Conley and Zach Randolph both produced more in the absence of the injured Marc Gasol, but Koufos was the biggest beneficiary. In 22 starts last season while Gasol was sidelined, Koufos averaged 8.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 1.2 blocks, and 0.5 steals in 24 minutes per game while shooting 46 percent from the field on 8.3 attempts per game and 71 percent from the free-throw line on 1.6 attempts per game. The Grizzlies don't have a third true center on the roster, but due to Gasol playing big minutes, Koufos is unlikely to be much of a factor outside of the deepest leagues unless the Grizzlies suffer injuries to their frontcourt.
Zach Randolph: Randolph is entering his 15th season. Last season, he averaged 17.4 points, 10.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.7 steals, and 0.3 blocks in 34 minutes per game through 79 games. He shot 47 percent from the field on 15.2 attempts per game and 74 percent from the free-throw line on 4.3 attempts per game. His 2.5 assists per game were a career-high, and it was the eighth time in his career he averaged a double-double during the regular season. During six playoff games versus the Thunder, Randolph averaged 18.2 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.8 steals, and 0.2 blocks in 39 minutes per game. He shot 40 percent from the field on 17.3 attempts per game and 61 percent from the free-throw line on 6.8 attempts per game. He was suspended for Game 7 after throwing a punch in Game 6, but this didn't scare the Grizzlies away from signing him to a two-year, $20 million extension, keeping him with the team through the 2016-17 season. Since joining the Grizzlies in 2009-10 Randolph has averaged a double-double in every season except 2011-12, during which he was riddled by injuries and managed to appear in only 28 games. Despite his 2.5 assists per game in 2013-14, categorically Randolph's most consistent contributions are in the scoring and rebounding departments, and he's probably not someone that should be relied on to produce much else in terms of assists, steals, blocks, and three-pointers. Still, he's one of the key cogs on the Grizzlies along with Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. Provided he's able to stay healthy, the 33-year-old power forward will likely continue to be an extremely relevant fantasy player in 2014-15.
Tayshaun Prince: Prince is entering his 13th season. Last season, he averaged 6.0 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.5 steals, and 0.3 blocks in 26 minutes per game during 76 games. He shot 41 percent from the field on 6.5 attempts per game, 29 percent from three on 0.9 attempts per game, and 57 percent from the free-throw line on 0.8 attempts per game. In seven playoff games versus the Thunder, he averaged 3.0 points, 1.4 rebounds, 0.9 assists, and 0.1 steals in 16 minutes per game. He shot 39 percent from the field on 3.7 attempts per game, 25 percent from beyond the arc on 0.6 attempts per game, and did not record a single free-throw attempt in the series. Prince turns 35 years old in February, and his abilities appear to be steadily declining. His 26 minutes per game in 2013-14 were six fewer minutes per game than he'd played in any other season since his rookie year. Given Tony Allen's prowess as a wing defender, the additions of Vince Carter and rookie Jordan Adams, and the expected return of reserve swingman Quincy Pondexter, there's potential for Prince's minutes to continue to plummet in 2014-15. He's still penciled in as the starter, and while it's possible his expiring contract could be used as a trade chip, it seems more likely he's going to remain with the team. At this point in his career, Prince is unlikely to warrant much consideration in anything but the deepest leagues.
Jon Leuer: Leuer is entering his fifth season in the NBA. Last season, he averaged 6.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.4 steals, and 0.3 blocks in 13 minutes through 49 games. He shot 49 percent from the field on 5.0 attempts per game, 47 percent from three on 1.0 attempt per game, and 79 percent from the free-throw line on 1.0 attempt per game. In three playoff games, he averaged 3.0 points, 2.7 rebounds, 0.7 assists, and 0.3 steals in eight minutes per game. Leuer added the three-point shot to his arsenal last year after shooting 25 percent on only 12 three-point attempts during his first three seasons. While the Grizzlies signing Zach Randolph to a two-year extension does not bode well for Leuer overall, if Leuer continues to improve his three-point shot, it's possible he'll be in line to receive ample opportunity off the bench in 2014-15. The Grizzlies drafted Jarnell Stokes, who averaged 12.2 points and 9.4 rebounds per game in the summer league. Despite drafting Stokes, Joerger and the Grizzlies love their three-point shooting, and so long as last year wasn't a fluke, Leuer will likely have every opportunity to open 2014-15 as Randolph's primary backup. Still, barring an injury to Randolph, he's unlikely to hold much value outside of deeper leagues.
Quincy Pondexter: Pondexter is entering his fifth season in the NBA. Last year, he averaged 6.3 points, 1.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.3 steals, and 0.1 blocks in 18 minutes per game through 15 games. He shot 39 percent from the field on 5.3 attempts per game, 32 percent from deep on 2.3 attempts per game, and 81 percent from the charity stripe on 1.7 attempts per game. Pondexter got off to a slow start in 2013-14 before being ruled out for the season with a stress fracture in his right foot. After a promising display during the Grizzlies' 2012-13 Western Conference finals run, during which he averaged 8.9 points (49% FG, 45% 3-Pt, 61% FT), 2.5 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.7 steals, and 0.1 blocks in 24 minutes per game, Pondexter was given an extension that will keep him under contract through 2017-18. It's clear that at one point the Grizzlies believed he was an integral part of the team's future. Given Tayshaun Prince's apparent decline, Pondexter could earn a decent role even if he never leapfrogs Prince in the rotation. Entering the final year of his contract, Prince could be used as a trade chip, but even if he remains with the team, he's highly unlikely to be re-signed next summer. If Pondexter is able to get back to being the solid defender and 36-percent three-point shooter he's been thus far in his career, coach Dave Joerger should have a tough time overlooking him on a squad that finished last in three-pointers made last season. Still, given the Grizzlies' depth of versatile shooting guards, the presence of Prince, and the rust that's likely to exist after being out for so long, Pondexter enters 2014-15 as someone to keep an eye on, but he likely won't hold much immediate value in anything but the deepest leagues.
Jordan Adams: Adams is entering his rookie season. After two collegiate seasons and an impressive showing at the Orlando Summer League (during which he averaged 14.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.2 steals, and 0.4 blocks per game), Adams will look to provide the Grizzlies with versatility and scoring off the bench. During the 2013-14 collegiate season, he posted the 15th-best true shooting percentage (60 percent) in the NCAA on 49 percent shooting from the field, 36 percent from deep, and 84 percent from the free-throw line. He also set a single-season record for most steals (96 total, 2.6 per game) at UCLA. The Grizzlies did bring in veteran Vince Carter, who's also very versatile offensively, but the team is thin at small forward. Tayshaun Prince's skills are free falling, and Quincy Pondexter, who has yet to play a plentiful role, will be making his return from a stress fracture that forced him to miss the majority of 2013-14. Combine the questions at the small forward position with the versatility of players like Carter, Adams, and Tony Allen, and it seems realistic Adams will have a legitimate chance to carve himself out some time in his rookie year despite the Grizzlies' depth at shooting guard (Courtney Lee, Allen, Carter, Adams). Still, unless he's able to leapfrog a few of those veteran guys at his position, it's unlikely he'll hold too much immediate value in fantasy.
Jarnell Stokes: Stokes is entering his rookie season. In his third and final season at the University of Tennessee, the Memphis native averaged 15.1 points and 10.6 rebounds while shooting 53 percent from the field, which were all career-highs. Taken with the 35th pick by the Utah Jazz, the 6-9, 262 pound power forward was immediately traded to the Grizzlies, who were rumored to have interest in selecting him with the 22nd overall pick but instead drafted UCLA guard Jordan Adams. Stokes' impressive play at the Orlando Summer League (during which he averaged 12.2 points and 9.4 rebounds per game) convinced the Grizzlies to sign him to a three-year deal. Needing a fifth big man with only Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Kosta Koufos, and Jon Leuer under contract for 2014-15, Stokes could see decent time in his rookie year. While he definitely has the beef to play center, he lacks the height, so he'll likely compete with Leuer for the backup minutes behind Randolph at the four. However, unless there's an injury to Gasol or Randolph, it's unlikely Stokes will receive an ample enough role to be worthy of too much consideration on draft day outside of the deepest leagues.
Mike Conley: Conley is entering his eighth season in the NBA. Last season, he averaged 17.2 points, 6.0 assists, 2.9 rebounds, 1.5 steals, and 0.2 blocks in 34 minutes per game through 73 games. He shot 45 percent from the field on 14.1 attempts per game, 36 percent from downtown on 4.0 attempts per game, and 82 percent from the free-throw line on 3.8 attempts per game. Conley contributed career-highs in scoring, field-goal percentage, and player efficiency rating (20.07 PER, 28th best in NBA). His 14.1 field-goal attempts per game were also 2.3 more than any of his previous seasons. One department he did regress in was steals, as he contributed 2.2 steals per game in both 2011-12 and 2012-13, compared to the 1.5 steals he collected last season. Having not recorded more than 1.6 steals per game in a single month during 2014-15, it seems possible coach Dave Joerger may have asked Conley to avoid gambling defensively. Conley turns 27 years old in October, and coming off arguably his best season, it's possible that he'll be even better in 2014-15. He figures to continue in his current role as a key contributor for the Grizzlies along with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, and he makes for a fine fantasy play in all formats. Expect him to be taken during the first few rounds on draft-day regardless of what type of league it is.
Vince Carter: Carter is entering his 17th season. Last season, he averaged 11.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.8 steals, and 0.4 blocks in 24 minutes per game through 81 games. He shot 41 percent from the field on 10.0 attempts per game, 39 percent from deep on 4.6 attempts per game, and 82 percent from the charity stripe on 2.4 attempts per game. During seven playoff games, he averaged 12.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.4 steals, and 0.3 blocks in 27 minutes per game. He shot 46 percent from the field on 9.7 attempts per game, 48 percent from beyond the arc on 4.4 attempts per game, and 79 percent from the free-throw line on 2.0 attempts per game. Carter, who turns 38 years old in January, isn't an electrifying high-wire act anymore, but he's still an effective and versatile offensive player. With Mike Miller leaving the Grizzlies in free agency, Carter is the most established three-point threat on a team that finished last in three-pointers last season, which means he's likely to play a considerable role in 2014-15. The team has plenty of depth at shooting guard (Courtney Lee, Tony Allen, Jordan Adams), but their small forward situation is questionable at best given that Tayshaun Prince is in decline and Quincy Pondexter, who has yet to hold a sufficient role, is making his return from a stress fracture that forced him to miss most of the 2013-14 season. If Carter earns as much time with the Grizzlies as he did with the Mavs, he'll likely hold solid late-round value in deeper leagues.
Tony Allen: Allen is entering his 11th season. Last season, he averaged 9.0 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1.6 steals, and 0.3 blocks in 23 minutes per game through 55 games. He shot 49 percent from the field on 7.5 attempts per game, 23 percent from three on 0.9 attempts per game, and 63 percent from the free-throw line on 2.2 attempts per game. In seven playoff games versus the Thunder, Allen averaged 12.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.7 steals, and 0.1 blocks in 33 minutes per game. He shot the ball 49 percent from the field on 10.3 attempts per game, missed all seven of his three-point attempts, and converted 73 percent of his free throws on 2.5 attempts per game. Allen missed time with various injuries (hip, hand) in the regular season but had an excellent showing in the playoffs. He's proven himself to be one of the league's top perimeter stoppers, and whether he starts or not, he's likely to see ample time at both the shooting guard and small forward spots. Despite being only 6-4, he's displayed the ability to defend taller and longer forwards, as evidenced by his first-round matchup with Kevin Durant. Still, Allen's inconsistency as an outside shooter and scorer hasn't helped him solidify must-own status in fantasy outside of the deepest leagues.
Courtney Lee: Lee is entering his seventh season. Last season, he played 49 games (47 starts) with the Grizzlies after being acquired from the Celtics, where he played 30 games in a reserve role. For the Grizzlies, he averaged 11.0 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.9 steals, and 0.4 blocks in 30 minutes per game while shooting 48 percent from the field on 8.8 attempts per game, 35 percent from three-point range on 2.9 attempts per game, and 90 percent from the free-throw line on 1.8 attempts per game. Lee also started all seven playoff games versus the Thunder, averaging 10.0 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.7 steals, and 0.3 blocks in 32 minutes per game. The Grizzlies signed Vince Carter and drafted Jordan Adams, and they still have Tony Allen to use on the wing, too. Allen has displayed the ability to defend the elite wings in the NBA, and Carter and Adams both have the size and strength to spend some time at the three as well. Tayshaun Prince is rapidly declining, Quincy Pondexter (coming back from a stress fracture in his foot) has yet to earn a plentiful role thus far during his career, and Mike Miller joined the Cavaliers. Given the circumstances, it's certainly possible that Lee will continue to see sufficient playing time despite the apparent logjam at his position. With that said, given Lee's inability to consistently contribute in areas besides scoring, it's unlikely he'll hold much fantasy value in 2014-15 outside of the deepest leagues.
Nick Calathes: Calathes is entering his second season in the NBA. During his rookie campaign, he averaged 4.9 points, 2.9 assists, 1.9 rebounds, and 0.9 steals in 17 minutes per game through 71 games. He shot 46 percent from the field on 4.4 attempts per game, 31 percent from three on 0.9 attempts per game, and 61 percent from the free-throw line on 1.0 attempt per game. His season ended just prior to the playoffs beginning when he was suspended for 20 games for violating the league's anti-drug policy (Tamoxifen). Still, his solid play behind starter Mike Conley convinced the Grizzlies to guarantee Calathes' contract for 2014-15, despite his reported desire to accept a much more lucrative offer to play in Greece. Calathes will miss the first 13 games of the season as he finishes serving his 20-game suspension. Unless Conley were to suffer an injury, it's unlikely that Calathes would be able to carve out enough of a role to warrant too much consideration in fantasy on draft day, especially with the team electing to re-sign veteran Beno Udrih, who filled in nicely as the Grizzlies' backup point guard in the playoffs. With that said, Calathes should have every opportunity to earn the vast majority of minutes behind Conley once he does return from serving his suspension. Also, if Conley were to get hurt, Calathes would be the most likely fantasy beneficiary, as he thrived in his seven starts last season, contributing 14.7 points (52%/41%/75%), 4.9 assists, 4.7 rebounds, 2.6 steals, and 0.3 blocks in 36 minutes per game.
Beno Udrih: Udrih is entering his 11th season in the NBA. Last season, he started out with the Knicks before being bought out and joining the Grizzlies to be the team's third point guard behind Mike Conley and Nick Calathes. In 31 games with the Knicks, he averaged 5.6 points, 3.5 assists, 1.8 rebounds, 0.7 steals, and 0.1 blocks in 19 minutes per game, and in 10 games with the Grizzlies he averaged 2.7 points, 0.6 assists, 0.2 rebounds, 0.1 steals, and 0.1 blocks in less than six minutes per game. However, once it was announced that Calathes would be forced to serve a 20-game suspension for violating the league's anti-drug policy, Udrih was called upon to take on a more demanding role. In seven playoff games as the Grizzlies' primary backup point guard, he averaged 7.9 points (47 percent shooting), 1.7 assists, 1.7 rebounds, and 0.4 steals in 16 minutes per game versus the Thunder. He stands to begin 2014-15 as the Grizzlies' backup while Calathes completes the remaining 13 games of his 20-game suspension. Once Calathes makes his return it's unclear exactly how considerable of a role Udrih will be able to keep, but he'll likely see at least some time. Regardless, he's not a player that should be targeted outside of the deepest leagues.
Vince Carter: The Grizzlies shuffled their shooting guard and small forward a ton last year, and Carter is easily their most proven wing offensively. Given that Tayshaun Prince is rapidly declining and Courtney Lee and Jordan Adams are both highly unlikely to receive time at small forward, Carter could wind up seeing the majority of the small forward minutes - especially if Quincy Pondexter gets off to another rough start like last season. Carter's offensive versatility is exactly what the Grizzlies lacked in their playoff matchup, during which the Thunder relentlessly trapped Mike Conley and dared the Grizzlies' wing players to create the team's offensive opportunities. With Carter on board, that strategy is far less likely to work out for opposing defenses, and this is a big reason why he was signed.
Courtney Lee: Since Tayshaun Prince is too easy of a bust target and Vince Carter is the favorite to receive the majority of small forward minutes, the Grizzlies will likely elect to give Tony Allen the majority of time alongside Carter in order to maintain the team's ability to contain the elite wing players in the NBA. It's not that Lee is a horrible defender; it's just that Allen is one of the best in the league, and Carter is too old to be covering Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, etc. Last season, Lee was the team's third-best three-point shooter behind Mike Miller and Mike Conley. Despite Miller leaving, the Grizzlies are high on rookie Jordan Adams, and if Quincy Pondexter gets off to a strong start, he's another player who can shoot the three and defend. Lee is an above-average three-point shooter for his career at 38 percent, which should help keep him in the Grizzlies' rotation, but he has only averaged 1.0 made three-pointer in 26 minutes per game during his six years in the league. Unless Lee starts taking and making a lot more three-pointers or injuries strike, his role will likely be less demanding than it was year, and he already contributes very little besides scoring as it is.