The Memphis Grizzlies managing to make the playoffs last season given their health issues was an impressive achievement. Twenty-eight players saw action in at least one game for the Grizzlies last season, and those health issues proved to be too much to overcome when they took on the Spurs in the first round of the playoffs. With a new head coach in David Fizdale and the addition of free agent wing Chandler Parsons, there’s optimism in Memphis as the 2016-17 season approaches.
But they’re already dealing with health issues. Parsons still isn’t ready to go after having his 2015-16 season cut short by a torn meniscus in his right knee, and he’ll be a key player for the Grizzlies due to both his versatility and perimeter shooting ability. Gasol, Conley and Brandan Wright (knee) are in better position when it comes to being ready for the season, and there are dependable veterans Zach Randolph and Tony Allen still in the fold as well.
There’s reason to be excited when it comes to the Grizzlies in 2016-17, but past health issues mean that being cautiously optimistic is the best approach.
Here’s a look at the roster:
Grizzlies Projected Starting Lineup
G: Mike Conley Jr. (15.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 6.1 apg) Re-signing Conley was the main priority for the Grizzlies during free agency in July, and they managed to get that done with a five-year deal worth a staggering $153 million. Conley shot 42.2 percent from the field and 36.3 percent from three last season, but it’s his ability to get the ball to the players who need touches where they’re most capable of producing, and his defense, that led to Memphis giving him a max contract.
G/F: Tony Allen (8.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg) Allen isn’t a prolific scorer by any stretch of the imagination. But his value is found on the defensive end of the floor, as he’s considered to be one of the top defenders in the NBA. When the team is fully healthy Memphis will have four other starters capable of carrying the scoring load, thus allowing Allen to focus on what he does best.
F: Chandler Parsons (13.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.8 apg) The 6-foot-9 Parsons is an important addition for Memphis for a variety of reasons. First, his versatile skill set makes him a tough matchup at the small forward position. He can make plays off the bounce, creating looks for either himself or a teammate, but most importantly he’s a good shooter joining a team that was lacking in that area last season. Parsons shot just over 41 percent from three in 2015-16, and Memphis ranked 29th in the NBA in three-point shooting at 33.1 percent. But Parsons has also dealt with knee issues in each of the last two seasons, which is a concern given the fact that he isn’t ready for action.
F: JaMychal Green (7.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg) While the tandem of Randolph and Gasol has led the way in the front court for years, the fact of the matter is that Memphis has to adjust to the changing landscape of the NBA. And with more power forwards stepping out onto the perimeter, going with Green in this spot is a better fit defensively for the Grizzlies. Green played in 78 regular season games last year, and his ability to defend on the perimeter will allow Randolph to anchor the second unit (if he buys into the move to the bench).
C: Marc Gasol (16.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 3.8 apg) Gasol played 55 games before being lost for the remainder of the season in February with a broken right foot. And when it comes to big men, foot injuries are a major concern. The good news for Memphis is that Gasol appears ready to go, although one would understand if Fizdale and his staff exercised caution during the preseason.
Grizzlies Projected Bench
G: Troy Daniels (5.6 ppg) Daniels arrives in Memphis after spending last year with the Hornets, where he shot 48.4 percent from beyond the arc. With some other players the Grizzlies have added in hopes of improving their perimeter shooting not panning out, Memphis brought Daniels in for this very reason.
G: Wade Baldwin IV (Rookie) Baldwin was Memphis’ first round pick in June, a time when it was unknown what the team’s point guard situation would look like. Now, with Conley re-signing, the Vanderbilt product can learn from an established veteran. Baldwin certainly had his positive moments at Vanderbilt, but he also needs to become a more efficient point guard if he’s to have success at the pro level.
G/F: Vince Carter (6.6 ppg, 2.4 rpg) Carter isn’t the explosive player that he was during his prime, but he managed to give the Grizzlies some solid minutes when called upon last season. What should be noted here is that Carter’s contract isn’t guaranteed for this season, and he’ll face heavy competition in looking to earn of the two available guaranteed slots.
F: Zach Randolph (15.3 ppg, 7.8 rpg) Randolph managed to play in 68 games last season, with he and Allen being the last two starters standing when the playoffs began. Randolph shot 47.5 percent from the field in 2015-16, thanks to his ability to score either in the low post or in the mid-range area, and he also averaged just over two assists per game.
F: Brandan Wright (6.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg) Wright played in just 12 games last season due to a knee injury, one that occurred in part due to his rushing his recovery from offseason surgery. Wright is expected to be a factor in the Grizzlies’ front court rotation, provided he can remain healthy. He runs the floor well and at 6-foot-10 has good size for the power forward spot.
F: Jarell Martin (5.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg) Martin played in 27 games as a rookie, not seeing much playing time until the Grizzlies were decimated by injuries. With Green on a non-guaranteed deal, this camp represents an opportunity for Martin when it comes to earning more consistent playing time.
Other Players in Grizzlies Training Camp
G Jordan Adams
G Andrew Harrison
G Wayne Selden Jr.
G Kellen Dunham
G/F D.J. Stephens
F James Ennis
F Vince Hunter
F JaKarr Sampson
F Troy Williams
F Matt Costello
F Deyonta Davis
Adams, who has struggled with injuries since entering the NBA, Ennis and Harrison all have guaranteed deals for this season. That leaves six players to compete for two spots. Adams was envisioned as a draft pick who could help Memphis cure its perimeter shooting issues, but things haven’t worked out due in large part to the fact that he can’t stay on the court. The addition of Ennis gives Memphis a versatile, athletic forward who could fit well into the role occupied by Carter last season. And in Harrison they have a 6-foot-6 guard who’s working towards being a solid NBA point guard.
As for the four non-guaranteed contract players on this list, Selden wasn’t drafted after his junior season at Kansas but he has the ability to both attack the basket and hit perimeter shots. The problem for Selden at Kansas was that on too many occasions that “dog” teams like to see out of their best players wasn’t present. That isn’t the case for Stephens, who has performed well in the D-League the last couple of years and is an explosive athlete.
Williams, who played three seasons at Indiana, is a very good athlete but like Selden there were times when he wasn’t as aggressive as he needed to be. Lastly there’s Davis, who played just one season at Michigan State but has some upside due to his youth and athleticism.
Grizzlies Coaching Staff
Head coach: David Fizdale (First season as head coach.)
Assistant coaches: J.B. Bickerstaff, Nick Van Exel, Adam Mazarei, Keith Smart
UPDATE (10/5): Updated to reflect head coach David Fizdale’s announcement that Green will start in place of Randolph at the four.
UPDATE (10/7): The Grizzlies waived guard Tony Wroten.
UPDATE (10/9): The Grizzlies signed forward Vince Hunter.
UPDATE (10/20): The Grizzlies waived Vince Hunter and Chris Crawford, and they signed Matt Costello and Kellen Dunham.
UPDATE (10/21): The Grizzlies sign forward JaKarr Sampson and waive guard Kellen Dunham.
UPDATE (10/22): The Grizzlies waive guards Jordan Adams and Wayne Selden Jr., and forwards JaKarr Sampson and D.J. Stephens.