DON'T SIT THE STOPPER
Tony Allen is a defensive star. At 6'4", with long arms, quick hands and a great mind, he can latch onto any perimeter player in the NBA and turn his life into a waking terror.
Allen's offense is another story: He's not creative, and his shooting range ends at 10 feet. That makes it hard for the Grizzlies to give him extended minutes, especially in the postseason. During a second-round loss last spring, the Warriors "covered" Allen with 7-foot center Andrew Bogut, who played far enough off his man to still clog the paint and crowd post-ups. The strategy showed that the best defense against one of the game's best defenders is to pay him little mind: Memphis averaged 70.7 points per 100 possessions when Allen was on the court in a crucial Game 4 defeat.
It makes sense for the Grizz to sit the 33-year-old Allen for short stretches when floor spacing becomes a problem. But doing that also gives opponents exactly what they want: a dogged competitor and ferocious stopper on the bench at critical moments. Dave Joerger and his staff need to find the means to keep Allen out there and still make defenses pay. They could toy with placement, timing and misdirection on their sets to try to enhance Allen as an offensive threat. They could also make sure to develop shooters to stretch the D even if it sags off Allen.
It won't be easy; there is only so much that can be done to accommodate a nonshooter. The payoff of playing Allen more often, though, could be Memphis's first trip to the Finals.
A rival scout sizes up Memphis
They are what they are: a physical, paint-based team that can't shoot. They have to continue to bang inside because their two best players are Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, but they didn't seem to have that same punch last year. Neither is a great athlete, and as you add miles to them they become a little more human. Randolph didn't get to the free throw line as much, and his rebounds were down.... They shot 34% from three last year and they added Matt Barnes. I can't figure that out. Barnes has improved from the corner, but no one is going to deny him the ball. Vince Carter is at the very dusk of his career. Jeff Green is consistently inconsistent; he looked lost out there last year.... Tony Allen doesn't try to do things he can't do. He's as good as anyone at one-on-one defense. He can guard any three or two. He wants a consistent role; sometimes that went up and down with the addition of Green. Now you add Barnes to that mix, and you have to wonder how that is going to affect him.... If Mike Conley were in the East he would be an All-Star. He's very good defensively, on the ball, off the ball. If he had two good shooters on the wings, that would add two assists per game, and he would be in the top five. He has to take a lot of his three-point shots at the end of the shot clock—pressure shots, and he makes them.... Dave Joerger is a fine coach, but I don't see a bunch of guys who have a connection with him, who look like they are out there playing for him. When you add a polarizing figure like [Barnes] to the mix, that's a potential disaster.
COACH DAVE JOERGER
(3rd season with Grizzlies)
2014--15 RECORD 55--27
(2nd in Southwest)
PG MIKE CONLEY
15.8 PPG; 5.4 APG; 44.6 FG%; 38.6 3FG%
SG COURTNEY LEE
10.1 PPG; 2.3 RPG; 44.8 FG%; 40.2 3FG%
SF JEFF GREEN
15.0 PPG; 4.2 RPG; 43.0 FG%; 33.2 3FG%
PF ZACH RANDOLPH
16.1 PPG; 10.5 RPG; 2.2 APG; 48.7 FG%
C MARC GASOL
17.4 PPG; 7.8 RPG; 1.6 BPG; 49.4 FG%
SG TONY ALLEN
8.6 PPG; 4.4 RPG; 2.0 SPG; 49.5 FG%
PG BENO UDRIH
7.7 PPG; 2.8 APG; 0.6 SPG; 48.7 FG%
PF BRANDAN WRIGHT*
7.3 PPG; 4.3 RPG; 1.3 BPG; 64.2 FG%
Grizzlies who have been named All-NBA first team in the 20-year history of the franchise: Marc Gasol, who made it last year. The center was a second-teamer in 2013--14.
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED