How rampant were injuries in Memphis last season? The Grizzlies suited up 28 players, an NBA record—almost enough to fill two rosters. Simply put, the Grizz need good health above all this season.
The player whose well-being will be most important is Marc Gasol. The 7'1", 255-pound center appeared in only 52 games in 2015--16 but still finished third on the team in total minutes, a sign of just how bad things were. Gasol is one of the best centers in the league when healthy, combining a feathery jumper with physical D on the block.
Under rookie coach David Fizdale, Gasol, a gifted passer, can also help facilitate a more modern offense. Fizdale, 42, is a disciple of Erik Spoelstra, who's a staunch believer in spreading the floor. This year the Grizzlies—who ranked 27th in threes made—may finally have the roster to do just that. They acquired youngsters Troy Daniels (a career 43.0% shooter from three) and James Ennis (37.3%), but the real difference maker will be Chandler Parsons, who signed a four-year, $94 million free-agent deal. Parsons, 27, can unlock all kinds of lineup flexibility for Fizdale—if his right-knee issues don't act up. Needless to say, such concerns will be a recurring theme in Memphis.
PROJECTED LINEUP | 2015--16 stats
COACH DAVID FIZDALE (1st season with Grizzlies)
2015--16 RECORD 42--40 (3rd in Southwest)
PG MIKE CONLEY
15.3 PPG; 6.1 APG; 42.2 FG%; 36.3 3FG%
SG TONY ALLEN
8.4 PPG; 4.6 RPG; 1.7 SPG; 45.8 FG%
SF CHANDLER PARSONS*
13.7 PPG; 4.7 RPG; 49.2 FG%; 41.4 3FG%
PF JAMYCHAL GREEN
7.4 PPG; 4.8 RPG; 0.6 SPG; 46.5 FG%
C MARC GASOL
16.6 PPG; 7.0 RPG; 3.8 APG; 46.4 FG%
PF ZACH RANDOLPH
15.3 PPG; 7.8 RPG; 2.1 APG; 47.5 FG%
SG VINCE CARTER
6.6 PPG; 2.4 RPG; 38.8 FG%; 34.9 3FG%
PG WADE BALDWIN (R)
14.1 PPG; 5.2 APG; 1.2 SPG; 40.6 3FG%
*NEW ACQUISITION; (R) ROOKIE, COLLEGE STATS
A rival scout sizes up Memphis
They have a new coach, and I've heard nothing but good things about David Fizdale as a person. Players love him, people that work with him love him. But nobody has told me that he's a brilliant coach.... Their team is kind of a house of cards right now. They have some good players—obviously Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, they signed Chandler Parsons. So on paper they have a chance to be better than they were last year. But all three of those guys have significant injury histories. That could really blow up in their face.... If they get something 37 minutes a game, 80 games each—they're in great shape. But they won't.... They just don't have much quality depth: Tony Allen, Vince Carter, Brandan Wright. They drafted Wade Baldwin, but he's probably not ready to play. The biggest concern I had with him in the draft is that he can be sort of hardheaded and difficult. Not the easiest guy to coach, not super mature. That's one big advantage the Grizz have with Fizdale there. Guys love playing for him and want to go to war for him.... JaMychal Green is secretly O.K., but their bench is a problem even if there are no injuries.... Zach Randolph is coming pretty close to the end at this point. For 20 minutes a game scoring on other teams' bench units, he's still effective. But against good players in extended minutes, Z-Bo just can't do it.... It's hard to know with Gasol and Conley. They could easily have another few great years, but they're both coming off leg injuries that could either have them fall off in their level of play or miss more games.
TELLING NUMBER 28
The talent is there for a run at 50 wins. But will it be on the floor often enough?