Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Position Battles - Wing Players

Marc Iavaroni has stated that he is going to break down the team into Wing Players and Interior players. I already created a sub-set of Point Guards but I am not going to subdivide the Wing Players any further.

Memphis entered the summer with a need in perimeter shooting with Chucky Atkins being a UFA and unlikely to resign with the team. 3-point shooting was designated an as important a hole to fill as point guard and interior presence. Chris Wallace's draft pick filled the PG role but not the 3-point shooting gap. That he addressed with the FA signings of Casey Jacobsen and Juan Carlos Navarro. They join Mike Miller, Tarence Kinsey and Rudy Gay as the Wing Players on the team. How well this group meshes together and functions under Iavaroni's system will determine if the Grizzlies are praying for playoff success or counting ping pong balls next summer.

The Wing Men...

Rudy Gay was the last major player acquisition of Jerry West's tenure in Memphis. At 6-9 and able to leap with the best in the league, Rudy struggled early but definitely showed the city why West gave up one of the most popular players in team history in Shane Battier to acquire him. Rudy finished 3rd in voting for Rookie of the Year and his personality made him a fan favorite as well.

Mike Miller is the most likely starter among the group after earning a spot on the Dream Team 2007 roster this summer. It's hard to imagine that Mike could be chosen among the 12 roster spots to represent the USA and not be a starter on the Grizzlies. The problem is, with Rudy Gay starting as well, the Grizzlies bench will be short and thin with the two biggest players starting.

Tarence Kinsey joined Rudy Gay with ROY accolades as he won Rookie of the Month in the Western Conference to end the season. After Mike was shelved to rest his knees TK went crazy averaging 18.8 ppg in April along with 5.0 rpg, 3.0 apg and 2.6 spg. Kinsey will also be a restricted free agent this summer so he can't afford to rest on his laurels quite yet. He needs a strong season to cement his future financial security. One troubling situation was a bruised shoulder in summer league play. With his wiry frame TK needs to prove he can handle pain better than he did in Vegas as well as extending his range to the 3-point line to earn those minutes this year. Just because he finished last season strong doesn't mean he is out of the woods yet.

Juan Carlos Navarro is the wild card on the Grizzlies team. La Bomba as he is known in Spain has always been able to score. Whether hitting the 3-point shot or delivering his ridiculously effective lob shot in the lane (which is where the nickname comes from not his long distance shots) Navarro has scored at every level of play including putting up good numbers against AI and the 76ers last summer. The problem is that at 6-3, he is short for a traditional wing player role and not fast enough to play the point in the NBA. He should see time at both spots but defense is going to be a question Navarro has to answer before getting serious court time.

Casey Jacobsen has drifted from the NBA to the Spanish League to the German league before finally finding the success that was expected of him coming out of Stanford. A long range shooting threat with poor defensive skills and slow of foot, Casey needs picks to get open and won't beat anyone off the dribble. Other than that he is an excellent ball player. He has smarts and a dead eye but not enough physical ability to parlay that into success on this scale.

So what is going to happen? Tough to say. There is a good argument for doing the obvious and start Rudy Gay with Mike Miller. After all they are the most accomplished and well rounded players among the group, they have played together the most and can rebound the best among the group. Of course, that leaves the bench with players who haven't got the experience, rebounding ability nor talent. The argument could go that Miller should be the 6th man ala Manu Ginobili because he has shown he is capable of coming off the bench and it doesn't matter who starts but who finishes anyway but who would start? Kinsey is the better defender but moving Miller to the bench means no one off the bench is good defensively. Casey Jacobson should never start in the NBA so that leaves Juan Carlos Navarro. Navarro has the least NBA experience, is too short to guard most of the SG's in the league and hasn't proved he can get his shot off in the NBA yet. Still he is Gasol's best friend and it might not take long to prove he can play at this level and at 27 years old he is experienced even if it isn't in the NBA.

My bet is the season begins with Miller and Gay starting, but if the bench struggles then don't be surprised to see Miller moved to the bench and either Kinsey or Navarro moving into the starting 5.

1 comment:

Spartacus said...

Other than your designation of "Dream Team 2007" (there was only 1 Dream Team -- I will not argue about this fact!), I have to agree with your post. As I've stated on the message boards, there are a variety of situations that could arise, leading to any one of Miller, Gay, Kinsey or Navarro becoming a starter. As far as I'm concerned, it should be considered a good thing when you have enough talent that any of 4 players could start at the 2 wing positions.