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.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Damon Stoudamire hints at future trade possibilities

Earlier today, the following story was posted in the Tucson Citizen:

Former UA All-American Damon Stoudamire says he's as healthy as he's been
in some time and is getting ready for another season in the NBA, his 13th.

But he'd also like to play for a winner.

"Hopefully I can get out of Memphis - that rebuilding process is
hard,'' he said Sunday, after he scored 21 points in the Lute Olson Classic.
"I've got to be professional but it's one of those situations where you never
think you'll be in. You want to get put in a situation where you want to win.
Individually things don't matter.''

Stoudamire, who turns 34 next month, still has two years left on his
contract that pays him $4 million a season. "I'm going to keep my fingers
crossed (about being moved) but I'm not going to make any demands or nothing,''
he said.

"Anybody who's been in my position knows. You see the writing on the
wall so I'm hoping at the end of the day we can work something out.''

There are a few things that can be gathered from these comments. First, Damon would like to play for a proven winner. Well, who wouldn't? There are very few players that are content to just waste year after year suiting up for a perpetual loser (other Jerome James). So, that is an understandable position to take. Second, Damon feels that he can contribute and doesn't look forward to being the potential 3rd string PG behind two young unproven players. That is also reasonable, seeing as how Damon probably felt assured that he'd be the starter in Memphis for the remainder of his contract prior to his injury two seasons ago. Lastly, Damon sees the potential to becoming unhappy in Memphis, but is not demanding a trade, or even requesting one. That's a smart position, and we're about to examine why.

Damon knows that not only would it be foolish to demand a trade, but it would seriously derail any possibility of him going anywhere anytime soon. Here's why: Damon is coming off two injury-marred seasons and there isn't anyone willing to take on the 2 years and $8 million remaining on his contract until he proves that he is, in fact, as healthy as he claims to be. That means he's looking at a mid-season trade at the soonest. That timeline works out pretty well, because if he proves he's capable of still contributing to a team and either Conley or Lowry show that they are ready to handle the role of starter, then something can probably be worked out to send him to a "winner". Until that happens, he's not going anywhere though. The Grizzlies would be unwise to send him out with only rookies left on the depth chart and prospective teams would be crazy to trade for him until he proves that he is back to 100%. All in all, this story sounds like much ado about nothing on a slow news day for the NBA.

Players to keep an eye on (Part 2)

In Part 1, I looked at a few players that the Grizzlies could acquire at some point this season, in an effort to offload either Damon Stoudamire, Stromile Swift or both. Now, I want to take a look at some players that the Grizzlies organization might want to keep tabs on, as they will be free agents over the next 3 seasons. I won't be discussing any big names, because everyone already knows the book on them and the cash it will require to sign them. I'll also be using the dates that these players become unrestricted free agents, because we all know that it is typically futile to attempt to sign a restricted free agent to a reasonable contract.

2008 Free Agents

Chris Duhon (PG - Chicago Bulls) -- Could be a great backup PG if Ben Gordon presses the issue about starting in Chicago, leading to even fewer minutes for Duhon. Also, Memphis might be ready to move either Conley or Lowry if the other proves capable of being the definitive "PG of the future" this season, leaving room for an experienced player to fill.

Ryan Gomes (F - Minnesota Timberwolves) -- A solid player with a high basketball IQ, Gomes has a good all-around game. He's also the type of player that championship-level teams covet, so there will probably be a lot of competition for his services.

Francisco Elson (C - San Antonio Spurs) -- A capable backup, who can provide enough to allow Darko/Pau a few extra minutes rest over the long haul of the regular season.

Chris Quinn (G - Miami Heat) -- If the Grizzlies are successful at finding a trade partner to take Damon Stoudamire, but still have both Conley and Lowry, they'd likely want a low-priced option in case of injury. Quinn hasn't been provided with much of an opportunity to play, but his 3:1 assist to turnover ratio in 9.6 MPG last season is encouraging.

Walter Herrmann (F- Charlotte Bobcats) -- I already detailed him in Part 1, but if a trade fails, there is a chance that he could be signed outright in the offseason.

2009 Free Agents

Josh Childress (G/F - Atlanta Hawks) -- He's a little more well-known than most of the players on this list, but I see this as a move contingent upon one of two circumstances coming to fruition. If Rudy/Tarence/Navarro fail to develop as a consistent NBA starter that fit in with Iavaroni's system or if Mike Miller's production falls off over the next two seasons, then Childress is a player I'd like the Grizzlies to look at pursuing as an unrestricted free agent.

Chris Wilcox (F/C - Seattle SuperSonics) -- A solid, if unspectacular post player, Wilcox could be a player to pursue if Darko doesn't quite pan out. He'd be a nice complement to Gasol, providing an intimidating presence in the paint.

Trevor Ariza (SF - Orlando Magic) -- Similar to the scenario I laid out with Josh Childress, Ariza could be a nice player to add if our young players don't develop. Ariza could also be a solid primary backup if the Grizzlies shorten their roster as the Suns have done of the past few seasons.

2010 Free Agents

David Lee (F - New York Knicks) -- Probably nothing more than a pipe dream, as he is already one of the most efficient players in the NBA, but he exemplifies the kind of player that title contenders usually have on their roster.

Mouhamed Saer Sene (C - Seattle SuperSonics) -- Having drafted a center three consecutive years means that one of them won't be resigned when it comes time for extensions to be handed out. If the Grizzlies cannot trade for Sene, then signing the player who could be another Desagana Diop would be ideal. A raw shotblocker, Sene might develop some rebounding skills over the next few seasons. If nothing else, it is always nice to have a defensive minded center laying around.

Those are the players that I would keep an eye on to chart their development and production. If there is anyone that I have missed or that should be reconsidered, feel free to mention them in the Comments.