Monday, October 27, 2008

Pre-Season ReCap

By Chip Crain

Well we are just two days away from the start of the regular season and I hope lots of people are having troubles with butterflies like I am. At times are start thinking about how exciting this season can become if the team gels together quickly. At other times I am faced with the reality of the team having a starting lineup with no one over 23 years of age, with 8 players new to the roster this season and with three rookies and I cringe.

Still the pre-season should give some people optomism about the talent on the roster, even if they aren't very experienced. As has been my custom I review the pre-season performances of each player on the final roster. So without further ado here we go:

Rudy Gay:
46.8 FG%, 75.0 FT%, 3.5 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.83 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 16.8 PPG
Commentary - Rudy showed everyone he is nearly unstoppable on offense. His points were only contained by his lack of playing time (27.8 mpg). Rudy also showed he isn't really a very good passer or dribbler (2.67 TOPG). Rudy's defensive intensity has improved however. If he continues on this path Rudy will be an ESPN highlight show on a very bad team. Rudy needs to become an on-court leader by improving his ball control and his passing to become a superstar. In the meantime I suppose people will at least be entertained by his athleticism.

O J Mayo:
45.8 FG%, 62.5 FT%, 3.3 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.75 SPG, .25 BPG, 15.4 PPG
Commentary - O J Mayo showed everyone just how ready he is for the NBA compared to most rookies. O J had two big scoring nights, shot a far higher percentage than anyone should expect from a rookie perimeter player and proved his defensive reputation was well earned. He also showed he settles for too many outside shots, has poor ball-control and doesn't seem to have the outragious athleticism expected of top NBA picks these days. One thing is certain, O J is going to be an emotional on-court leader on this team.

Mike Conley:
45.8 FG%, 89.5 FT%, 4.10 RPG, 3.1 APG, .38 SPG, .13 BPG, 9.8 PPG
Commentary - Conley has shown flashes of what he is capable of doing on the court once he matures. He has also shown he hasn't matured yet. Conley too often remains passive when he should be forcing the issue. His shooting has improved since last summer and his physical shape is greatly improved but he needs to be more insistent on forcing the issue ala Tony Parker at San Antonio. Once Mike gains the confidence to force his game on the opponents his assists and points will improve. Until then he will suffer from up and down nights.

Marc Gasol:
46.5 FG%, 81.8 FT%, 5.90 ROG, 2.3 APG, .88 SPG, .88 BPG, 7.3 PPG
Commentary - Marc has been a very physical presence in the middle during the pre-season and surprisingly hasn't been the target of the officials whistle like most big men are their first season in the league. Gasol has struggled scoring the ball which is probably attributable to his slow first step. One thing is for certain, Gasol is not the same player who left Memphis years ago as an over-weight perimeter shooting big man. This Gasol is strong and big and not afraid to use his size.

Darko Milicic:
44.7 FG%, 60.9 FT%, 6.00 RPG, .8 APG, .50 SPG, 1.67 BPG, 8.0 PPG
Commentary - Darko has returned to his natural position of PF in the pre-season and seems much more at ease there. Unfortunately he still hasn't learned how to use his right hand, has struggled scoring the ball and seemed lost on the court at times. What Darko has done is lead the team in rebounding and blocked shots. Darko will need to focus on those two strengths to keep the Grizzlies interior tough defensively.

Hakim Warrick:
42.9 FG%, 71.1 FT%, 5.10 RPG, .6 APG, .50 SPG, 1.13 BPG, 11.0 PPG
Commentary - That's not a misprint. Hakim Warrick averaged over a block a game during pre-season. The 10 blocks is compared to a career high in the regular season of only 30. Has Hak made the turn on defense? Possibly but he hasn't learned how to pass the ball yet and at 26 it is doubtful he ever will. That was expected however. The surprising thing about Hak's pre-season was his poor aim shooting the ball. Hak has always been a high percentage shooter averaging over 50% in his career. As the player expected to lead in scoring off the bench Hak needs to find his range quickly to keep the bench from being a major weakness this season.

Kyle Lowry:
22.7 FG%, 56.7 FT%, 2.40 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.38 SPG, 4.6 PPG
Commentary - There was no more disappointing player in the pre-season than Kyle Lowry. This may be a good time to remind people that this is only pre-season. The games don't count yet. Still everyone would have been a lot happier if he had shown he worked on his game over the summer. Kyle still pushes the pace, creates mayhem on the court and won't be playing with the odd collection of players he had to work with in pre-season. All of these things should improve his play once the season gets serious. The only question appears to be will his attitude accept being a backup PG.

Darrell Arthur:
55.6 FG%, 4.50 RPG, 0.0 APG, .17 SPG, .33 BPG, 9.8 PPG
No player improved thier standing on the team during pre-season more than Darrell Arthur. The late first round pick came into town under some question marks that weren't exactly answered with his summer league play and being tossed out of the Rookie Camp. Apparently those unfortunate experiences changed the rookies attitude as he has been more aggressive and effective. Arthur averaged more rebounds than he did in the summer league (4.5 to 3.8) despite playing significantly fewer minutes per game (17.8 to 27.4). He nearly averaged double figures (9.8). In college Arthur was known as a player who played great one game and disappeared in the next. Only time will tell if that describes his rookie year or not.

Quinton Ross:
41.5 FG%, 57.9 FT%, 2.30 RPG, .8 APG, .63 SPG, .63 BPG, 7.8 PPG

Ross overcame long odds with his excellent defense to become the last 14th player on the team. A natural SG, Ross is expected to see his primary minutes at SF backing up Rudy Gay. Ross has never been a great offensive player but he can hit the occasional 3 pt shot which should help spread the court for others to operate. Ross' offensive production in the pre-season resulted from the lack of a scoring options not improved play. It is anticipated that Ross' scoring will drop off when the rotation gets shorter in the real games.

Javaris Crittenton:
36.7 FG%, 50.0 FT%, 3.00 RPG, 1.6 APG, .80 SPG, .00 BPG, 5.4 PPG

No player was hurt more from the draft night trade for O J Mayo than Javaris Crittenton. JCritt was supposed to be the tweener guard of the future. Suddenly he was a 20 yr old without a position. JCritt hasn't helped himself this pre-season either with his poor shooting and low assist numbers. Barring injury it is highly unlikely that JCritt will see much court time and that will just hurt him that much more in attracting interest for a trade.

Greg Buckner:
37.9 FG%, 75.0 FT%, 3.00 RPG, .8 APG, .40 SPG, .40 BPG, 5.2 PPG

If JCritt may have a diminished outlook on the team but at least he is young and has potential. Buckner is far older and isn't likely to improve. The one thing that could see him on the court is a Rudy Gay injury. Buckner does have a slight advantage over JCritt playing Small Forward.

Marco Jaric:
00.0 FG%, 50.0 FT%, 1.00 RPG, .3 APG, .33 SPG, .00 BPG, .3 PPG

Jaric's pre-season was broken up by a broken nose. Unable or unwilling to play with the protective mask, Jaric's minutes were limited and he was obviously bothered by the mask to the point that he finally shut it down until able to play without the mask. That shouldn't be much longer. It is not exactly clear where Jaric will fit into the rotation right now with the three guard rotation seemingly set with Conley, Mayo and Lowry and Ross backing up Gay.

Hamed Haddadi:
17.6 FG%, 66.7 FT%, 3.30 RPG, .8 APG, .00 SPG, .67 BPG, 1.7 PPG

Iran joined the NBA national registry when the Grizzlies signed Haddadi to a contract. The 7-2 center has struggled adjusting to life in the USA since his english is broken at best. Communication issues aside Haddadi showed some promise as a back up center. His shooting was poor but grabbing 3.3 rpg in less than 10 minutes a night will catch people's attention.

Antoine Walker:
20.0 FG%, 25.0 FT%, 3.50 RPG, .5 APG, .50 SPG, 1.00 BPG, 3.0 PPG

If you want to see Antoine Walker play basketball you better come early to games. Walker has been told by the Grizzlies that he is not in their plans and it would take some form of disaster for Walker to see the court. His conditioning is being questioned but anyone seeing Walker can tell he isn't that out of shape. His shot however is a shadow of what it used to be.

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