Saturday, April 26, 2008

Was Conley a Mistake?

The following comment came up on the Grizzlies Message Board about the biggest mistake in Grizzlies history:
Drafting Conley instead of a long list of others. I like Conley & think he will be good, but we used a 1st rounder on Lowry the previous year and knew that this draft was full of PG's.
How were the Grizzlies supposed to know that last season's group of high schoolers would be this good? Mayo, Bayless and Rose all have extreme talents but I expect each will struggle in their first season in the NBA.

Just like almost every rookie PG does their first year in the NBA.

Just as Conley has done this season. It isn't a coincidence that the Sophomores have only lost once to the rookies on All-Star weekend and it isn't that the drafts just keep getting worse.

First Conley wasn't mentally ready, then he was injured and he didn't get into the swing of things until the last part of the season but he did average 14.3 ppg, 4.3 apg and shot 48% from the field (45% from the arc) the last 8 games of the season. How many people honestly believe any of this season's crop of rookies will average that next season? Or for any month next season? How many of this year's rookies will be averaging almost 10 ppg and 4.2 apg after 53 games next year?

Conley (10/11/87) is the same age as Mayo (11/5/87), 10 months older than Bayless (8/20/88) and just one year older than Rose (10/4/88). I think this time next season he will be far ahead of this year's rookie point guards. I don't know where any of them will be 5 years from now but I hardly think Memphis will be embarrassed by his production.

The poster went on the say that Memphis should have drafted Joakim Noah or Brandon Wright. Can you imagine the furor in Memphis if the Grizzlies had taken one of those players instead of Conley. First Damon Stoudamire would probably still have been starting for the Grizzlies! Second, Lowry, if everyone remembers clearly, was unable to lift a remote control with his injured wrist as the draft approached last year and there were concerns that he would never regain full ability with that wrist.

Of course this poster knew Lowry would be fine, would have had no problem with Damon playing all season in Memphis and would be happy to have Brandon Wright on the team with his 4.2 ppg and 2.8 rpg. Brandon Wright only played 48 games this season in total and he wasn't injured.

Noah I must admit was a different discussion. I actually thought that the final decision should have been between Noah and Conley. Noah has done well since the Bulls traded Joe Smith and Ben Wallace and one could only assume he would have done well in Memphis after Gasol and Swift were traded as well. Of course there is no guarantee that Noah will be better than Lopez, Randolph, Love or Beasley from this draft. Probably better next season but not after three years (see above for the rational on why rookies aren't better than second year players). Of course Noah is also 23 years old now. How much improvement will we see in his game over the next few years compared to a 20 yr old?

People screamed last season that Rudy shouldn't have been traded for Shane. Does anyone feel that way now? Will those people who felt it was a mistake stand up and admit that they felt that way?



No. I didn't expect they would. The reality is that every year the players entering the draft look better than those already in the league. Why? They played against weaker competition. They had more time off between games. They played under a different set of rules. It isn't easy in the NBA. Players struggle making the transition and point guards struggle more than others.

So before you go off and say Mike Conley is the biggest mistake the Grizzlies have ever made, stop and think a little bit. This is the team that signed Cesary Trebanski to a free agent contract. This is a team that traded for Antonio Burks, Andre Emmitt and Lawrence Roberts - none of whom play in the USA right now. This is a team that drafted Robert Archibald and passed on Carlos Boozer. This is the team that traded for Otis Thorpe and missed out on Carmello Anthony, Dwayne Wade or Chris Bosh because of it.

How can anyone seriously say Mike Conley was the biggest in Grizzlies history?

BallHype: hype it up!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Season in Review: Juan Carlos Navarro

Juan Carlos Navarro was supposed to be here simply because Pau Gasol, his good friend, wanted him here. Pau is gone now but Navarro is talking like he wants to stay despite being a restricted free agent this summer. I wonder how long before LA makes him an offer and that attitude changes.

Of course Navarro may not want to play in LA. He is married, isn't making Gasol type money so maybe he is happier here. I know Memphis fans love him. He, like Hakim Warrick, obviously loves playing basketball. His smile is contagious. His flare for the game hasn't been seen since the early days of Jason Williams. He wears his emotions where everyone can see it and usually that emotion is like a little boy playing with a puppy. Pure joy and laughter.

Navarro is the type of player the beer chugging, weekend warriors think they could be. He's not so tall. He's not so fast. He just has a great vision of the game and plays for the love it more than anything else. Navarro would play the game for free and practically did this season after paying Barcelona to buy out his contract. How can the fans not love this guy?

He can shoot well but like most rookies he struggled with his shot. When he was on he could bring the team back from oblivion almost single-handed. He did that against New Orleans back in November when he hit 8 of 9 three pointers on the way to 28 pt game off the bench! The Grizzlies were down 12 points in the 1st quarter when Navarro checked into the game. When he sat back down the Grizzlies were down 4 points and Navarro had 19 pts and 2 assists over that span.

Defensively he improved during the year to reach a level of only being bad. He was really terrible at first but the fans accepted that in anticipation of seeing that peculiar haircut dropping a floater in the lane over 7 ft giants who looked silly trying to block it. Don't mistake his smile and emotion as not being concerned about the game either. Navarro is extremely competitive and wants the team to do well. Navarro really lives the game. Each close loss looked to injure him personally and the blowouts would leave him despondent.

The problem is that after the Gasol trade not only did Memphis lose his closest friend but the team also picked up a 19 yr old swing guard who needs to play and has a guaranteed contract not to mention being 7 yrs younger than Navarro. Where that leaves the Spaniard is unclear. Memphis is on the hook for 6 more years from the trade with Washington for a #1 pick. Obviously the Grizzlies didn't give away that draft pick for just one year's service. However there are only so many minutes to use at Shooting Guard behind Mike Miller. Quite likely Navarro will be used in a Sign & Trade deal for an upgrade somewhere else on the roster or for future picks.

If that happens this summer Memphis will surely miss the man who brought so much fun and excitement to the Grizzlies last season.

BallHype: hype it up!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Links: Hardwood Paroxysm is all you need

If you haven't added Hardwood Paroxysm to your daily reading list, then I don't know what to say other than "What are you? Some kinda moron???"

Matt and Corn have entertained us here at 3SoB all season long and we feel confident that if you read a few of their posts that you will reach the same conclusion.

The published the results of their 2008 NBA Blogger Season Awards and we are very proud to say that 3 Shades of Blue tied for 1st place in the Western Conference (Bloggers' Choice Division) with Sactown Royalty and came in 2nd place in the Southwest Division behind Hornets 24/7. We are very appreciative to all the bloggers who voted for us.

In addition to that, if you haven't already, go check out the playoff previews that HP put out last week (you know, before the playoffs began), as well as the fantastic Five Things posts that Matt has been writing for The Fanhouse for every single playoff game.

The final edition of the Blogger MVP/ROY Rankings have been posted on We Rite Goode. The MVP rankings came down to the same three candidates that the rest of the NBA world is trying to figure out the correct order of, while the ROY rankings weren't much of a surprise to anyone. They even added a few new categories, including Coach of the Year, Most Improved Player and 7th Man. They also added some great graphs that chart the MVP candidates through all the rankings. Really great job guys!

David's Grizzlies Blog: The Memphis Grizzlies - Where Amazing Happens

Bleacher Report: What's Next for the Non-Playoff Teams

We need all the fans we can get, so I'm happy to see young Ainsley join the club.

BallHype: hype it up!

Season in Review: Hakim Warrick

Hakim Warrick's time was a tale of two seasons. The first half he was buried on the bench behind Gasol at the PF spot. In the 2nd half he broke out in the post-Gasol era to suddenly show he can score in the NBA. He can rebound in the NBA. He can't play defense in the NBA however which made it necessary for the Grizzlies to go almost exclusively to a zone defense the last few months of the season. That isn't good for an NBA team.

As a starter Hakim averaged 16.6 ppg, 6.9 rpg and 1.0 apg. Frankly I was surprised to see he averaged one assist per game since he never seemed to pass the ball. Chris Herrington described Hak in the pre-season as possibly the worst passer in the NBA and Warrick did nothing to change that opinion during the season. His numbers seem more than adequate for a starting PF until you look a little closer. 6.9 rpg is way below average for a starting PF. 1.0 apg is a joke and he only gets 0.5 bpg. That is ridiculous for a leaper like Hakim. Is it that he just doesn't know how to time his leaps to influence shots or is it that he just doesn't care to try?

Hak will turn 26 in July and after 4 years in the league he has shown little in the way of overcoming his deficiencies and it seems obvious his role is better suited to a bench player providing instant offense than as a starter. When people state that Memphis needs a more bruising presence in the paint they are referring to Warrick not being enough of one.

On the bright side Hakim has really improved his range this season. His 3 pt% was above Kyle Lowry, Javaris Crittenton and Casey Jacobsen for instance and was getting better as the season progressed (unlike Casey). Warrick is able to take some of the more lumbering PF's away from the basket with that range opening up lanes for the Grizzlies guards to penetrate into. When the point guards outside shot isn't being respected they need someone to open up spaces for them and Warrick excelled in that role. If he continues to develop that range, and the point guards learn to hit open outside shots, he could become an even more valuable scoring asset receiving passes from the guards after they penetrate.

When paired with Rudy Gay, Hakim is part of one of the most exciting forward tandems in the league. How many teams in NBA history have started at both forward positions players that competed in the NBA Slam Dunk contest? Hakim can sky with the best in the league. His enthusiasm for the game in contagious and he can get the fans out of their seats when he hot. His smile and passion allow most Memphians to overlook his faults because he truly plays like a college kid more than a professional. Probably more than anyone else on the team it seems Hakim likes to play basketball.

One has to wonder if Hakim will ever develop as a defensive player. He showed signs of improvement as the season progressed. His steals and blocks were on the rise but only in proportion to the increase in minutes. Yes his absolute number of steals and blocks were higher but not when you factor in the dramatic increase in minutes played. With his age and experience in the league it is unlikely that he will suddenly develop these skills now.

The good news is that Memphis seems to appreciate Hak's efforts and understands his limitations. He is a fan favorite at games and is extremely considerate to the fans. His days as a starter may be numbered in weeks not years depending on the outcome of the lottery but it is unlikely that he would be moved either. Hak is a draw on a team desperate for players that the fans can relate to. His attitude is great and he gives 100% effort whether starting or coming off the bench. Warrick is truly one of the few bright spots on the team right now.

BallHype: hype it up!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Season in Review: Mike Miller

Mike Miller had a roller coaster season emotionally but a solid season on the court. He is a consumate professional in that regard and a good role model for the younger players who are the future of the franchise.

However he is not a part of the future of the franchise. Whether he makes it until the end of his contract or gets traded earlier in unknown at this time.

It's kind of sad to think that Miller is considered too old to be a part of the future of the franchis. He is only 28 after all. Hardly an old man even by NBA standards but the Grizzlies are focusing on 3-5 years out and Miller at 31-33 would be past his prime and he has value now that won't be there later.

Anyway, back to this year. Miller came into camp after a rough stretch with Team USA in the Olympics qualifying tournement. He was basically the worst player on the team. Still Miller came into the season ready to play and put together quite possibly the best overall season of his career. He was one of only two players who shot over 50% from the field (50.2%), 40% from the arc (43.2%) grabbed more than 6 rebounds (6.7) and scored more than 15 ppg (16.4). Danny Granger at Indiana being the other. His decrease in scoring from the previous season can be attributed to the 139 fewer field goal attempts as well as the 3.8 fewer minutes played per game.

It seems on paper that Miller may have been struggling down the stretch as his shooting percentages and minutes both decreased sharply. The minutes can be explained by the team's desire to see how the younger players performed (Navarro and Crittenton) but the shooting percentages and rebounding seems to imply there was more to this than just decreased court time. Mike is a 100% player who frequently throws his body around to make plays. That may be causing back problems which could have far reaching consequences. Miller is a noted gym rat who may not allow his body the proper time to recuperate regardless of the amount of minutes he plays in a game or what he commits to in the off-season.

Heading into next season Mike is still slated to be the starting SG and backing up Rudy Gay but this is a long off-season and a lot can happen between now and then. With the cap space the team enjoys a trade could be made to bring in a more expensive player at the SG position enabling Miller to become the 6th man again backing up both Rudy at the 3 and the SG position. That may be Miller's best role on the team since defensively he is still viewed as a liability. Assuming he is still the starter then Memphis should expect to struggle against the better scoring guards in the league despite Mike's shot making ability.

BallHype: hype it up!

Season in Review: Rudy Gay

Rudy Gay was brought to Memphis in a draft day deal in June of 2006. This trade upset a lot of people since it meant giving up on Shane Battier, one of if not the most popular player ever to don a Grizzlies uniform either in Memphis or Vancouver.

That wasn't the roughest part of his first two seasons in Memphis.

Two coaches fired (and rumor of a 3rd possibly any day), a veteran bought out of his contract and a drop from the playoffs to the worst team in the league followed.

Rudy's rookie year was solid for a 20 yr old. 10.8 ppg, 42% shooting from the field, 4.5 rpg and nearly a block and a steal a game (0.9 each per game). People commented that he was no Shane Battier but he had some promise. After the 2nd season in the Rudy Gay era you don't hear too many complaints that he shouldn't have been traded for Shane.

Rudy exploded in his 2nd season. He averaged over 20 ppg becoming only the 3rd Grizzlies player to achieve this level. His rebounding, assists, steals and blocks were all improved from his rookie season. What was truly amazing was his shooting efficiency that improved dramatically. His FG% improved from 42.2% to 46.2%. His free throw shooting improved from 72.7% to 78.5% and while his 3 pt shooting declined slightly (36.4% to 34.2%) the overall effect was some of the most improved play of the year from any player.

More important than simply the total numbers were the 'clutch' numbers. Rudy's performance during the 4th quarter or overtime, less than 5 minutes left and neither team ahead by more than 5 points (as defined by was all-star like. His per 48 minute production during these pressure filled points of the game equated to 33.7 ppg on 52.8% FG%!

Memphis may have finally found a player who doesn't just score 'plastic' points. And most of those points came without the assistance of a 2nd true threat. Gay's clutch numbers were assisted on a shockingly low 31% of his points. To put that in perspective his numbers to assists compare with the Kobe Bryants (23%) and LeBron Jame (23%) more than it does Carmello Anthony (58%) or Kevin Durant (61%) who's game are far more similar to Rudy's (more on this when I cover Mike Conley and Kyle Lowry by the way).

Rudy has improved dramatically from his rookie season to his sophomore season but still has a way to go to reach 'elite' status much less become a superstar. His ball-handling skills are below average which becomes a larger problem with the low level of assists he receives on his shot. His own assists are also low for a player wanting to be mentioned among the best in the league. Averaging around 2.5 apg puts him over an assist a game behind the average small forward in the league and way behind the leaders at his position. To be considered among the best in the league he needs to learn how to share the ball as much as score it.

Rudy needs to improve his defense and rebounding as well. It can't be expected that he can improve his shooting percentages by the amount he improved this season so for Rudy to move to the next level he will need to do more of the other things that players do in the NBA. Passing, rebounding and defending.

So what can we expect from a 22 yr old Rudy Gay next year? Honestly I believe Rudy can become the all-time single season scoring average leader for the Grizzlies next season. Now granted that isn't saying a lot since he only needs to average 24 ppg to reach that level, but all the same that mark is within his reach in only his 3rd year in the league.

Throw in 8 rebounds and 4 assists per game and he will get some serious notice around the league. Not enough to be named to the all-star team but notice just the same.

BallHype: hype it up!