By Michael Wallace
Grind City Media
MEMPHIS – Welcome to #GrizzCamp Confidential.
As the Memphis Grizzlies push through a rugged week of training camp heading into Monday’s preseason opener against Orlando at FedExForum, Grind City Media is breaking down where the roster stands around franchise anchors Mike Conley and Marc Gasol.
On Wednesday we examined the challenges and opportunities at the guard spots.
Today, let’s look at bigs.
Who’s in: Gasol, JaMychal Green, Brandan Wright, Deyonta Davis, Jarell Martin, Ivan Rabb and Vince Hunter.
Who’s out: Zach Randolph.
Reason for concern:
Late in the fourth quarter, when Gasol is doubled and Conley is covered by the opposition’s best defender, where will the Grizzlies go for big pressure, relief buckets? ZBo is the only departure from last season’s bigs rotation, but he was a giant when it came to securing a key rebound or knocking down a crucial basket. For eight years, that was his job. Memphis is essentially hiring for that position right now. Although the system will be more up-tempo and predicated on pace and space in coach David Fizdale’s second season, a reliable third option must emerge alongside Gasol and Conley. The options quickly get young and relatively inexperienced, and there appears to be a rebounding void.
Cause for confidence:
With Green officially back after signing a two-year deal this week that ended his prolonged restricted free agency, there’s continuity in the starting frontcourt. Gasol is coming off the most prolific and versatile offensive season of his career and is in midseason form after guiding Spain to a bronze medal in FIBA EuroBasket. And Green looks to build on his own career performance from last season. The opportunity is also there for the uber-athletic, shot-blocking Wright to get the regular minutes that evaded him the past two years because of injuries and a logjam up front. Davis and Rabb are promising, but remain development projects. And Martin is battling to avoid ‘odd man out’ status.
Gasol returned from EuroBasket proclaiming there will be no patience for anything other than a sustained pursuit of high-level results entering his 10th season. With Randolph no longer around to lean on or defer to in crunch time, more leadership and aggressive play will be required from Gasol. He knows it, which is why he prioritized rebounding, gaining speed and returning in the best condition of his career this offseason. Reliable depth is a big question, but barring a trade or roster tweak, several young players have chances to prove they’re ready to take the next step. Look for Fizdale to mix in small lineups up front, with Chandler Parsons, James Ennis or even Rade Zagorac playing ‘stretch-four’ roles.