2012-13 W-L: 56-26
New Faces: Dave Joerger (Head Coach), Josh Akognon, Nick Calathes, Kosta Koufos, Mike Miller
New Places: Lionel Hollins (Head Coach, not retained), Darrell Arthur (Denver), Austin Daye (Toronto), Donte Greene (Boston), Tony Wroten (Philadelphia)
Drafted: Jamaal Franklin (41), Janis Timma (60)
Despite winning a franchise record 56 games and making a trip to the Western Conference Finals, the Grizzlies decided to part ways former head coach Lionel Hollins in July. It wasn’t necessarily a surprising move after Hollins spent much of the second half of the season publicly butting heads with the management team new owner Robert Pera put in place. Jason Levien and John Hollinger are two of the more analytically-inclined front office types in the NBA, while Hollins is decidedly on the other end of the spectrum. He aired grievances about the Rudy Gay trade, derided the use of analytics, and said Dave Joerger “wasn’t a defensive coach until I made him a defensive coach.” So, yeah, not all that shocking that Hollins wasn’t brought back, despite the success he had this past season.
The Grizz went ahead and hired Joerger in his place. Joerger has acted as Memphis’s defensive coordinator for the last few seasons, so it’s likely the grit n’ grind show is here to stay. Memphis fans have to be happy about that, and so should we. Tony Allen, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley are the foundation of one of the league’s best scoring suppressors, but Tayshaun Prince, Quincy Pondexter and others are valuable contributors to the unit as well.
What Memphis has to hope Joerger will bring is an infusion of creativity to the other end of the court. Joerger has already spoken openly about hoping his team gets into sets quicker this season than in years past, and that’s certainly a good idea. Memphis would often not get the ball over the half court line until there were 16-18 seconds left on the shot clock, and maybe wouldn’t initiate an offensive set until about 10-12 seconds remained. That’s just not enough time to run through multiple actions, and it’s a major reason the offense often stalled if the play wasn’t run picture-perfectly. Getting into things quicker will put more pressure on the defense – guarding for 18-20 seconds is far more difficult than guarding for 10-12. That extra time can mean the difference between being able to throw a pump fake at a closing-out defender, taking a dribble to draw the defense, then dishing off to a cutter for a layup, or having to put up a heavily contested jumper.
In that same vein, having Mike Miller come off the bench to stretch defenses wire thin with his sniping from outside the arc will help Memphis in the area it most needs assistance. The Grizzlies’ three point attack has been basically non-existent for the duration of the grit n’ grind era, but with Miller, Jerryd Bayless, Conley and Pondexter, they’ve now got four capable outside shooters in the arsenal. Joerger can mix and match with Bayless, Pondexter, Prince, a re-signed Tony Allen and the recently drafted Jamaal Franklin on the wing, playing around until he finds the right combination of tough defense and acceptable outside shooting. The Spurs treated Allen and Prince as if they didn’t even exist last year in the playoffs – teams can’t do that with Pondexter or Miller. They have to be guarded, which opens up the court for Gasol and Randolph and Conley that much more.
In their seemingly unending search for a backup point guard, the Grizz happened upon former University of Florida guard Nick Calathes, who has been plying his trade in Europe for the last few seasons. Calathes is another guard who can’t really shoot, but he’s a hell of a passer with a knack for controlling the pace of the game. If he’s finally the answer to spell Conley, Memphis’s bench units could see an uptick in production that would help one of the best starting lineups in the league stay fresh.
Swapping Darrell Arthur for Kosta Koufos means another downgrade in the spacing department, but Koufos is a pretty perfect fit to back up Gasol in the middle. He’s a long, strong defender who is nearly always in the right position, and he’ll be able to anchor what should be a very strong bench by patrolling the lane and the area directly in front of the rim.
The summer started a bit tumultuously with Hollins’s exit, but it’s tough to say the Grizzlies didn’t get better by the time it was over. Retaining Allen allowed them to keep their entire core in place, and the additions of Miller, Calathes and Franklin made the roster deeper and more versatile, which should once again allow Memphis to be one of the strongest teams in the Western Conference next season.