Who was the most important player for the Grizzlies this year, why?
Andrew Millen: Gasol. Marc basically added a Z axis to the Grizzlies’ two-dimensional offense this year, with his sweet passing and consistent mid range shot. He could have been more aggressive at times, but he won’t have to be if the Grizzlies improve their shooting options in the off season. He was an All-Star, DPOY, and gathered a cult following of our favorite nerd sportswriters. The Grizzlies were at their best this season when 1) Gasol got elbow touches, 2) the offense went through Gasol high screens, and 3) Gasol was protecting the rim. And the best part is, there’s no indication that Marc has hit his ceiling.
Chuck Livingston: The most important player to me was probably Marc Gasol. He went from a good player (All-Star last year) to a great one this year. He missed the All-Start game, but won DPOY and was the NBA’s Second Team Center. When he starts looking for his own shot more, he’ll become a borderline top 12-14 player in my opinion.
Joseph Nicks: Marc Gasol. He’s one of the few players in the league that’s capable of dominating a game without scoring. That whole Defensive Player of the Year thing was pretty cool too.
Timothy Brown: I think I’ll also have to go with Marc here. The team is built around him, and it totally changes when he’s on the bench, regardless of whether or not Z-Bo is also on the floor. His offensive and defensive efficiency numbers are astounding and he’s generally crush-worthy for basically any basketball nerd. I swoon over him every other game, and I say that with a totally straight face. That said, I think the Grizz are one of the most equitable teams in the league regarding role. Almost no one is absolutely necessary for all 48 minutes, and no one is really easily dispensable. It’s a very solid roster that way.
Kevin Yeung: Marc Gasol. He emerged as arguably the league’s top center, and he proved to be a do-it-all talent you rarely see at that position. Low post scoring, a midrange jumper, rebounding, passing, defense—Marc Gasol could do it all. It was largely a team effort for Memphis, but Gasol was literally in the middle of it all.
Who was the biggest disappointment for the Grizzlies this year, why?
AM: Darrell Arthur. It feels like Arthur hasn’t fully recovered from his ACL tear in 2011. At least I hope he’s not healthy, because his numbers are hard to justify otherwise. To hold such an important spot on the Grizzlies’ forward rotation, DA is awfully foul prone, doesn’t supply points, and doesn’t account for much rebounding. I personally think Memphis needs to cut its losses with Arthur — it’s possible to coach him up, but is it worth the effort?
CL: Tayshaun Prince. Look, I think we all expected Tay’s best days were behind him, and moving for the first time in his career couldn’t have been easy either. That said, he never had an impact in the regular season and very rarely in the playoffs. He has two years left on his deal, but I could see the Grizzlies trying to move him if they have any interest to try and give Quincy Pondexter some more minutes. I would endorse this idea, as well.
JN: Tony Wroten. I understand this isn’t fair, whatsoever – as he never really got the opportunity to show us anything. But from an expectations standpoint, I was let down. Even if I think he’ll pay off in the long haul.
TB: I have a difficult time answering this for the same reason as most important player in the sense that it was such an equitably distributed team. I think pretty much everyone was aware of their role, and played to it fairly well, I never felt really disappointed by anyone. Really, the team just wasn’t built to make it to the finals. Maybe Hollins, if that counts, for not giving Ed Davis more time or putting QPon in the starting lineup there at the end (though I do like Hollins, for the most part). Possibly Tayshaun, for not stepping up and punishing the Spurs’ D, though he was never expected to have to do that going in. Maybe Rudy Gay, for not becoming the real superstar we all hoped he might be. Hard to really pick anything specific out though.
KY:Tayshaun Prince. The Rudy Gay trade was more about dumping Gay than getting back assets, but Prince’s production was hugely disappointing. The Grizz needed a catch-and-shoot player, but his shooting percentages were terrible and he was reduced to above average defense and a handful of rebounds.
What player, on the Grizzlies current roster, do you feel has the brightest future?
AM: Tony Wroten. Tony is a ball of energy on offense, a no-hesitation kind of guy. He throws Magic-esque no look passes and can morph into a dunky monster. His recklessness is costly at times, but he’s the kind of guy that Gregg Popovich could turn into a superstar with the right amount of slack. I really, really hope the Grizzlies can capitalize on Wroten’s pure talent. He strikes me as the sort of guy who quietly makes a name for himself as a rookie, then gets picked up and turned lose on his second team.
CL: I think Marc Gasol, Mike Conley Jr. and Quincy Pondexter are all guys that could have huge impacts for the Grizzlies down the road. We touched on Gasol earlier, and Conley had a good playoff run but Pondexter showed against the Spurs and Thunder that he’s capable of being a modern small forward that defends and hits three pointers.
JN: Mike Conley, hands down. After the eruption we all witnessed this postseason I think it would be hard to not go Conley here. Plus, when you consider the fact he’s only 25-years-old and already a five-year veteran there’s only upside here. Honorable mention to Marc Gasol though. For obvious reasons.
TB: Conley, for sure. We all saw him really grow up this year, but it really feels like he has so much more growing to do. QPon is gonna grow well also, I think, but I don’t see him approaching the league superstar horizon that I see for Conley. He might be totally blitzing the league in two years or so.
KY: With all due respect to Mike Conley, a top-10 point guard in the NBA, Marc Gasol is the future of this franchise. His versatility and energy will pave the way for the Grizzlies of the future in the same way it did this season. If Gasol isn’t the league’s top center yet, he’ll continue to challenge for that title for years to come.