The Grizzlies didn’t overly rely on any single player last season. Marc Gasol played 35.0 minutes per game (32nd in the NBA), Mike Conley 34.5 (40th) and Zach Randolph 34.3 (45th).
But collectively, Memphis was extremely reliant on its starters
Just three other teams – the Warriors, 76ers and Trail Blazers, who had four – had as many players average so many minutes per game. After Feb. 1, when they replaced Rudy Gay with Tayshaun Prince, the Grizzlies played their starting lineup on the court together more than any team but the Thunder.
New Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger plans to change that. Via Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal:
“I like our roster. I’m hoping we’ve created depth,” Joerger said. “I’m hoping Jerryd Bayless, Quincy Pondexter, Ed Davis and Kosta Koufos keep growing. If they do that and have a good year this year, then we have some really nice depth.
“We need those guys to make shots. They’ve got to play. And I’m looking forward to having that. I know what Mike Miller is going to give us from the perimeter. Hopefully, those other guys have a big year. I want the bench to be successful. It’s a long season and the West is a gauntlet.”
This is framed is a minute-allocation issue for the coach, but it’s really a player-development issue.
Memphis has a young bench, and at this point, it’s unclear just how large of roles Bayless, Pondexter, Davis and Koufos can handle – at least in Joerger’s eyes.
It’s easy for a coach to say he wants to play youngsters more. But when faced with a decision between the sometimes-erratic Pondexter and the always-dependable Prince, few coaches – Gregg Popovich being the notable exception – have the stomach to play Pondexter more. With their jobs seemingly always on the line, many coaches are risk averse.
So, if Joerger works with Memphis’ young players, helps improve their skills and sand the rough edges of their games, this problem will take care of itself. Otherwise, it will be a real test of Joerger’s fortitude.