By: Christian Dudley (@ChristianDudley)
With Ben McLemore out of the lineup for a lengthy period of time, the Memphis Grizzlies will have lots of shooting guard options to analyze in training camp.
On Tuesday, the Memphis Grizzlies announced newcomer Ben McLemore has suffered a fracture in his right foot. It is assumed he will miss approximately 12 weeks, barring any setbacks.
McLemore signed with the Grizzlies this summer with his sights set on the starting shooting guard position. This is a change of scenery --a rejuvenation of the potential -- for the former Kansas Jayhawk. Perhaps Memphis, unlike the Sacramento Kings, can unlock his potential. However, it will have to wait until he is healed.
Though Memphis had also signed Tyreke Evans after the McLemore deal was reached, the idea has remained to have Ben starting at the two-spot. Then along came the return of Mario Chalmers. The list grows when you take a look at the Grizzlies' depth chart.
Shooting guard: Ben McLemore, Wayne Selden, Troy Daniels
Combo/Utility options for shooting guard: Tyreke Evans, Andrew Harrison, James Ennis III, Mario Chalmers, Dillon Brooks, Rade Zagorac
Unsigned free-agent(s) at shooting guard: Tony Allen
With McLemore targeting an early-November return to the hardwood, the Memphis Grizzlies can survive without their full lineup. Assuredly, the Grizz are no newbies to the injury plague, plus their roster is plentiful with versatile two-guards.
Wayne Selden undoubtedly put on a show in the Vegas Summer League -- seeming lightyears ahead in the developmental process compared to his peers. However, is he ready to be a full-time starter? Training camp and preseason will be major indicators of his starting ability -- make or break, if you will.
The Grizz signed former Memphis Tiger Tyreke Evans to a steal of a deal this summer, and he can play a plethora of roles. He can play three positions and interchangeable as a starter or a reserve. He really is a solid comparison -- minus the antics -- to former Grizzly and current Indiana Pacer Lance Stephenson. Evans may be ball-dominant, but that could work perfectly with Mike Conley in the starting lineup as Mac-11 plays tremendously off the ball. On offense, this essentially allows Tyreke to operate as the point guard and Conley to become the two. On defense, 'Reke can handle the stronger, bulkier opponents.
Additionally, though Andrew Harrison has been Conley's primary backup, he can easily adjust to the shooting guard slot. Harrison did make steady progress throughout the 2016-17 season; however, he was oftentimes slow to stay in front of the opponents' point guards. His shortcomings as a youngster can be hidden when surrounded by the proper group, which the starting lineup would provide. The best five-man lineup featuring the combination of Mike Conley with Andrew Harrison appeared together for less than 40 total minutes this past season. Yes, this is few minutes together, but with an average output of -16.4 points per game, it is dreadful thinking of this lineup. It is probably best to leave Andrew in a one-position role.
The Grizzlies also have their secret weapon -- Troy Daniels -- in their back pocket to bring off the bench for instant three-point success. Also, James Ennis III will primarily be used as a small forward, but he is quick enough to produce at the two. Ennis' length is a nice asset to have if he is assigned to cover shooting guards when on defense. It is unrealistic to pencil rookies Dillon Brooks and Rade Zagorac into any meaningful regular season NBA minutes at this point, but nonetheless, they provide additional insurance on the wing for these times of freak injuries.
Interestingly enough, assuming Mario Chalmers can return to pre-injury form, the Memphis Grizzlies' best bet may be to utilize Rio at the two-spot. In the 2015-16 season, the squad's second-best/second-most productive five-man lineup included a backcourt duo of Chalmers and Courtney Lee. This bunch, which was also comprised of Zach Randolph, JaMychal Green, and Matt Barnes, was a +35.4-point average, but in a span of 31 total minutes. Yes, Rio was the point guard in this scenario; however, he is accustomed to the starting role, which he earned early on in his championship NBA career with the Miami Heat. Though the duo of Mike Conley and Mario Chalmers was seldom used (less than 30.0 minutes total), it would be worth trying, just to sneak Rio into the starter's role.
It all comes down to "who can be offensively consistent?"
"Who can secure stops?"
"Who can win games for Coach Fizdale?"
This will determine who will receive the minutes at shooting guard during preseason action and the start of the 2017-18 regular season.
Even when McLemore returns, the starting spot will not be handed to him. He will be returning to a brand new style of play and will need to build chemistry. This injury sets him back further as he will not gain much familiarity with the team until he returns to form.
However, the Grizzlies are prepared with plenty of options. This bodes well for them -- with or without Tony Allen. It is another step into the new era -- a youthful one at that.