By: Christian Dudley (@ChristianDudley)
After starting the season with a league-best 6-1 record, the Memphis Grizzlies are having difficulty capturing victories with Mike Conley playing in a major slump.
In a new era of Memphis Grizzlies basketball, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol mean more to their team than ever before.
This statement is proven to be true when you take a look at Memphis' past three games (versus Portland, Houston, and Milwaukee, respectively). Both Conley and Gasol shot under 50% from the field in each of these contests.
Additionally, Mike Conley's shooting slump has been suffering longer than Marc Gasol's struggles. Big Spain has had some major performances in early 2017-18, but he feeds largely off of the aggression generated at the point guard position via his Grizzly counterpart.
What is the deal with Mac-11?
Mike Conley has been suffering from a sore left Achilles. Not only is it altering the lift on his jumpshot, but it is changing other facets of his game. He is not nearly as aggressive on either end of the floor, which is affecting the looks his teammates receive.
No. 11 is riding the fifth-lowest Player Efficiency Rating of his 11-season NBA career at 16.5. Mike's decline, relative to the lingering injury, is directly tied to his poor shooting percentage -- 38.1% -- which is the only time it has been under 40% in his entire professional career.
Conley's per-game average number of rebounds and assists are also at an all-time low. This supports his lack of aggressiveness on both ends of the floor, which he cannot help since he is fighting through pain while on the hardwood.
Memphis has gone from achieving an NBA-best 6-1 record to holding on tight to keep their heads above .500 at 7-6. It is acceptable to place blame solely on the tandem of Conley and Gasol. After all, the Grizzlies' bench has done more than their fair share of the work -- including a 54 outburst on the road versus the Bucks.
The entire bench unit deserves major props, especially Tyreke Evans. "Reke Havoc" has scored at least 19 points in the Grizzlies' last seven consecutive games. This includes a minimum of 53.3% field goal shooting in the last four outings for Tyreke. Scoring is not all 'Reke can do. He is boasting a 25.3 Player Efficiency Rating through 13 games.
It has been a perfect storm during Mike Conley's struggles. It has enabled Tyreke Evans to provide the spark this squad needs; however, the team finds itself coming up a bit short in recent games. Memphis cannot depend on 50+ point nights from its bench. Conley and Gasol must find their rhythms as soon as possible.
Memphis is sinking in the standings, losing three of the last four and five of the last seven. There is no better time for the Memphis Grizzlies to make a change than right now.
They must rest and treat Mike Conley's left Achilles.
Though Mario Chalmers and Andrew Harrison are not the best replacement options when discussing the removal of Conley, there is always the possibility of having Tyreke Evans run the point show. Evans is already Memphis' best player and playmaker of the new season.
Mike Conley is already listed as "questionable" per the Grizzlies for Wednesday evening's matchup in the Grindhouse versus the Indiana Pacers. If Mike Conley would miss the remaining seven games in the month of November, only one of the opponents have won greater than 65% of their games to date in 2017-18. This would not be a bad stretch for Mac-11 to sit and recoup.
The longer the Grizzlies wait to give the proper rest and treatment to Conley, the greater risk they are taking at worsening his condition. In the wild Western Conference, each game holds weight. Memphis cannot afford to risk their season by running Conley into the ground by the time the postseason arrives. Mike is notorious for playing through the aches and pains of the grueling NBA season.
It is worth acting now. But will they?
The Memphis Grizzlies hit the court next on Wednesday when they receive a visit from the Indiana Pacers. Memphis is 0-3 versus Eastern Conference opponents after losing to the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday evening.