Memphis Grizzlies: Spreading Scoring Beyond Marc Gasol

Feb 27, 2015; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) and Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph (50) during the game at FedExForum. Los Angeles Clippers beat Memphis Grizzlies 97-79. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 27, 2015; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) and Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph (50) during the game at FedExForum. Los Angeles Clippers beat Memphis Grizzlies 97-79. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports /

After the Memphis Grizzlies‘ first two games, the question wasn’t merely how the Grizzlies would find scoring outside the post, but where it would come from players not named Marc Gasol.

Gasol, who led Memphis in the category for the first time last season with a career-high 17.4 points per game, reminded people as the season opened that he would maintain his leadership, telling The Commercial Appeal’s Ron Tillery, “I will be aggressive. I understand the importance I have on both ends of the floor for this team. That will not change. I want to make the Memphis Grizzlies the best franchise possible, and I’ll do whatever it takes for that to happen.”

The Spaniard kept his word, tying Zach Randolph for the team lead with 12 points in the season opener Wednesday against the Cleveland Cavaliers  and set the pace with 20 while hosting the Indiana Pacers on Thursday.

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In the disappointing opener, Gasol was the only functional player for the Grizzlies on offense, scoring eight points on 4-of-8 shooting while the men in Beale Street blue fell behind 53-32 by halftime.

“Big Spain” led the way in pushing the Pacers aside by dumping eight points in the last four minutes. That was the first step in assuaging concerns he would recede to his old tendency as a pass-first center.

But the question is who else will step up when Gasol needs help.

Zach Randolph doesn’t attack with the same fire in the post that he did in prior years. The sense was building last year when he scored 16.1 points per game and only scored 20 points 21 times. He couldn’t overpower opposing big men quite as well in this past postseason, averaging 15.6 per game.

Randolph had 23 points in the first two games, shooting 36.4 percent from the field.

A creeping suspicion occurred during the drubbing at the hands of the Cavaliers that the Grizzlies could revert to the interior-focused style they ran based on Randolph and Gasol. The Commercial Appeal’s Chris Herrington raised this concern via Twitter.

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Alas, this is only the instinct that kicks in when the Grizzlies’ offense collapses.

Realistically, Randolph will be safely ensconced as the No. 3 scorer. He will have occasional stretches of games in which he tears up foes for 20 points. However, the 34-year-old will mostly defer to Gasol and Conley.

Conley seems like he’s still easing into the season. He was out of rhythm against Cleveland, managing eight points on 2-of-8 from the field. The 28-year-old played deferentially on Thursday against Indiana, his first game playing without a mask since suffering a facial fracture in Game 3 of the first-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers, posting 13 points and 10 assists.

His performance was a reminder of Conley’s statement in a Jonathan Abrams profile for Grantland about him, saying, “It’s almost like you have a clock in your head. I have a clock in my head for Zach. For Marc. For Courtney [Lee]. For anybody on the court.”

Conley’s clock is ticking early this season. Eventually, he’ll feel the urge to take opportunities for himself. Conley took plenty of chances last season, as he scored 15.8 points per game, and the year before, when he registered 17.2 per game.

His scoring slide last year wasn’t about timidity, but injury, which took a toll in the last two months of the season.

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As long as he’s reasonably healthy, he’ll assert himself often.

Jeff Green is aggressive to a fault. He sucks up chances that should belong to others and lets it fly a little too often. Like others, he was off against the Cavaliers, picking up eight points on 3-of-9 shooting. He redeemed himself while being surprisingly accurate, gathering 12 points on 5-of-6 from the field against the Pacers.

Green hit a pair of key threes in the last three-and-a-half minutes that allowed observers controlled enthusiasm about his potential contribution for the season in a Grizzlies uniform.

Considering how inconsistent Green was last year for Memphis, as was at every other stop in his NBA journey, he shouldn’t receive too much trust, particularly in the starting lineup. He seems headed to a platoon situation, alternating with Tony Allen starting at the 3 spot.

When coming off the bench, Green can find his proper place as a scorer since he won’t detract from more important scorers like Conley and Gasol.

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After all, Gasol and Conley will be the most productive and, along with Lee, the most efficient scorers. Hopefully, when Conley finds the time to take the ball for his own scoring interests, he will combine with Gasol for 37 points per game. Conley’s assertion will help the Grizzlies challenge the favorites in the Western Conference.