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VOL. 132 | NO. 207 | Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Roster Moves Show Grizzlies Know They Can’t Put Tomorrow Ahead of Today

By Don Wade

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From the time training camp opened this year, forward Jarell Martin was considered likely to be left on the outside looking in when the Grizzlies made their final roster cuts. Martin was a first-round selection in the 2015 NBA Draft, but speculation was he would be competing with young Deyonta Davis, a second-round pick in 2016, for the last roster slot on the front line. And because Davis was just 20 and considered raw but with much potential, Martin would lose out.

Memphis Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale reacts to a referee call in the second half of a preseason game against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, Oct. 13, at FedExForum in Memphis. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

On Monday, Oct. 16, the Grizzlies had to waive two players by 4 p.m. to meet the NBA’s roster guidelines. Martin was not one of them. And neither was Davis.

“All the guys try to play their hearts out,” Martin said after scoring 20 points in the team’s last preseason game. “I just do what I love – go out there, play ball and have fun.”

Not so fortunate: forward Rade Zagorac and guard Wade Baldwin, who had been a first-round selection in 2016 and taken 17th overall. Baldwin, a lot of observers believed, would make the team over Andrew Harrison because he was a first-round pick and was perceived to ultimately have more upside than Harrison. The Grizzlies waived Baldwin and Zagorac to get down to the 15 full-time spots, plus two two-way players (the Grizzlies and the G League Memphis Hustle).

The Grizzlies, to their credit, went with what makes the most sense now as the team tries to remain competitive and chase an eighth straight playoff spot. Veteran Mario Chalmers will do the heavy lifting behind Mike Conley at point guard, but should either of them be injured – and Chalmers lost a season to an Achilles tear – then Harrison is next up. And better-suited to fill a team role than Baldwin, who never seemed to grasp he needed to be a cog in the wheel and struggled to play the role of facilitator.

Which doesn’t mean letting Baldwin go was easy. Coach David Fizdale said after the last preseason game that picking the third point guard would be a “gut-wrenching decision … the hardest in my young career as a head coach by far.”

Because the Grizzlies are eating money with Baldwin and Zagorac – the latter signed a contract this summer with two years of guaranteed money that totals around $2.5 million overall – this clearly was an organizational decision. And one that echoes the Grizzlies’ ongoing concerns about Chandler Parsons.

Fizdale already announced that Parsons, who was signed to a four-year $94 million deal before last season (he played just 34 games and his season ended with a third knee surgery), would begin this year on the second unit. Parsons showed he was more mobile than last season, but his performance in preseason games could generously be described as ordinary.

The roster cuts suggest the Grizzlies realized they couldn’t sacrifice what was obvious today – Martin and Harrison earned spots – on the hope of what might be several tomorrows down the road.

NUMBERS TELL A STORY

John Schuhmann of nba.com dropped some, well, pretty grisly stats on the Grizzlies.

Among them:

• Opponents attempted 34.1 free throws per 100 possessions last season. That wasn’t just the highest rate in the NBA for 2016-2017, it was the highest free-throw rate of the last five years.

• And yet the Grizzlies had a top-10 defense for the sixth time in the last seven years; but yes, they fouled too much.

• They’ve also scored fewer points per 100 possessions than the league average in nine of the last 10 years (Parsons was supposed to change this, you might recall).

• The Grizzlies also were the only team that has ranked in the bottom five in pace each of the last five seasons (Fizdale is aiming to fix that).

• Memphis had an effective field-goal percentage of 34.6 percent last season, worst in the NBA, according to SportVU; more amazing, the Grizzlies also had the second-highest rate of uncontested jumpers. So, shooting was a problem and, again, Parsons was supposed to be a hedge against that.

OVER/UNDER FOR WINS

The Golden State Warriors’ over/under for wins is 67.5, according to a list complied at espn.com. Every team in the NBA was ranked. The Chicago Bulls had the lowest mark at 22.0.

In the Western Conference’s Southwest Division, Houston led at 55.5, San Antonio was at 54.5, New Orleans 39.5, the Grizzlies 37.5 and Dallas 34.5.

AND FOR ANOTHER SOBERING PREDICTION …

The Charlotte Observer’s Rick Bonnell projects the Grizzlies to finish 13th in the Western Conference – just behind their satellite office in Sacramento and just ahead of Phoenix and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Wrote Bonnell: “A team with Marc Gasol and Mike Conley can be dangerous game-to-game. But the Grizzlies lack the depth that helped make them a playoff fixture.”

The effort to prove Bonnell and others wrong starts Wednesday, Oct. 18, in a 7 p.m. game vs. New Orleans and old friend Tony Allen. And the Warriors come calling at 7 p.m. this Saturday, their only scheduled appearance in Memphis this season.

Let the fun begin.

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