Sunday, March 9, 2008

Tanking Casualties and Solutions - Part 2: Memphis Grizzlies & Seattle Supersonics

In part 1 of our Tanking Casualties and Solutions series, we took a look at the Miami Heat and Minnesota Timberwolves - the teams with the best odds of landing the #1 pick in June's draft. The second part of this 4 part series focuses on the Memphis Grizzlies and Seattle Supersonics who currently hold the third and fourth best odds of winning the draft lottery. 

When reviewing each team, we will focus on four key things:
  • Tanking status/potential - How bad do these teams want Michael Beasley?

  • The Departed - Who can we cross off the list.

  • Shut Down Candidates - Remember, this is for the good of the franchise... now put on your suit and act hurt.

  • Tanking Beneficiaries - Bench players that look to gain significant playing time down the stretch - in the spirit of Mardy Collins and Tarence Kinsey.
# 3 Memphis Grizzlies - Current Lottery Odds: 15.6%

Tanking Status - Tanking hard since Pau Gasolgate.

Memphis GM Chris Wallace is no stranger to tanking season during his lackluster career in the NBA. As soon as Pau Gasol was dealt for two late first round draft picks and cap space, the tanking switched into full effect. 

The Departed


Shutdown Candidates (Chances of being shutdown in parentheses)

Mike Miller (85%) - Many thought Miller was the next to go after Gasol was dealt to LA. However, GM Chris Wallace got a little gun shy at the deadline after taking a lot of heat for the Gasol trade from GMs and coaches around the league. Miller has been dealing with back issues for a while now and Wednesday's game against the Nets was his first in over 2 weeks after missing the prior seven with a sore back. While Memphis would like to showcase Miller a bit since they will likely attempt to move him in the offseason his back will eventually take its toll and land him in a suit on the bench.

Mike Conley Jr. (60%) - Conley, the 2007 #4 overall pick, is the Grizzlies' point guard of the future and has been struggling of late. Over his last 4 games, he has failed to reach double digit points, is shooting around 25% from the field and has accumulated only 6 assists. Conley has been oft-injured in his rookie season and does not seem 100% healthy at times. Memphis could continue to play Conley and allow him to gain some good experience; however, there is also a good case for continuing to give Kyle Lowry big minutes to increase his trade value. I am betting Memphis will do the latter.

Rudy Gay (25%) - Gay is enjoying a fine sophomore campaign and has become the unanimous fan favorite in Memphis. Barring injury or Memphis getting really desperate for losses, Gay should stay on the floor to put some butts in the seats the final month.

Tanking Beneficiaries

Hakim Warrick - Hak has been averaging over 30 minutes a night since the Gasol trade and has responded by putting up a solid 16 points and 8 rebounds a game. Warrick is a potential trade candidate this offseason as the Grizz continue their roster overhaul and he will be showcased heavily over the last month.

Kyle Lowry - Lowry has seen his playing time increase of late and should Mike Conley get shutdown he would be the Grizzlies starting point guard for the rest of the season. Lowry is a scrappy point guard who can help in points, rebounds, assists and steals.

Juan Carlos Navarro - The Spanish sharpshooter should be in line for more playing time if Mike Miller becomes a tanking casualty. Navarro is an adept long range shooter and can help in points and three pointers. 

Javaris Crittenton - Acquired from the Lakers in the Gasol deal, Crittenton's minutes thus far in Memphis have been inconsistent. However, when he has seen 25+ minutes Crittenton has shown the ability to score and could be a decent stopgap option late in the season.

#4 Seattle Supersonics - Current Lottery Odds: 11.9%

Tanking Status - Tanking began when Ray Allen was traded and kicked into over drive at the trade deadline.

Since drafting Kevin Durant with the #2 pick in last year's draft, the Sonics have been in full fledged rebuilding mode. GM Sam Presti has shed numerous expensive contracts and deserves credit for clearing ample cap space while obtaining multiple future first round picks in the process. 

The Departed

Robert Swift - Knee Surgery, out for the season.

Shutdown Candidates

Chris Wilcox (50%) - The Sonics rid themselves of their top shutdown candidates - Kurt Thomas and Wally Szczerbiak - at the trade deadline and this team is clearly bad enough to lose as is. Outside of Durant, Wilcox has arguably been Seattle's most productive player this season averaging around 14 points and 8 rebounds a game while shooting 53% from the field. Sidelining him late in the season could help provide a tanking boost if necessary.

Kevin Durant (25%) - Durant is the centerpiece that the Sonics will be the building around for year's to come. If healthy, I think Durant plays out the season. However, should he get hurt, the team likely won't take any chances by playing the franchise forward in a bunch of meaningless games late in the season.

Tanking Beneficiaries

Jeff Green - The rookie #5 pick out of Georgetown has seen a bump in his playing time over the last 10 games and has put up some respectable numbers over that stretch. Green has had a quiet rookie campaign to date but if he gets 30+ minutes a night down the stretch, he can help fantasy teams in points, rebounds and steals.

Nick Collison - Collison is is a strong rebounder and scrappy player down low, averaging nearly 10 points and 9 rebounds a game in 27 minutes. Collison is a solid fantasy option now; however, if Wilcox were to get shutdown, he would start at PF and be a legitimate double-double threat on a nightly basis. 

Earl Watson - In a Seattle backcourt loaded with mediocre guards, it appears Earl Watson will start at point guard for the remainder of the season. Watson is a solid source of assists averaging nearly 7 a game on the season and can put up decent point totals here and there.  

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