The Memphis Grizzlies’ SB Nation site, Grizzly Bear Blues, asks opposing team sites five questions before said two teams clash on the court. Brandon Conner reached out to us, so we decided to return the favor. Read what he had to say about the Bucks, the state of the Grizzlies as a franchise, and BBQ below. Be sure to read what we had to say in response to his questions.
Which current Buck is the grittiest and grindiest?
I guess a lot of that depends on how you’d define “grittiest” or “grindiest.” I don’t think Giannis Antetokounmpo qualifies, mostly because he’s such a recognizable player who, in my opinion, is going to be the face of the league for a long time to come, while the Grit ‘n’ Grind Era was defined by non-stars, guys like Mike Conley and Tony Allen.
Based on a quick perusal of Basketball Reference, I’d give the title of Grittiest and Grindiest Buck to John Henson. Henson has the best defensive box plus minus of the team while also being a net negative in offensive box plus minus. This is what we’ll call a “Tony Allen Special.”
It seemed like every one of Memphis' Western Conference peers got better in the off-season, how do the Grizzlies still make the postseason?
I think to make the playoffs, the Grizzlies have to just keep doing what they’ve been doing. Last year, the Grizzlies won 43 games while giving playing time to some of the worst shooters in the NBA. They’ve gotten better this year simply by replacing those minutes with more capable players: Parsons is no longer broken, even if he’ll never live up to his max contract; Tyreke Evans has provided more capable ball handling and scoring on the second unit; Dillon Brooks has played well as a rookie.
As much as some fans would refuse to admit, I also think there was a little addition by subtraction this offseason. Zach Randolph led last year’s bench unit by scoring as much as he could, but he was wildly inefficient and a sieve on defense. Tony Allen’s defensive prowess was not at its peak, and and the Grizzlies were paying for his gambling. Those players will be missed for what they meant to the franchise, but I think the Grizzlies made the right move by letting them leave and giving their minutes to young players and players with less glaring deficiencies.
Speaking of postseason, Memphis has made the playoffs for seven straight seasons, but only advanced as far as the conference finals once. Has this era in Grizzlies basketball reached its ceiling? When is it time to blow it all up with an eye towards making more postseason runs in the future when the Western Conference arms race dies down?
Going into this season, I think there were a lot of people that were ready to blow it up. At the very least, if things this season started going south before the trade deadline, I’m convinced the front office would’ve at least listened to offers for Mike Conley and Marc Gasol.* That’s still a possibility, but as well as they've played so far, while still missing one or two starters for most of the season, I think that’s a lot less likely of happening this year.
As long as Mike and Marc are both healthy and this team still has a chance to compete to make the postseason, I think the Grizzlies will continue to ride this out, even while their shot at a title looks to be closed. As Bucks fans likely know, small market teams have to be mindful of how attendance and revenue suffers during a major rebuild. If they can, I think they’d rather try to rebuild on the fly.
As for reaching their “peak,” I’d have to say so. The Grizzlies can make the playoffs, and possibly upset someone once there, but that’s probably as far as they can hope to carry themselves. There’s no shame in that. It’s simply a product of how things have shaken up in the era of the Golden State Warriors and the new Western Conference.
* How does this look?
We have Brew Hoop staff in North Carolina and Texas, convince them (and all of us) that Memphis BBQ is the best?
To be honest, you’ve picked the wrong person to try and convince you. I’ve always preferred Memphis’ style of BBQ—give me a dry rub over sauce any day—but I think there’s enough love to go around. I currently live in Houston, and I’ve had some of the best barbecue I’ve ever eaten around here. Killen’s is amazing. There’s also a couple of places in Lockhart, TX that are worth checking out.
If you ever do go to Memphis, though, there’s plenty to love. Central BBQ is excellent. Also worth checking out are the Commissary in Germantown and Rendezvous. (Note: Rendezvous is considered the “touristy” place by plenty of people, but I still love their dry rub so, so much.)
I’ve never visited North Carolina, so I can’t speak to how great any of their food is, but if anyone at Brew Hoop has recommendations for the next time I get a chance to visit, I’m definitely open to them!
How do you see this game going down?
I’d expect a pretty slow slugfest in this one. Both the Grizzlies and Bucks rank in the bottom six in pace, so this one will probably feature quite a bit of half-court offense. And while the Grizzlies have still managed a near elite defense, it’ll be interesting to see how they defend Giannis.
Overall, I think the Grizzlies will struggle with the length of the Bucks, and I worry about how they’ll keep up scoring-wise if the Bucks start putting up points. I watched a bit of the Bucks’ win over the Spurs, and I worry that the same fate will befall the Grizzlies. With Memphis still missing JaMychal Green in the starting lineup and still working to integrate Ben McLemore, I think the Bucks likely win this one something like 105-99.
So there you have it folks. The Bucks will win and now we have recommendations for BBQ spots in Memphis and Houston. Thanks again to Brandon for playing along and taking time to chat. Hopefully his prognostication comes true!