Every Monday, Brett Koremenos offers a survey of developing stories around the NBA
Grizzlies bench gives team more bite
Many have long thought that Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay would need to step up for Memphis to be serious contenders. However their 5-1 start hasn’t had much to do with either of those two (Randolph, in fact, has been largely mediocre) but is largely a result of the steady play from the team’s bench.
Free agent acquisition Jerryd Bayless in particular looks like a major improvement from the Jeremy Pargo/Gilbert Arenas/OJ Mayo eyesore that made up the backup point guard rotation last season. If Bayless continues his steady play, it will provide head coach Lionel Hollins additional lineup flexibility as well the comfort to know his team is in capable hands should Conley miss time due to injury.
But Bayless has been far from the only one to shine. Wayne Ellington snapped out of what has been somewhat of an extended shooting slump by going 7 of 11 from 3-point territory en route to a blowout win over Miami last night. With fellow wing reserve Quincy Pondexter looking increasingly comfortable from behind the arc, Memphis may have finally found some badly needed outside shooting.
Add in the steady production of versatile frontcourt reserve Mareese Speights (highlighted by his 18 points against Milwaukee on Wednesday) and the Grizzlies have the makings of a nine-man rotation capable of hanging with any team in the league.
Can Lance Stephenson provide boost in Indy?
The word “struggle” might not be strong enough to convey life for the Pacers without injured star Danny Granger. Roy Hibbert has been miserable and Paul George looks burdened with the additional responsibility he faces in Granger’s absence. The end result has been a team that’s been nearly unwatchable on the offensive end of the floor.
In an ugly win over the hapless Wizards, Frank Vogel inserted the 22-year old Stephenson into his starting lineup hoping to invigorate a lifeless offense. The third-year guard responded by going 5 of 7 from the field (including 2 of 2 behind the arc) for 12 points in 31 minutes.
Up until this year, Stephenson’s time in the league has been defined more by his off-the-court antics rather than his play on it. There is no denying however that the youngster born in Brooklyn possesses the attacking skills the team sorely needs in its starting unit. If Stephenson can reign in his playground-inspired game he could give the Pacers jumper-happy starting five a new dimension they could sorely use in Granger’s absence.
Sanders coming into his own
The potential in Sanders is not hard to miss as the long, mobile, moderately skilled shot-blocker is, in many ways, the perfect type of player for today’s NBA defenses. But prior to this season Sanders was equally as capable of forgetting a play or committing a dumb foul as he was of positively affecting a game. Though his foul problems still persist, Sanders has begun to produce to a point where it’s nearly impossible to leave him on the bench despite the very real possibility his unbridled passion always leaves open the possibility of another epic meltdown.
With Luc Richard Mbah Moute dealing with knee problems and Ersan Ilyasova mired in a horrendous shooting slump to start the year, Sanders energetic ways have provided a major boost to a Bucks squad in need of frontcourt production. The best part is that at just 23, he still has plenty of room to grow. As long as Sanders keeps his emotions in check, the youngster will likely play a bigger and bigger role in the Bucks playoff push.