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Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Illustration for article titled Mean Things John Hollinger Wrote About The Memphis Grizzlies Less Than Three Months Before They Hired Him

One of the many joys of reading John Hollinger, now departed from his job as ESPN's basketball analytics guru for a front-office position with the Memphis Grizzlies, was that he used his remarkably sharp read on the contributions of NBA players to point out, without reservation, when an NBA player wasn't contributing. His analysis clued him in to the glaring flaws in a player's game that the layman—or even the ostensible expert—didn't see, and when he had the opportunity (as he did in his player profiles series from just before the season started), he dissected those flaws with an underrated wit.


We can't think of a better memorial for Hollinger than pointing out all the (Insider-only) catty (and true!) shit he said about his new team . Let it be a lesson: If you want to work in a field that requires analysis, it's more important to be right than to be nice.

[Note: All of these notes were tempered by praise, which was edited out—if you want to see unadulterated negativity from Hollinger, no editing required, check out the (Insider-only) profiles of the Wizards).


Mike Conley:

[H]e still is more of a caretaker point guard in some ways. He has an extremely low usage rate for a key starter and often just spots up on the weak side while the Grizzlies' post weapons go to work.

Rudy Gay:

Gay has All-Star talent, but his jump shot let him down last season and he hasn't picked up his game in other areas. For starters, there's the jumper. Gay's stroke looks wonderful, but it doesn't go in as often as you think. Last season he made only 33.8 percent of his long 2s, and his 31.2 percent mark on 3s dropped his career mark to just 34.7 percent [...] Gay is guilty of dribble blindness, and while he's improved from a few years ago, he still ranked among the bottom 10 small forwards in pure point rating. Defensively, he's had a hard time converting elite athleticism into decent results.


Zach Randolph:

The Grizzlies would like to treat his [2011-2012] campaign as an outlier, but at 31 the fear lingers that he's entering his decline phase. If so, the three years and $50 million left on his contract will be rather unpleasant to swallow.

As for 2011-12, Randolph had superficially solid defensive stats that belied his clear struggles at that end, especially in the playoffs. He also had difficulty regaining his touch and timing, shooting just 29.2 percent from beyond 15 feet and shattering a career low with a 65.9 percent mark at the free throw line.


Marc Gasol:

Gasol basically doesn't try for offensive rebounds.

Jerryd Bayless:

[M]ost of the difference [in his solid 2011-2012] was a flukish uptick in 3-point shooting to 42.3 percent — he's a career 35.0 percent shooter and you can expect a return to Earth this season.


Marreese Speights:

His on-court versus off-court comparisons were still awful, and opposing bigs put up solid numbers at his expense, plus he had an extremely low rate of steals and a high rate of fouls. On a positive note, he seemed to be in better shape and a bit tougher, and he's become marginally less pathetic at drawing charges.


Wayne Ellington:

Ellington finally figured out that he can't create shots on his own and has to be a low-usage sniper to survive in this league, but his shot betrayed him last season. He made only 32.4 percent of his 3s, not nearly good enough for a player of this ilk, and stepped inside the line for long 2s far too often for his own good [...] Basically, bad math is killing his career.

Otherwise, it was the usual ugliness on offense. Ellington averaged 10.7 points per 40 minutes, had one of the lowest free throw rates at his position and his 9.32 PER marked his third straight single-digit performance [...] at this point, his career is on thin ice.


Hamed Haddadi:

Defensively, however, he can only impact the game in a short zone around the basket area, which means he can't be asked to defend mobile bigs, or 3-point shooters, or pick-and-rolls, or teams that run, or ... well, you get the point. Stick him in there for five minutes to play the middle in a zone, or guard somebody like Joel Anthony, and he'll be fine. Beyond that, his limitations become glaringly apparent. And after five minutes, he'll be wheezing.


Josh Selby:

If you're a slasher and you shoot 40.4 percent on 2s with a low foul rate, well, that's a problem. If you're a point guard and you have as many turnovers as assists, that's a big issue, too. And if you have both of those things happening at once, well, you're in the wrong league.

Selby was in the wrong league last season. He's quick and athletic and he might eventually become a useful player — he had a fantastic summer league — but as a rookie he couldn't hurt opponents from outside and made terrible decisions in the paint. For an allegedly athletic guard, he also had a very poor rebound rate.


Of the whole team:

[O]n the contender vs. pretender question, the money seems safer on the pretender side unless Randolph re-emerges and another player — Gay, perhaps — can take an extra step forward at the offensive end.


So, yeah. Even though he had nothing particularly bad to say about Tony Allen, Darrell Arthur or Tony Wroten (give it time), he basically got this job by negging the Grizzlies. Hopefully there aren't too many dark alleys around the FedEx forum.

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