With the Golden State Warriors (30-19) taking on the Memphis Grizzlies (30-18) tonight (5:00 p.m. PT), we reached out to our Warriors World staff as well as Chip Crain of 3 Shades of Blue, the Memphis Grizzlies ESPN TrueHoop Affiliate blog, to get their takes on the game in a 3-on-3 post.
1. Fact or fiction: the Memphis Grizzlies will finish the season with a better record than the Golden State Warriors.
Chip Crain, 3 Shades of Blue: Tough call right now since neither team is tearing up the league. Memphis made major moves recently so their slide is somehow understandable. Golden State’s schedule is UGLY so their slide is understandable as well. I would have to say Memphis will finish ahead because their schedule doesn’t get ugly until after the All-Star break and by then the team should have worked out their rotations.
Jordan Ramirez, Warriors World: Oh how the tables have turned. If you asked this question before the season most would’ve balked and laughed hysterically at that even being a remote possibility. But here we are, the Grizzlies sitting at 30-18 and the Warriors right behind them at 30-19. Both teams in a reflective state of flux as of late, with Memphis trying to find their identity after the deal that sent their “I get paid like a superstar so I’m a superstar!” asset in Rudy Gay and the Warriors losing embarrassingly in both Houston and Oklahoma City. I give the nod to Memphis, but just barely. They’ve been in this situation before, they know how the playoffs work, they know how the league works and when in doubt, trust your horses. Z-Bo and Gasol is still one of, if not the, best frontcourts in the NBA, and the sneaky great play of Mike Conley also doesn’t hurt. The Warriors finish just behind the Grizzlies in the standings, not because they’re lack of talent, but because of their youth.
Jack Winter, Warriors World: Fiction, but it’s damn close. Both teams have struggled lately, Memphis having lost three of their last four games and Golden State suffering two straight defeats in humiliating fashion. The Warriors are just a game back of the Grizzlies as it stands now, and the latter are in a state of flux; Lionel Hollins and his players haven’t been shy voicing their displeasure with the Rudy Gay trade, and they’ve scored more than at least 92 points since the deal was completed. Golden State, on the other hand, gets Andrew Bogut back full-time after the All-Star break to help cure their recent defensive woes. With the teams standing just a game apart at this point in the season, I’ll side with the one that likely won’t face any locker room distractions or be forced to undergo a major change in strategic philosophy – that’s the Warriors. But don’t sleep on the Grizzlies; they’ll right the ship, it may just take a couple weeks.
2. Who is most deserving of an All-Star spot: Stephen Curry or Marc Gasol?
Chip Crain: Curry is probably more deserving but if Dwight Howard sits out then I expect Gasol to get the nod simply because he is a center. Gasol is one of the best big men in the game and probably should be in the game anyway simply for his defense. Curry is an outstanding shooter but his defense is weak and he isn’t exactly a playmaker at the point.
Jordan Ramirez: The NBA decided to switch it up this season, removing positions from the All-Star ballot and instead using “backcourt” and “frontcourt” as their barometer for votes. I supported the move, but certain players still got screwed. Gasol and Curry both deserved to make this team, as I still don’t believe Tony Parker or LaMarcus Aldridge deserved to make it any more than them. Between the both of them, I’d say Curry deserves it slightly more than the better Gasol brother. Curry has led his team to the record they currently own, is shooting (and making) a ridiculous amount of threes, has improved his passing and has career highs in mostly every statistical category. Gasol is an elite defender and might be the best interior defender in the league, but the All-Star game isn’t one for defensive specialists. Let Curry splash.
Jack Winter: Curry, but that doesn’t mean Gasol wasn’t worthy of a selection. He’s been the engine that’s made Memphis go from the beginning of the season, facilitating the offense from the low key and elbows while taking his defensive genius to an even higher level. Raw numbers don’t show it, but Gasol is the Grizzlies’ MVP – on both ends of the floor, too. But Curry means just as much to Golden State, and has his team positioned just behind Memphis in the standings despite a lesser supporting cast. He’s also one of three players in the league to average at least 19 points and six assists per 36 minutes with a true shooting percentage better than 56%. The other two? LeBron James and Tony Parker. It’s a point guard’s league right now, and this season Curry’s emerged as one of its best.
Both he and Gasol should be All-Stars, though. The latter is certainly more worthy of the honor than teammate Zach Randolph, and they deserved a selection more than LaMarcus Aldridge. By measures objective, subjective, analytical and eye-test – the necessary combination, by the way – Curry and Gasol have been two of the West’s twelve best players this season. Easily. It’s a shame neither was originally chosen.
3. Best Western Conference power forward and center tandem (when healthy)?
Chip Crain: Hard to say because Bogut and Lee have never been healthy. Randolph is definitely past his prime right now but he has been durable and Gasol, while not attractive is the more effective big right now. That has more to do with rust than skill however. IF I had to take two for this year I would pick the Grizzlies but the Warriors duo will be better moving forward assuming good health.
Jordan Ramirez: “Best” meaning what exactly? The tandem that produces the most wins, the tandem that is most fun to watch or some combination of the two? I’ll still roll with the Randolph-Gasol duo, both are All-Stars this season (for better or worse) and we’ve seen what they can do on both ends of the floor at full strength. But, that’s not to say there is a shortage of intriguing frontcourts in the Western Conference: Ibaka-Perkins, Griffin-Jordan, Lee-Bogut and Millsap-Jefferson are all tandems I don’t mind watching on a daily basis. League Pass anyone?
Jack Winter: Randolph and Gasol, only because we’ve yet to see David Lee and Bogut play together while fully healthy even once this season, let alone often enough to properly gauge their effectiveness as a tandem. The Grizzlies’ interior duo is still the league’s best right now, combining size, skill and know-how better than any other in the NBA. But the problem for Memphis is that Randolph is firmly on the downside of his career, and he’s recently begun playing like it. Their reign as kings of the big man hill – despite Gasol’s all-around brilliance – likely won’t last past this season then, opening the door for Lee/Bogut to assume the throne.