Around The NBA: Memphis vs. Cleveland (11/21)

Around The NBA: Memphis vs. Cleveland (11/21)
Nov 22, 2006, 09:46 am
Matthew Kamalsky

Cleveland Cavaliers

Shannon Brown hasn’t received a lot of minutes during the early stages of this season, but he has shown flashes of what’s to come. Each time Brown has been on the floor this season he has been aggressive on both the offensive and defensive end. This aggression has been met with mixed results.

Defensively, Brown is constantly active, and doesn’t make very many mistakes. He plays aggressive on ball defense, using his strength and quickness effectively to deny dribble penetration. Brown also worked hard on the defensive glass tonight, collecting two rebounds in traffic. By working hard on the defensive end, Brown has shown that he is very much ready to contribute on that side of the floor.

On the offensive end, Brown’s aggression sometimes plays against him. On one particular occasion, Brown pushed the ball the length of the floor, but got called for a charge as he exploded to the rim. This hasn’t been an uncommon scenario for Brown, but it is one that he will become more apt at dealing with as time goes on. Brown has a knack for finishing in transition, but his decision making when pushing the ball has been average.

Brown’s playing time will be dependant on how quickly he improves his jump shot and his decision making in transition. When Cleveland runs their half court offense Brown looks good. He moves the ball well and doesn’t make many bad passes. With very few minutes available, Brown will have a chance to develop his game in situations where he won’t be burdened with a lot of pressure. As he continues to tailor his game to his aggressive mentality, he should emerge as a very good option off the bench for head coach Mike Brown.

Daniel Gibson did not play tonight, and this appears to be the norm for him in the early going.

Memphis Grizzlies

With injuries plaguing two of their best veterans, the Grizzlies have had to give their young players significant minutes. Rudy Gay and Hakim Warrick both started tonight, Kyle Lowry saw some time off the bench, and Lawrence Roberts and Dahntay Jones were two of the key players in Memphis’s fourth quarter comeback attempt. Given Memphis’s injury situation, all of these young players clearly aren’t playing their normal roles, so it is hard to give a completely accurate assessment of how their minutes will change as the season progresses.

Rudy Gay had an off game tonight, finishing with no points in roughly eighteen minutes of action. However, it is clear that Gay has the potential to be an impact player. Although his jumper was not falling, he showed that he can get it off over just about anyone. It seems like Gay isn’t even being guarded at times since he creates so much space with his dribble and elevates so high when he shoots. As his mid range accuracy improves he should become a very efficient scorer. Given his excellent athleticism, he would have a much easier time getting to the rim if he made people respect his range.

On the defensive end, Gay didn’t have the opportunity to show very much. He started the game guarding LeBron James, who went out his way to distribute the ball to his teammates. Gay grabbed a few boards, but that was about all he could muster tonight.

Clearly this game doesn’t reflect the norm for Gay, as he has had a very productive rookie campaign thus far. With averages of nearly ten points and five boards coming into tonight, Gay has looked good, but not spectacular. He hasn’t shot well from the field, but tonight was an especially poor showing. Gay has the potential to be an absolute star once he rounds out his game. With greater shooting efficiency, his athleticism will make him extremely difficult to contain. On defense, he should be able to block some shots, but given that he’ll be guarding small perimeter players, his impact protecting rim and crashing the defensive glass won’t be as noticeable as it was at UCONN. Gay is definitely a player to watch, but this was one of his worst games of the season.

Hakim Warrick didn’t have the greatest game tonight either. He was dominated by a much bigger and polished player in Drew Gooden, who could physically impose his will on Warrick at all times. On defense, Warrick was defenseless against Gooden’s array of jumpers, hooks, and drop steps. On numerous occasions, Gooden pinned Warrick on his hip and finished strong at the rim while Warrick helplessly tried to get around him. Although Warrick is a great athlete, it is impossible to see him effectively defending the post at his current weight. With a severe lack of bulk on the interior with Pau Gasol out, Memphis is looking to Warrick to fill a role underneath that he is just isn’t ready to fill yet. He can block shots from the weak side, as he showed when he Zydrunas Ilgauskas from behind, but he can’t defend a legitimate power forward one-on-one.

With the ball in his hands, Warrick didn’t look bad, but he couldn’t match Gooden’s production. He crashed the offensive glass with some success, and made his lay-ups, but tonight wasn’t a good one for Warrick as he was benched in favor of Lawrence Roberts in crunch time.

When Gasol returns and Memphis can bring Warrick off the bench, he’ll be a lot more effective. Asking him to be a fulltime NBA power forward is out of the question given his slight frame. In order to improve as a player, Warrick needs to polish his mid range jump shot and work on his perimeter skills, as well as put on some extra weight. The potential is there, but the tools are still a work in progress.

Kyle Lowry looked pretty solid in limited action. He reinforced a lot of the conceptions people had about him when he was coming out of college. His quickness and athleticism are first class, but his jumper is suspect. Lowry displayed great quickness with the ball in his hands. Whether he was running the break, or breaking down his man in the half court, he looked in control at all times. Defensively, he played solid on ball defense, using his physical gifts to put pressure on the ball handler. He used to compact frame and great jumping ability to grab a few rebounds. However, he struggled with his outside shot. On two occasions, it was clear the he wasn’t comfortable taking an NBA three, taking a dribble towards the basket before pulling the trigger when left wide open. Lowry’s shot is eerily reminiscent of Eric Snow’s in its lack of range and consistency. Given how well rounded of a player Lowry is, if he can improve his jumper, he could be a steal for Memphis.

Lawrence Roberts looked solid tonight, playing tough under the rim and knocking down his free throws in the clutch. Roberts will never wow you with athleticism, but he will work hard and play smart any time he is in a game. He rebounded well and used his size to box out on every possession. Since Roberts didn’t get many touches in positions from which he could score he didn’t put up many points, but that isn’t his role on the team. Roberts isn’t a spectacular player, but he gets the job done.

Dahntay Jones on the other hand, was spectacular tonight. He got to the rim whenever he wanted and finished all five of the shots he took inside. The only shot he missed was an eighteen foot jumper from the wing. If Jones can improve the range and consistency on his jump shot, he could become a very dangerous scorer. He showed tonight that he can score effectively even when the defense is aware of where he wants to go.

Defensively, he was the reason LeBron James only scored fifteen points. He stayed in front of LeBron, forcing him to hoist shots from the outside, each of which he contested. Dahntay Jones won’t be a starter until he can show that his jump shot is reliable, but the rest of his game seems to be coming along nicely.

With so many young players making appearances tonight, it s no wonder that the game seemed inconsistent. Cleveland dominated Memphis’s young lineup in the first half, but struggled against their veterans in the second half. As players like Rudy Gay, Hakim Warrick, and Kyle Lowry grow as players, their roles for Memphis will no doubt expand. Robert and Jones are both looking to step up their play, but they both would benefit from some polish. Where these players will stand when Pau Gasol returns is anyone’s guess, but they will clearly have benefited from the added experience they gained while he was gone.

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