Well, the Grizzlies have certainly been busy campers. Multiple draft choices and trades give the team a new look for next season. But what is the final product? Generally, they have a bunch of young fellows who can play a number of positions. In many ways, this sort of flexibility is the future of the NBA, though dominant single-position players like Shaquille O'Neal would seem to demonstrate otherwise. Still, more and more, the emphasis has been on 'tweener bodies and players who don't fit cleanly into any one spot. Here's a breakdown of the team by position, barring any more trades, of course.
Guard: At first glance, the Grizzlies seem thin at the shooting guard position, having to rely heavily on the efforts of Michael Dickerson. But the acquisition of Jason Williams and Nick Anderson from Sacramento suggests that Dickerson will have help, though Anderson may have more to offer there than Williams.
It's also possible that Will Solomon will play some at the shooting guard spot as well. Solomon is small (only 6'1"), but he's fast. If he were a half-foot taller we would be calling him the next Latrell Sprewell. Solomon can also score (20 points a game for Clemson his sophomore year). But Williams and former Hawk Brevin Knight will probably get most of the time at point guard while Dickerson, Anderson, and Solomon will handle the two position.
The trade of Mike Bibby to the Kings for Williams is still an open question. Bibby was a talented scorer and excellent passer. More important, he probably makes better decisions than the occasionally brilliant but often erratic Williams. The best explanation I have heard so far on this comes from espn.com's Mark Kreidler, who analyzed it this way: Jason Williams has one year on his contract. He's a name player who has a tendency for flair over substance. The Grizzlies are probably not going to be that good next year, so at least Williams will keep the crowd entertained. The 2002 draft will feature some of the best point guards in years, including one named, oddly enough, Jason Williams, who should be coming off a grand career at Duke. There is talk of re-uniting Shane Battier with his former collegiate running mate.
Of course, the Grizzlies can't rely on this turn of events. No doubt, they hope Williams (the current Grizzly) will flourish in a new environment and do some serious growing up. If that happens, Williams could be a force this year.
Forward: This is the most intriguing position for the Grizzlies because they are so loaded with young talent in Shane Battier, Pau Gasol, Stromile Swift, Grant Long, and Antonis Fotsis. Look for Battier and Swift to start. Also, Lorenzen Wright can swing between center and forward.
As with the guard position, there will be some flexibility as to who will man which position, with Battier and (maybe) Gasol playing both power and small forward spots. Anderson has also been known to play forward if the situation calls for it.
Swift is a defensive presence and should be able to contribute heavily there. He's also one of the best athletes on the team. However, he's not much to watch offensively and given the team's lack of proven scoring punch, he will need to step things up in a big way to contribute as a potential starter.
The real problem with this position is that the Grizzlies are woefully undersized in terms of weight at the power forward position and too slow at the small forward position. Last year, the Grizzlies were weak in rebounding and defense. Small bodies at the power forward position make for tough rebounding and slow bodies at the small forward position allow opposing teams to penetrate too easily. The new zone defense rules in the NBA could help some.
Center: This is still the Grizzlies' weakest position. With Bryant "Big Country" Reeves and Ike Austin as the only true centers, conference opponents Shaquille O'Neal, David Robinson, Tim Duncan, and Hakeem Olajuwon will continue to have their way in the middle. Reeves is a big guy but he has been pretty much a no-show for the last couple of years and Austin has not shown himself to be a starting-caliber center. The Grizzlies are talking about running and gunning this year, so watch for Wright and Swift to come in at the center position on occasion -- if not often. Wright could actually start there. Such a move would make the Grizzlies very fast but might leave them vulnerable in a half-court set.
Here's the projected starting line-up I'd like to see if I were in Sidney Lowe's shoes:
Point-guard: Jason Williams (Brevin Knight, Will Solomon as back-ups)
Two-guard: Michael Dickerson (Nick Anderson, Will Solomon, and possibly Jason Williams as back-ups)
Small forward: Shane Battier (Pau Gasol as back-up if he develops quickly)
Power forward: Stromile Swift (interchangeable with Lorenzen Wright)
Center: Lorenzen Wright (Bryant Reeves, Ike Austin as back-ups).
You can e-mail Chris Przybyszewski at firstname.lastname@example.org.