Warriors Possess Huge Backcourt Advantage Over Grizzlies


Stylistically, the Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies could not be any more different.

The front court showdown will certainly be something to look out for during this series. The Grizzlies certainly have an offensive advantage down low; however, Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut will certainly aim to contain Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.

While Memphis’ primary game plan is to get most of their points through their front court, the Warriors possess a huge advantage with the firepower of their dynamic backcourt. The Warriors’ offense is heavily predicated on the shooting performances of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, but the versatility of the roster allows them to score in different ways. With Mike Conley likely to miss time due to facial fractures, the Grizzlies are left with a backcourt rotation of Nick Calathes, Beno Udrih and Courtney Lee. While Memphis was able to outwork Portland in the first round after losing Conley in Game 3, they will absolutely miss his presence when trying to compete with the best backcourt in the league.

With Conley’s health being a huge factor in the Grizzlies’ success, there’s nothing Memphis can do but hope he returns to help contain Curry and provide some offense of his own. Calathes, Udrih and Lee will have to shoulder the responsibilities of facilitating and perimeter scoring. While every opponent certainly knows what Curry and Thompson will bring to the table, it’s important to look at the strengths and flaws of Memphis’ current guard rotation to determine how the backcourts match up.

Nick Calathes

Apr 13, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Nick Calathes (12) passes out the ball against Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) and center

Festus Ezeli

(31) during the second quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Calathes started at point guard in Games 4 and 5 against the Blazers after Conley went down.

On paper, his numbers aren’t eye-popping at all. In Round 1, he averaged 6.6 points, 2 assists, 2.2 rebounds and 1.2 turnovers. Not only is his assist to turnover ratio sub par, but he shot just 40 percent from the floor.

Surprisingly, he knocked down six of 11 threes during the Portland series (54.5 percent). One can expect the law of averages to come into effect, as he only shot 25.6 percent from three during the regular season. Calathes averaged only about 16 minutes per game against Portland, which won’t be enough time to make a significant impact especially against the Warriors.

Off the ball, his abilities are fairly negligible. He can’t space the floor like Conley can nor can he create his own shot.

To his credit, Calathes is a strong and pesky defender. At 6’6″, he possesses enough size and length to bother his man and switch on screens. He’ll be fairly physical and willing to fight through screens to chase either Curry or Thompson down. Memphis is unlikely to pair Calathes with Tony Allen unless they want offensive liabilities on the floor. His defense isn’t on the level of Conley or Allen, so he’ll have to work extremely hard in order for the Grizzlies to have a chance at winning.

Beno Udrih

Apr 13, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Beno Udrih (19) drives in against Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) during the first quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Beno Udrih will look to make up for Conley’s scoring presence.

In Round 1, Udrih averaged 11.8 points, three assists, 3 rebounds and shot at a respectable 48.7 percent from the field. While not an excellent three-point shooter, Udrih is a capable midrange threat and cash certainly punish defenders who sag off. In Game 1 against Portland, Udrih was brilliant with 20 points, seven assists and seven rebounds.

He suffered an ankle injury in Game 2, however, causing him to miss Game 3 and hindering his performance during the rest of the series. He probably won’t be able to keep up with Curry’s speed and his size makes him a liability when defending any other guard on the Warriors’ roster due to their sheer length and athleticism.

He can’t shoot the long ball as well as Conley can and he’s not a strong penetrator, so Memphis will need him to knock down his midrange jumpers at a decent clip.

Courtney Lee 

Apr 13, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Courtney Lee (5) scores a layup against Golden State Warriors forward

Harrison Barnes

(40) with forward Zach Randolph (50) during the first quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Courtney Lee is perhaps the biggest x-factor for Memphis. He’ll need to play consistently well for the Grizzlies to keep up with the Warriors’ ridiculous scoring pace. Lee was a key piece in the Grizzlies’ success against Portland.

He averaged 17.4 points while shooting at a terrific 66.6 percent from the floor and 54.5 percent from three-point territory. Below, is his impressive shot chart from the five games against the Blazers.

Lee is perhaps the biggest perimeter threat the Grizzlies possess at the moment. One thing to watch out for, however, is his streakiness. Though he was a sharpshooter in Round 1, he was terribly streaky throughout the regular season.

His field goal percentage was at a staggering 52.7 percent in November, but slowly regressed to a dismal 34.4 percent in March before increasing to about 45 percent in April. Still, the Warriors must recognize Lee’s ability to shoot the rock. He’ll be heavy-relied on to score especially if Gasol and Randolph are ineffective. It would be asinine to say that the Warriors don’t have the clear advantage in their backcourt, but they must not sleep on Lee.

It’s no secret that the Grizzlies want to slow the game down and force the Warriors to adapt. They’ll constantly look for Gasol on the high post or Randolph in the low block. The Warriors have the ability and the depth to counter the size that Memphis possesses. They also have the versatility of going small and forcing the Grizzlies to run with them. Memphis won’t be able to get it done with their big men alone. They’ll undoubtedly need solid contributions from Calathes, Udrih and Lee to outscore the Warriors.

If Conley is unable to return in time, the Memphis guards have no chance at keeping up with Curry and Klay and ultimately may cost them the series.

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