Is this a good thing? Well, for Allen Iverson I suppose it is. It’s a good thing that he was given another chance after the disaster that was his year as a Piston. He gets to stay in the NBA instead of having to decide between going to Europe or retiring. This is his chance to prove himself again at 34 years of age. No doubt he’s heard people (like me) talking about how he can’t be a complimentary player. No doubt he’s heard people saying he’ll be a bad influence on Memphis’s young players. As an AI fan, I hope he shuts everyone up. I hope that he makes me embarrassed to have said the negative things I’m about say here.
The problem is that if he’s going to shut everyone up, he’s going to have to change his stripes. At age 34, this doesn’t really happen in the NBA. Even though Memphis is a different (and worse) team than his Pistons squad last year, the same problems exist when looking at how AI will fit in. First, with backcourt mates Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo, you have guys who already expect to receive big minutes at the position Iverson will occupy. Just like in Detroit, if one of them is going to get his minutes cut it should probably be the point guard, but AI’s ideal position over the course of his career has been the 2. In addition to this, the Grizzlies have capable scorers at the 3, 4, and 5 positions with Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol. All of these guys need touches. In Mayo, Gay, and Randolph, you have guys who are paid almost exclusively to score – if Iverson continues to dominate the ball in Memphis, he renders these three practically useless.
Assuming Mayo averages anywhere near the 38 minutes per game he played last season, Iverson will play the majority of his minutes at the point guard position. This would necessitate that Iverson actually plays like a point guard. With all the scorers around him, the best way for him to help the team is to be a creator and a distributor. Instead of taking long jumpers, the Grizz will need him to draw the defense’s attention and find the open man. Sure, he can still get some shots up, but his “I can score on anybody” attitude won’t actually help this team. I’m not saying he needs to lose his swagger, but he needs to focus his attention on more than just scoring. For a guy that has been a primary scoring option his entire career (and averaged 26.4 PPG the season before last), this is asking a lot.
I really hope that this works out in Memphis. I don’t expect this team to win a ton of games because of its poor defense, but if these guys just manage to gel then they could have a potent offense. For Iverson, fitting in with these guys is the next major challenge in his career. AI, Randolph, Gay, and Mayo are all accustomed to having a Usage Rate of at least around 25%, so something has to give. Honestly, I’ll be very surprised if this move works out well for Memphis. At the very least, though, I’m intrigued now. Iverson is still Iverson and this is a reason to tune into Grizzlies games at the beginning of the season. That counts for something, right?