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The Memphis Grizzlies Need To Tread Lightly

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

What the Grizzlies should (or shouldn’t) do to ensure the stability of the franchise.

It’s about that time of year again for Grizzlies fans—that January season when they feel the team isn’t good enough to compete with the best of the best and begin to demand the front office make moves to put the team in a competitive position. The problem is that strategy has yet to bear fruit for Grizz nation.

Last year, it was Jeff Green, the year prior Courtney Lee, another year removed, Rudy Gay. None of the moves have tilted the scales for Memphis, and by trying to improve around the fringes, Memphis has forfeited its future.

Memphis has two second round picks in the upcoming draft but has no first rounders until 2018. And as the roster is currently constructed, probably only Marc Gasol and Mike Conley are worth first round picks in any trade scenarios, and Memphis doesn’t want to give up either.

Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

With the team sitting only at 25-20, albeit tied for fifth in the conference, it clearly isn’t going anywhere if it makes the playoffs. Grit N’ Grind is a shallow shadow of its former self. It comes back every now and then to remind fans what it’s like to have a team worth cheering for, but, for the most part, going to a Grizzlies game is like going to a 50 Cent concert. You go because you want to see flashes of the past, although you don’t care much for the new stuff because it isn’t very good.

The team continues to struggle offensively—but that’s nothing new. They’re currently 26th in the league in points per game. Since 2011/12, Memphis has never finished above 20th in the league in scoring. Yet, the team’s made the playoffs every year since then, and made it to the Western Conference Finals in 2013. The lack of scoring is an issue now built around the three ball, but it’s not as magnified an issue as it might be on other teams. 

That would be because the Grit N’ Grind Grizzlies halt other teams’ offensive firepower by slowing down the pace of the game, playing through the post, and playing inspired defense. Early on this season, the defense wasn’t there. That could be because two-time First Team All Defensive selection Tony Allen was injured. But former Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol was healthy, and he was not playing his usual stellar defense.

But with the infusion of Allen back into the lineup, Memphis allows the sixth least points per game, which is actually the worst mark Memphis has achieved since 2011/12. What’s most concerning is the lack of rebounding. The Grizz are third to last in the league in rebounding. In the GNG years Memphis has ranked around middle of the pack in rebounding. This precipitous decline speaks to the Grizz’s age as well as incongruous roster structure.

For example, the team’s starting lineup of Allen, Conley, Lee, Gasol, and Zach Randolph posts a Net Rating of +2.3 in 189 minutes via The Golden State Warriors’ “lineup of death,” consisting of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes, and Draymond Green, posts a league best +56.6 in 102 minutes.

That having been said, +2.3 doesn’t seem that bad when compared with the Los Angeles Lakers’ lineup of Jordan Clarkson, Lou WilliamsKobe Bryant, Julius Randle, and Roy Hibbert which posts a -37.1. Additionally, some of Memphis’ numbers are skewed in the negative due to three blowouts they suffered at the season’s opening (GSW by 50, OKC by 37, Cavs by 30).

Knowing that the team isn’t going to compete for a title with its current construction, a natural question occurs: why not blow it up and try to strike gold in the draft? An innocent thought until you remember the Grizz don’t own a first rounder until 2018.

Additionally, Matt Hrdlicka of Grizzly Bear Blues outlined in detail what a complete blowup would look like, and it is a grim sight indeed. Plus, as if there weren’t enough reason not to tank, Memphis is one of the oldest teams in the league. It only has four players 25 years old or younger, and only one of those—JaMychal Green—gets any PT. They don’t have enough young players to build around, and the ones they do have, they hardly know if they’re even worth building around.

So what do the Grizzlies do? With no impressive trade prospects the team is willing to part with, it can’t get better in the short or long term. And with no draft picks or young talent in their possession, it can’t tear everything down and start over.

Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

The answer is simple though unsatisfactory. Do nothing. Keep the core together, work free agency like normal, go to the playoffs and hope for a hot streak, and hopefully maintain some success until 2018, when they can start using the draft again. Then a restart can begin if needed by that time.

At face value, that’s actually a great plan—who doesn’t want to go to the playoffs? But, as Kevin Lipe of the Memphis Flyer pointed out, if the Grizzlies continue to do nothing or next to nothing, the situation will become untenable. The team has already disappointed its fanbase this year, and by continuing to do nothing, the team will only continue to slowly meet its demise.

But that’s the best form of (in)action for the team going forward. Yes, it’s boring. Yes, it’s depressing. But to ensure that more of the franchise’s future won’t be mortgaged, Memphis will need to idle through a few more seasons until it can, at the very least, have a solid plan in place for a rebuild.

Edited by Joe Sparacio, Jazmyn Brown, Ben Moore.

What are Paul George's parents' names?
Created 1/24/16
  1. Paul E. and Paulina
  2. Paul and Paulette
  3. Apollo and Paula
  4. Paul Joseph (P.J.) and Pala
When did the Grizzlies move to Memphis?
Created 1/24/16
  1. 1999
  2. 2000
  3. 2001
  4. 2002

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