The Memphis Blues: A Blueprint For Rebuild

Some Grizzlies fans that have been calling for a full rebuild for years. In the past, I have not considered myself one of those fans, but I am now fully on board. The white-hot 12 & 5 start to the 2019 season fizzled out in unremarkable fashion, which has since lead to  a putrid 19-23 record. I’m not saying putrid because of the record itself, but more so describing the type of play that got them there. The Grizzlies are undoubtedly one of the worst 5 offenses in the NBA. Memphis has never had much an offensive prowess, but this year they don’t have the defense to cope. There have been several failed trade attempts that culminated since the signing of Justin Holiday, documented locker room riffs, and that’s not going to make me or anyone else rush out for the chance to buy season tickets. Once again, the Grizzlies prove unremarkable. The “Brooks Gate” trade debacle was a microcosm of the Robert Pera era. It seems the ownership can’t get out of the team’s way, despite finally getting it right in the last draft. I think most fans want to take what the Grizzlies have, blow it up, and build from the ground up. After some time of hoping for the best, I am now a part of this majority.

How do you begin? I am a big Marc Gasol fan, but he single-handedly ran their last coach out of town and Gasol is without a doubt the most prolific Grizzly of all time, but it’s time to let him finish his career with a true contender. Memphis has relied on Marc and Mike for far too long. The Chandler Parsons experiment is officially over and the two parties mutually agreeing to separate. To say he was injury-plagued would be a vast understatement. He is in the third year of his four-year contract, which turned out that the Grizzlies paid him just under 1.3 million per game and just over 66.5 thousand per minute played. There are literally no words for that kind of wasteful spending. Trump’s wall may even be a better investment than Chandler Parsons. I had high hopes for a bounce-back year for the forward, but nothing of the sort happened. An indefinite separation with a full year left on his contract is a slap-in-the-face that only a man like that deserves. Mike Conley needs to be the lone member of the grit and grind era to steer the Grizzlies into the future.

It doesn’t take a basketball genius to see that Jaren Jackson Jr. is the future of this franchise. The rookie, who was drafted as a “project,” is way ahead of schedule and arguably already the best player on the team. He’s averaging 13.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game. His defensive abilities weren’t doubted leading up to the year and haven’t disappointed thus far. He joins Walton, Olajuwon, Robinson, Webber, and Anthony Davis with 35+ steals, 60+ blocks, and a 500+ FG% in his first 40 career games, which needless to say is pretty good company.  His offensive versatility was a question to begin the year, but those questions have since been answered. He is not a pure shooter yet but has made people pay when left open behind the arc. His passing, ball-handling, and overall basketball IQ have shown to be way better than previously anticipated. What else do the Grizzlies have to build upon? Dillon Brooks is sometimes regarded as the second-best young player on the roster, but unfortunately he just went out for the year with a ruptured ligament in his right big toe. At least they traded the right Brooks the second time around. Kyle Anderson has proven to be a good signing for them and could be a fixture moving forward. His play is awkward and sluggish, but extremely effective and could work well between Brooks and Jackson. Shelvin Mack has cooled off from a hot start and should be behind rookie Jevon Carter on the depth chart by year’s end. Conley could groom Carter into a viable starter over the next two years, which is hoped for by many, but only time will tell.

What do they really expect to get for a 34 year old Marc Gasol? Big Spain has proven he’s far from being just a role player. He’s still contributing and a great addition to any team. His brother Pau is 38 and still in the league. I’d like to see them retain JaMychal Green as a solid 6th or 7th man. He could start with Jackson, but that’s not an ideal look. Temple, Noah, Casspi, and Mack are all free agents after this year and could serve as fluff to any Gasol trade. The Grizzlies aren’t slated to have any juicy picks in next year’s draft. With that in mind, they need to focus on teams that have a surplus at the center position.

The Grizz just went to Miami and played the Heat and after seeing them play, I think Hassan Whiteside would look great next to Jackson in the front court. The emergence of Bam Adebayo may free up the Heat to make a move like that. However, I’m not sure Memphis wants to sign up for such a lofty contract, not to mention, if Hassan is worth what Miami was willing to pay him. DeMarcus Cousins would be a logical move for both franchises. However, I’m not sure they could lure him into such a small market town.  Marc could take less money to play for a true contender.  Boogie could get paid and be the feature of the franchise. DeAndre Jordan would also be a huge get for Memphis, as well. His length and athleticism would free Jaren Jackson to make plays away from the basket. Nicola Vucevic is a great player that should be on their radar. A thriftier sign could be Willie Cauley-Stein. He’s improved his overall game each year since coming to the league in 2015.

I’m not sure any of these moves happen, but one thing is for sure; I’m glad I’m not Robert Pera or Chris Wallace. It’s going to be an arduous rebuild and may take longer than fans would like, and I, like many Grizzlies fans, just hope the franchise stays in the Bluff City. Zach Randoph and Tony Allen left the team in 2017, which in retrospect, was the beginning of the rebuild. Memphis still hasn’t addressed the lack of wing production, so add that to the list of To-Do’s for the front office. Obviously sinking 94 million into Parsons’ broken knees didn’t help that. I’d like to think Brooks and Anderson could eventually fill that void, but this is the same void that’s remained unfilled since the departure of Rudy Gay in 2013. There’s no clear-cut solution in sight, however, there is a good batch of young talent for the first time since Conley came into the League. The next few seasons will make or break the entire Grizzlies organization. I hope they get it right!


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