Here to introduce our second new contributor today, the venerable Chris Wilson, who's going to be doing a weekly editorial-type-thing that you'll see every Tuesday afternoon or night. Chris has free reign over these, so we might butt heads a little bit. My take will be in the comments. -djturtleface
Mark Cuban has been known to say that the worst spot in the NBA is being mediocre -- just outside of the playoffs each year, or maybe grabbing an occasional 8 seed. I'm talking about a team that's unable to run with the big boys, but isn't bad enough to get a draft pick that can change the franchise. Basically, your 2010-2011 Memphis Grizzlies.
I realize that there is a whole season to be played out, but good NBA front offices are constantly thinking about the future. I would love to count the Grizzlies as one of these franchises, but for me, personally, as with many fans, the jury is certainly still out.
The point is that the Grizzlies need to gamble a bit in order to get better. Sure, it may not work, but when you're the only franchise in professional sports history to have played 12 playoff games and never had a victory, conventional wisdom might just need to be thrown to the wind. Lionel Hollins and Chris Wallace just signed new contracts -- now is the perfect time to be bold and attempt to drill at least a few changes into Heisley's head.1) Lock up Marc Gasol into a long term deal.
This should be priority number one. Gasol is a true center that can play power forward in spots, an excellent passer, and scores and rebounds at a rate that would make most teams jealous. Marc Gasol put up 14.6 pts, 9.3 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game last year. In contrast Andrew Bynum's line looked like this: 15.0 pts, 8.3 rebounds, 1.0 assists. And we know Marc won't miss 40 games every year.
The Grizzlies are really hamstrung by the Rudy Gay deal, but I feel like anything less than 5 years, $60 million is a bargain for Gasol. It's a bit risky to sink another huge contract into a player in a small market, but Gasol is an absolutely vital piece of this team, and is only 23 years old. The Grizzlies can't afford to make the same mistake they did this summer with Rudy -- not signing him for $60 million only to wait and sign him the next year for $80 million. Take the risk now.
2) Be willing to let Zach Randolph walk
I know it feels like we're in an alternate universe to say that the safe move would be to keep Zach Randolph, but as we all know 2012 is coming and the apocalypse is near, so all bets are off. The typical Grizzlies move here would be something like 3 years, $39 million for Randolph. Pass.
Zbo was a game changer for the Grizzlies last year, no doubt, but David Lee and Paul Millsap had virtually identical numbers. Lee even made the All-Star team.
Z-bo will be turning 30, has a horrible off the court history, and is going to be more expensive than he's worth. The Grizzlies need to sell high here. Either move him at the trade deadline for pieces, or let him go and use the money on someone younger with slightly less stats, a better off the court history, and a bit more staying power. Al Horford, anyone?
3) Without vast improvement, move Hasheem Thabeet at the trade deadline.
Look, I know its not any fun to admit you're wrong. I don't know anyone that likes saying they made a mistake, especially billionaire tycoon Michael Heisley. But Thabeet needs to be moved before:
A) His team option starts eating up $6 million of cap room -- for a backup center.
B) He still has some value.
If you could get a first round pick and a bit of cheap, undervalued talent, someone like Brandon Wright or Jason Thompson, there's no reason not to make the deal. The franchise has sold high before, in getting Mike Miller for Drew Gooden in his rookie year.
With Marko Jaric (finally) coming off the books at the end of next year, as well as no Thabeet or Randolph, the Grizzlies only have about $35 million in total salary. And subtract that by another $6 million if you don't extend the qualifying offer to Conley. With this much cap room, there is no excuse not to lock up Gasol and then swing for the fences in either free agency or a trade where the Grizz absorb a big contract.
After signing of Tony Allen for three years, the Grizzlies' cap flexibility has taken another hit. In all honesty, we're probably done dealing for the season, which is depressing, if for no other reason than our two point guards are a late first round rookie and Mike Conley.
Yes, the Allen deal makes sense so we will have a perimeter defender that costs less than Ronnie Brewer, who in an incredibly ironic move, is probably going back to Utah. By the way, you're welcome Jazz. Five games for a future first that became half of Al Jefferson? Have to love the classic Grizzlies luck there.
With the Grizz roster looking complete, it looks like any risk taking will have to take place this winter or next summer. CBA not withstanding, I say time to man up Grizzlies, let's jump before we look.
- Chris Wilson