First off, it's practically impossible for a grizzly bear to be roadkill. They are simpy too big even for that Robosaurus thing from monster truck rallies to flatten out on the interstate. Also they are rare, sheepish creatures who don't frequent highways and often avoid areas with high human densities. For more insight, cross the jump.
Now I'm not positive John Hollinger is quite the zoologist that I am, which probably led him to write that the Grizzlies were among the league's "roadkill" for the upcoming season in this Insider Only article. In all seriousness, yes, Hollinger is likely right that the Grizzlies will finish well outside of the playoffs this season. But to put the Thunder two tiers ahead of the Grizzlies? Why?
Any improvement this season will result from internal development by the core of Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook and the addition of draft pick James Harden.
Is it possible Durant blows up, averages in the high 20s and leads these guys to the playoffs? Absolutely. But they depend an awful lot on one guy for the offense, and that one guy has yet to demonstrate he can take high-percentage shots or create meaningful opportunities for others. And if injuries hit, there's not a lot of depth here.
I understand that Kevin Durant is the breadth of a hair away from super-stardom. I know that Russell Westbrook showed a ton of promise in his rookie year, and is likely only improving. But the Thunder are still literally missing a starter at the center position, at least the Grizzlies have every starting position locked down. Jeff Green is also a great player, but he is a small forward on a playoff team, not a power forward. And I don't believe either James Harden or Shaun Livingston are ready to be starting shooting guards on a playoff contender, not yet anyway. Similarly the Grizzlies lost almost nothing this offseason, only Hakim Warrick, but gained Zach Randolph, Hasheem Thabeet, DeMarre Carroll, and Sam Young. And all of the Grizzlies returning starters will likely improve. Sounds pretty much the same, except a little better off, no? Look for a longer column comparing the Thunder and Grizzlies in the future further comparing these two teams, which are remarkably similar, though the media perceives them in two totally different ways.
Then, like every other pundit, Hollinger rips into the Zach Randolph trade, apparently after forgetting how the process happened:
The same kind [owner Michael Heisley] that prefers trading for Randolph to trading for Carlos Boozer, or to making a run at David Lee, or to just setting $16 million on fire...
Despite a near-empty arena, the Griz still make money. That's partly because they'll do anything for $3 million, even trading a useful player (Darko Milicic) for a finished one (Quentin Richardson).
He complains that the Grizzlies traded Darko for Quentin Richardson, without noting that Q-Rich was traded for Randolph, who despite his flaws is far from "finished," within days. This is convenient, because he acts like the Grizzlies gave some type of value for Z-Bo, which couldn't be further from true. Hollinger then goes on to bemoan that the Grizzlies chose the Randolph-giveaway over Carlos Boozer.
Of all people I would think a stat-head like John Hollinger would recognize that Randolph and an unmotivated Boozer aren't exactly worlds apart. To acquire Boozer the Grizzlies would almost certainly had to give up a valuable young member of their team, probably a player better than Hakim Warrick. Based on their rumored demand of Michael Beasley from Miami, Rudy Gay would likely have been Salt Lake City's target. That would have been a high price to pay for the notoriously disloyal, if high scoring, power forward.
I don't want to act like it's unreasonable to argue that the Grizzlies have made some poor choices in the days leading up to the Pau Gasol trade, or to note that the Grizzlies probably won't be that good this season. That is obvious. But at least get your facts straight. I'm not sure I understand how Hollinger decides to laud some teams in the rebuilding process, like the Nets, and disparage others who have made similar moves in the past.
The Grizzlies have had an acceptable offseason by my accounts. They have young players that will improve. Thabeet was a poor pick for a franchise who needs immediate contributions, but Young and Carroll will look like steals in what was supposed to be an extremely shallow draft. There were no free agents that both wowed and filled the Grizzlies needs this offseason, so they made the trade that diminished their talent pool the least. While Memphis might not be on the best path, please Grizzlies fans, have faith that they're moving in the right direction.