Former NBA front office executive Bobby Marks exploded onto the twittersphere this off-season by constantly posting savvy comments about signings, trades, and other miscellaneous dealings conducted by front offices. One of his latest series of tweets centers around how NBA teams have been built as things currently stand. The tweets serve as a map of sorts to help us understand how teams arrived at the place where they are positioned today, but they also serve as a starting point that can potentially help us better understand how teams should attempt to build going forward.
Here's the tweet from Marks that details how the Grizzlies are currently built.
PART 4: HOW TEAMS ARE BUILT (REVISED) pic.twitter.com/QTFmCzm5TL— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) July 26, 2015
Here are several Grizzlies-specific observations from Marks' series of team-building tweets.
Undervalued assets have elevated the Grizzlies to their current status
It's well documented that the Grizzlies are open to taking on players who are seen as projects by many teams in the league for one reason or another. Tony Allen, Zach Randolph, and arguably Matt Barnes fell into the Grizzlies' lap either because of perceived off the court issues or attitude issues on the court. Acquiring Allen and Randolph has obviously paid off for the Grizzlies, as the two have become cornerstones during the golden, grit and grind era of the franchise's brief history in Memphis. Barnes isn't likely to prove as useful as Allen or Randolph, but it's a solid bet that Barnes will be a net positive given the Grizzlies history with reclamation projects.
Courtney Lee and Beno Udrih were both middling rotation players for their previous teams, and each has thrived with the Grizzlies at various points. The Grizzlies have probably at least squeezed more than their money's worth out of both players, which is really all they could hope for.
The Grizzlies have operated a bit like a basketball version of the Oakland Athletics for quite some time. It's not exactly an apples to apples "moneyball" comparison given that there is no salary cap in MLB whereas there certainly is one in the NBA, but the Grizzlies do seem to have a knack for finding undervalued assets via trade and free agency and squeezing maximum value from those assets before either letting them walk or signing them to mostly team-friendly deals much like the A's have historically been lauded for doing. It's probably easier for the Grizzlies to keep their stars in a small market given the salary cap, but it is still notable how loyal players seem to be to the organization once they have played in the Bluff City. I think that says a lot about the state of the franchise.
More (read: better) work needs to be done in the draft
Hasheem Thabeet will forever be the painful, cautionary tale for the Grizzlies every year when the draft rolls around. They have not successfully developed and kept drafted talent since they snatched up the perpetually underrated Mike Conley. To be fair to the Grizzlies, eleven other organizations have four or less players remaining on the roster (the Grizzlies have four) who were drafted by the same organization for which they currently play.
Jordan Adams is still very much on track to get a chance to prove himself to coach Dave Joerger and the rest of the decision makers. Jarnell Stokes' standing within the organization is more unknown at this point given the way he conducted himself during one particular NBA D-League game last season. With Jarell Martin drafted by the organization to presumably play some power forward, that might or might not mean something for Stokes' future with the organization as well.
The draft is a crap shoot, but it is typically the cheapest way to acquire assets and keep them on the books for a reasonable price for an extended period of time. For the Grizzlies to stay competitive for years to come as a small market-team, they likely need to perform much better in the draft. A rebuilding phase will inevitably surface at some point, and the Grizzlies front office will need to pick players who thrive and stick around past their rookie contracts to continue in order to continue making massive waves felt throughout the league.
Veteran acquisitions have been more of a mixed bag of late
While the Grizzlies should be praised for acquiring Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, and Tony Allen, the most recent acquisitions have been mediocre and/or questionable. Jeff Green, JaMychal Green, and Vince Carter were all pretty underwhelming last season when the Grizzlies needed at least two of them to step up in a big way to enable the team to make a deeper run in the playoffs.
With Nick Calathes no longer on the roster, Russ Smith has claimed the small victory that is moving up on the depth chart to third string point guard. It's still unclear what Smith is capable of at the NBA level, but his strong summer league performance elicits hope.
The Grizzlies front office hopes to be back on track in the 'good moves' department after acquiring Matt Barnes and Brandan Wright this offseason, two known quantities at this point in their respective careers who are solid bets to at least be contributors this season.