Team Name: Memphis Grizzlies
Last Year's Record: 55-27
Key Losses: Kosta Koufos, Nick Calathes, Jon Leuer
Key Additions: Matt Barnes, Brandan Wright
1. What significant moves were made during the off-season?
Priority number one for the Grizzlies this summer was re-signing franchise center Marc Gasol to a long-term contract. Fans sweated through several days of negotiation, but in the end Big Spain came back to Memphis on a 5-year/$110 million contract.
Once Gasol was under contract, it spelled the end for backup center Kosta Koufos, who would head off to Sacramento in search of greater playing time and mas dinero. The Grizzlies then replaced his backup services with those of Brandan Wright on a 3-year/$18 million deal, which is quite a steal considering some of the other contracts signed by NBA role players.
Matt Barnes was acquired through a series of moves that saw the rights to Janis Timma (60th pick of 2014 draft) moved for Luke Ridnour. Luke was then wrapped up in a trade exception and dealt to the Charlotte Hornets for Barnes. Ridnour would go on to be traded another 6,001,222,313.123 times over the course of a week or so, but Barnes would stick in Memphis. He's a natural fit for a hard-nosed team that also really needs the modicum of 3pt shooting that Barnes offers.
The stretch-4 who never seemed to stretch, Jon Leuer, would be dealt to the Phoenix Suns during the NBA draft in exchange for the rights to draft Andrew Harrison from Kentucky. This was essentially a trade-off for Grizzlies President of Basketball Operations John Hollinger. His analytics saw favor in Leuer when he was acquired in 2013, and they preach similar things about Andrew Harrison, a player who played in a system similar to that of the Grizzlies in college.
2. What are the team's biggest strengths?
Experience and continuity are the bosom buddies of the Memphis Grizzlies right now. This is basically the same team you've seen since 2011, when the Grizzlies knocked off the 1-seeded Spurs as an 8th seed. The names of perimeter shooters have changed (or just disappeared altogether), but the Grizzlies are still designed to pound the paint and play physical basketball. There's always a risk in staying in the school of old, but there's not a lot more dangerous than a hungry team who knows exactly who they are.
Continuity inherently starts to sculpt an aged roster over time, but the Grizzlies feel like the advanced training and medical care (that has no salary cap) provided by owner Robert Pera will keep the team fresh throughout the season. We'll see exactly how far this front has been developed in April/May/June? of next year, a time of the year when Memphis has recently started becoming a little sluggish and lethargic.
3. What are the team's biggest weaknesses?
The Grizzlies currently only have two players on roster who shot ≥ 40% from the 3-point line last season. One of those players is 2nd year guard Jordan Adams whose 10/25 totals don't really qualify his percentage for consideration. The other is Courtney Lee, a player who had stretches of unbelievable shooting last year, but who doesn't shoot frequently enough to weight those percentages in a manner that gives Memphis a constant long-range threat. The Grizzlies are taking a calculated risk that the addition of Matt Barnes, a resurgence from Vince Carter, and the development of Jordan Adams will add the shooting for which they yearn.
The front court depth of Memphis is also of some concern. Behind Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol (brothers-from-other-mothers™), the Grizzlies have Brandan Wright and a host of unproven, young bulls in JaMychal Green, Jarnell Stokes, and a swath of training camp invites that includes NBA journeyman Ryan Hollins. It looks as though the Grizzlies are really counting on "small ball" taking over the NBA this year. Either that or they plan on destroying Marc Gasol's body with 40 MPG this season.
4. What are the goals for this team?
This current rendition of the Grizzlies has nothing other than an NBA title in their sights. As Zach Randolph said at Grizzlies Media Day, "I wouldn't say the window is closing but it's time to win."
Perhaps the window is not yet actively closing. You can argue that this roster is as good as any roster they've ever had. But the window will eventually shut one day. It might just shut really, really quickly once this core group runs out of magic.
Outside of the ultimate goal of a championship, the Grizzlies as a team should try to keep Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, and Zach Randolph as healthy as humanly possibly without sacrificing too much in the win column. Conley, specifically, has had issues staying fresh down the stretch of the NBA season. With the duo of Beno Udrih and Russ Smith backing Mike up at point guard this season, there's no reason that Memphis can't balance some of those minutes to give Conley consistent rest through the next seven months.
5. Will the Grizzlies be looking to make any moves in the trade market?
100% yes. Just like they've done the past several years, I expect to see the Grizzlies weigh any and all options to get better and add missing pieces before the trade deadline. Memphis thinks a full off-season for Jeff Green will make a big difference in his effectiveness and production, but that's far from anything guaranteed. You could see the Grizzlies' name bounced around some pretty big names during the 2015-16 season. They're now known as an NBA contender, and marquee players won't hang up the phone on them the way they might have done 5-6 years ago. It's a treacherous road to travel down, however, as any big names would likely come with the cost of a core player for Memphis. They might not want to sacrifice chemistry and morale to push all their chips in for a title run.
6. Why don't the Grizzlies get with the program and update their playing style?
The Memphis Grizzlies are the Five Guys of the NBA. You will never see this team do something crazy (unless it's Tony Allen...that doesn't count). There will not be gourmet aiolis made for your burger. You will not see unusual and avant garde toppings pop up throughout the season. No pickled beets, no foie gras, no artisan-crafted ketchups or pretzel buns. All you will get is a really ****ing good, classic cheeseburger with enough greasy fries in the bag to turn a steel beam translucent.
Why? Well, first off, their kitchen is basically only designed to provide that classic meal. They don't have extra prep areas or resources to dedicate towards "getting weird". Not just that, but the kitchen they do have is really, really good at doing what they do best.
Secondly, it's a really great product that keeps people coming back and garners them their share of accolades. It's not new and inventive, but they use state-of-the-art technology to ensure that their tried and true approach stays fine tuned and meets expectations. I.e., they win, the city loves them, they've had DPOY, All-NBA teams, and All-Star nods.
Trust me, there will be a day when Dave Joerger, John Hollinger, and Chris Wallace have to finally break down and reform the identity of the Memphis Grizzlies. But if you had one of the best run burger franchises in the professional world, why would you try and start selling shawarma or sushi?