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The Grizzlies can't keep waiving players like James Ennis and Russ Smith

AKA 1,000 Cuts.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

If I were a betting man, I'd bet against James Ennis and Russ Smith becoming legitimate NBA players. Does waiving either one to sign Ryan Hollins (Smith back in December, Ennis on Wednesday) harm the Memphis Grizzlies in the long run? Probably not, so what the heck, let's sign Hollins for the fifth time this season.

Even setting aside the fact that Hollins isn't a very good player and you can almost assuredly find someone better or at least more interesting on the waiver wire, the opportunity cost in cutting a low-level prospect isn't huge. The Grizzlies haven't been burned by Jarnell Stokes, Tony Wroten, Sam Young or Josh Selby yet. (FREE JOSH SELBY) DeMarre Carroll turned out well, but even he bounced around the league for six years before breaking out as a member of the Atlanta Hawks in 2013-14. He doesn't feel much like the one that got away, and really, the Grizzlies don't have too many of those.

I think the front office has done a pretty bang-up job overall. They've dug up unlikely contributors in guys like JaMychal Green, James Johnson and Jon Leuer. I thought the Vince Carter signing was a home run when it happened (especially with the third year partially guaranteed) and the same of the Matt Barnes trade – it was an impressive show of CBA gymnastics just to acquire him. Turning Courtney Lee and Jeff Green into a fistful of draft picks at the trade deadline was just shrewd asset management.

But if the Grizzlies understand the value of having late draft picks in bulk and recognize the hidden talent in D-League journeymen, then how does it follow that they continue to cycle through the fringe prospects that those picks generate with such seeming indiscretion? What's the point of collecting draft picks when they all become chair warmers for Ryan Hollins? (If we're going to be fair here, they're still usable trade assets, but screw that.)

Other than not having Kawhi Leonard on their team, a deficiency in promising young players has been the single greatest shortcoming of this team. If this season is truly the start of the end, then a big reason for that is because the Grizzlies don't have anyone to pick up the mantle as Zach Randolph declines. There never was enough three-point shooting, but even if the Grizzlies didn't draft a shooter, it would've been nice to actually have a player on a rookie contract with some trade value. Even if Wroten became a Ricky Rubio-lite – a useful player of little value to the Grizzlies – they could've shopped him for a role player that better fit their needs.

Instead, every draft pick that the Grizzlies used was wasted. Now they have an aging core with no life support and a blazing trail of unfulfilled prospects in their wake.

Whose fault is that? From an outside perspective, it's hard to tease apart the influences of scouting versus player development. The Grizzlies seem to be fine evaluators when it comes to the D-League, so I'm inclined to think that isn't the problem, but either way, the team isn't getting the results they need out of those departments.

Let me throw out a hypothetical – a highly unlikely one, but one I think illustrates the problem. Let's say the Grizzlies continue to play this game of musical chairs with Hollins next season, and they eventually waive Jordan Adams to make room for him. Again, this is highly unlikely. Adams' contract isn't one you'd normally waive since it's guaranteed through 2017 with a team option for 2018, and with three second rounders this year as well as Andrew Harrison waiting in the wings, it probably won't come down to waiving Adams.

But if they did, I have no concrete basis on which to complain about it. Take away the halo effect of being a first-round draft pick and the favorable projections from pre-draft analytical models, and all I'd have is my flimsy hope in Adams. He's played 263 minutes in his career – he could be anything, the same as Ennis or Smith, and without seeing him on the court, just how much meaningful knowledge do the Grizzlies really have on him?

The Grizzlies never play their young players, which is why we have no idea if cutting Ennis or Smith or our what-if Adams will come back to bite us. And how are those players supposed to develop if they never see meaningful minutes on the court in NBA action? The rise of the D-League is great, but actual NBA minutes have got to be an important part of the player development process bordering on indispensable. Maybe there was a railroad switch in the development arc of Ennis, Smith et al. if they had played 500, 1000 or 2000 minutes more.

This is probably why we fawn over Adams so much, and why eight rebounds in ten minutes makes Jarell Martin the most promising young player to come through Memphis in a half-decade.

I have a positive opinion of Dave Joerger and the Grizzlies front office, but this mismanagement of young players is frustrating, and probably a huge reason in why they are where they are. Hollins comes and goes, while Hassan Whiteside ends up with somebody else. At some point, the Grizzlies really will waive somebody special for a rotational stopgap, and it's going to be awful.

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