Ah the wing position. For the Grizzlies, that is a spot that has had a lot of unrest for the past few years, with no one really manning the post for more than a couple of seasons at most. In the past 5 years alone we had a gunning small forward (Rudy Gay) a forward who didn't seem to want to shoot the ball under any circumstance (Tayshaun Prince) a semi decent small forward (Quincy Pondexter) and most recently, Matt Barnes.
In short, there has been a lot of turnover from the wing spot, and except for some good play here and there, the play and production has really been lacking. With some rough play from Matt Barnes for long stretches during an injury ravaged season, this need is highlighted for the Grizzlies heading into the 2016-2017 NBA season. I'm going to see how we can address this issue, first through the draft, and secondly through free agency.
The Grizzlies hold the 17th pick in the draft this year and some mock drafts have the Grizzlies taking either Demetrius Jackson or Wade Baldwin with their pick- both point/combo guards. So no bueno. Unless the Grizzlies make a move to move up the board, I doubt good forwards that can make an impact will be left by the time the Grizzlies take their pick. However, if they do make a trade and move up to as early as the 12th through 14th pick, that would enable them to go for Timothe Luwawu, a rangy wing with some size and shooting ability that could be plugged right into the Grizzlies starting lineup and contribute immediately.
It's also a little bit of a stretch, but somewhere around that 11th through 14th range of picks is Denzel Valentine, and he averaged 19.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.8 assists this past season with the Spartans, the first to average 19-7-7 since assists became a recorded statistic back in 1983-1984. He also won the Julius Erving Small Forward of the year award, beating out a list of worthy candidates that included Brandon Ingram and Ben Simmon. At 6'7" though, he is a little undersized and more suited for a Shooting Guard role in the NBA, plus the recent revelation about the health of his knee is a huge potential red flag. Nevertheless it could be worth a shot. However, assuming the Grizzlies either strike out on a forward in the draft or pursue other needs with their pick, then we still have...
This 2016 NBA free agency is admittedly weak and mostly top heavy, with the top 10 free agents being a) the most valuable as well as b) the least of all FA's to switch teams. However, that doesn't mean that the Grizzlies can't snag a serviceable to above average wing to fit their needs this off-season, especially with an unprecedented amount of cap space that will allow almost every team to have room for at least one max free agent. With that being said we know going into free agency that Kevin Durant and LeBron James are not coming to Memphis and we see that Nicholas Batum and the Charlotte Hornets have a shared interest in each other moving forward. But after that, things can get interesting. I feel that we have a chance to swing for the fences for a Harrison Barnes depending on the rest of our off-season endeavors (the first of which is of course Mike Conley) but the Grizzlies should also be in play for a Chandler Parsons or a Kent Bazemore.
These are all are good players who have thrived in their roles with their respective teams (Parsons a mild injury risk, but still) They are all also players who are either in or haven't yet reached their prime (Parsons is the oldest at 27; Bazemore turns 27 as well on the first day of free agency). All of them can shoot the three at an effective rate, pass and distribute, but out of the three only Parsons can do both scoring for himself AND for others. That being said, Barnes, Parsons, and Bazemore would all fit with the Grizzlies. After those three, it gets just a little bit murkier. Luol Deng is out there, but at 31 he has definitely loss a step, and his best role at this point in his career is a small ball four- and even then I wouldn't give him starters minutes. Aaron Afflalo can play SF, but he's the kind of player who has definitely fallen off as he's gotten older and is better suited for the shooting guard spot anyways. In short, free agency is sort of a hit or miss, but we could strike rich with some smart shopping in the free agency market.
The Grizzlies can and do need to make some adjustments next season, especially in regards to the wing/small forward position. Most teams in the league at this point have either a star or competent wing player, and the Grizz are and have been coming up short there for a number of years. It's time for a change, and there is no better time than the 2015-2016 NBA off-season to figure it out and get back on the right track.
We know the Grizzlies have got to improve that position to stay relevant in the ever tougher Western Conference, but how should that position be upgraded? Through the draft? Free agency? Or even in a trade? Check out the poll below and leave your comments to start a conversation. I will be back next week to share another issue that I feel the Grizzlies should address this upcoming off-season. Until then Grizz fans, keep grinding.