Over the course of the last six seasons, Memphis fans have watched as the core of the beloved Grit ‘n’ Grind era slowly aged, inching year-by-year toward twilight time. And as time marched on, the Grizzlies' title hopes climbed steadily closer to a sharp drop-off.
By that narrative, it's hard to argue that this season's off-season could've gone much better. Using a few expiring contracts and some draft picks, Memphis managed to add some young players via the draft (Wade Baldwin, Deyonta Davis), trades (Troy Daniels), and free agency (James Ennis). More importantly, the exit of Dave Joerger allowed the Grizzlies to bring in David Fizdale, a coach much more dedicated to player development than his predecessor.
So that means the Grizzlies have solved their age problem, right? They're no longer standing on the scaffold beneath the age curve guillotine?
Well, it's not quite that simple.
As has been discussed before, both on GBB and elsewhere, the Grizzlies' roster reworking puts a fairly large burden on some young players. Harrison and Baldwin in particular are in line for major minutes in the back-court. But on the whole, Memphis' biggest issue is the issue that's followed it for the last several seasons.
The Grizzlies are old.
Now, this discussion isn't a simple undertaking. As mentioned above, the Grizzlies looked like a team destined to die with its Core Four- who, when Grit ‘n’ Grind was done, would be destined to languish in the NBA's cellar once again. This off-season at least set a foundation for a bridge to the next generation of Grizzlies basketball. That's a plus.
The only issue is that the foundation of this bridge is on the verge of crumbling. And if it fails, then Memphis is in danger of falling into the abyss.
In most ways, Memphis’ veteran presence would count as a major asset. The Grizzlies have playoff aspirations, and the experience of the Core Four (Tony Allen, Zach Randolph, Mike Conley, Marc Gasol), as well as guys like Vince Carter, is invaluable in the postseason. No one will argue that point.
The problem lies in what's behind their age. The Grizzlies likely be starting Conley, Allen, Randolph, and Gasol. Three of them are on the wrong side of 30. All of them have major injury concerns. Even Parsons, who's still in his prime at 27 years old, enters the season with question marks all over his knee. And one can't forget to mention Carter, who will turn 40 during the season; unless or until Vince is traded, it's likely he'll still get non-insignificant playing time.
Take a look up and down the roster, and Zach Lowe's label for this team - the "well-built house of cards" - has never felt more appropriate. The issue is less in how many of Memphis' players are old; it's how that age is distributed. The Grizzlies have all their veteran presence situated way too far up the age curve, at risk not only of injury, but just an overall drop-off in play. And if that happens, it means more responsibility for Memphis' newly acquired youth.
I guess, if I'm being honest, this isn't exactly a complete counterpoint to Corban's piece. A lot of my argument for Memphis' age issues is couched in the fact that there's only youth behind the wall of age, which really supports the youth argument. But as I said before, Memphis' issue is less about how many old players than it is about where their players are on the age curve.
Memphis just has to hope its manse of Bicycles doesn’t catch a stiff breeze, or things are going to come crumbling down quickly.
(Epilogue: I'd also like to add a note: This shouldn't be taken as a critique of Memphis' off-season. Given what it had to work with, the Grizzlies front office would be hard pressed to deliver a better summer than what they put together. Signing Chandler Parsons, adding Baldwin, Davis, and two more stash assets in Zagorac and CHINESE GUY (Wang Zhelin) through the draft, as well as bringing in James Ennis on the cheap, are all moves that should be applauded. Even if this season is an(other) injury plagued disaster, it's the brightest the future of the Grizzlies has looked in a while. And whether you think the Grizzlies have too much age or too much youth right now, there is still plenty that fans should be happy about.)