When GBB was asked, along with all of the other SB Nation sites, to participate in this particular theme day, I wrestled with what Memphis should want the jolly fat guy all dressed in red known as Santa Claus to being them this year. Some surely would want the first overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Others may still be hopeful this time of year and would wish for a healthy roster so the Grizzlies can push for the playoffs...
‘Tis the season for miracles, right?
But the fact that this debate exists at all points to what Grizzlies fans should REALLY want from ol’ Saint Nick- direction. Some semblance of a plan. Because right now, there doesn’t feel like much of an overall movement one way or another with this franchise.
There is a real possibility that Memphis feels that they can lose, and lose a lot, with this current roster and not have to move anyone to another team. But that isn’t a direction, because the public message to this point has been that Memphis, once healthy, can go on a run and still make the playoffs.
Yes, you read that right, kind internet friend. A 9-22 team currently closer to the #1 overall slot in the NBA Lottery (2 games away) than the 8 seed in the Western Conference Playoffs (6 games away), that would need to go 32-19 over their last 51 games just to get to .500 on the season, and that will be without Mike Conley for at least another six games, is telling their fan base that the playoffs are still within reach.
All Memphis wants for Christmas is for the truth to set them, and their Grizzlies, free.
Here it is- it’s time to embrace the tank.
That changes nothing for the players and coaches of the Memphis Grizzlies. Play your ass off. Find your identity, whatever it will be. Show that you are willing to compete, night in and night out, and you will get your shot to be a part of the good times that are hopefully not too far off on the horizon.
But here is what needs to happen from the front office, starting now, in order of importance.
- Trade every expiring contract you can for as many assets as possible. Yes, that includes Tyreke Evans. He has played himself out of Memphis’ pay grade. A team like Cleveland, Boston, Washington, or Philadelphia would love to have his services. Even Brandan Wright and James Ennis III may have 2nd round pick value. Round up all the young players and picks you can for these guys who are most likely not in the long-term cards but could help a contender this year.
- Under no circumstances rush back Mike Conley. Mike and Marc Gasol are proud players. They should both play, and not get shut down, because in theory if you execute #1, even they won’t be able to screw up this “graceful tank”. But in no way, shape, or form, should Conley even sniff minutes in an NBA game again this season unless he is 100% healthy. If the next time he is re-evaluated it is still iffy, continue to kick the can down the road until the trades mentioned above occur. Then shut him down for the year, and start to limit Marc Gasol’s minutes. Let Deyonta Davis and Ivan Rabb get some run. And speaking of Marc...
- Be open to a Marc Gasol deal. Marc won’t ask for a trade? Great. It isn’t as pressing as #1 above, or even #2. Marc has value to this Grizzlies team that he may not have to other NBA squads, and he has literally carried this team this season as the only Grizzly to play in and start every game. But if Cleveland calls and offers that Brooklyn 1st round pick (currently projected to be 9th overall) plus Channing Frye, Iman Shumpert, and Cedi Osman for Marc and LeBron James’ old friend Mario Chalmers? You do it. Almost instantly. You can get to similar versions of this deal with Washington (Marcin Gortat/Markieff Morris/Kelly Oubre Jr.) and Portland (Marc for Evan Turner, Jusuf Nurkic, and a pick), but the idea remains the same- either get a pick or a player with good upside, both if possible.
The fans of the Memphis Grizzlies are proving to be quite loyal (attendance is currently in the top-10 despite the awful play of the team), and pretty smart. They understand that the cycle of playoffs and postseason runs was eventually going to come to an end. While they had largely thought (this writer included) that could have been avoided during a year of Gasol and Conley’s “prime”, it is clear now that it cannot be. We are at Christmas. This team is what it is. It is time to move forward trying to improve your lottery odds and get an elite talent to put next to Conley and Gasol so you can start to prepare for a day where Marc and Mike are no longer Grizzlies.
For this season, at least, Memphis is not a playoff team. So stop selling a bill of goods. For Christmas, give your fans the pursuit of this truth- the Grizzlies are bad, and need to get worse before they can get better.