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Coming to terms with a Grizzlies “tank”

Is this the best course of action for the franchise long-term?

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

On the night of November 7th, the Grizzlies barely hung on for a huge road win against the Portland Trail Blazers. Memphis looked strong at 7-4 on the year, blowing away people’s expectations of the team coming into the year.

Fast forward to the present. Now, the Grizzlies are 9-23, having gone 2-19 since that night in Portland. This decline can be accredited to a variety of reasons, but that’s not what this article is about. We’re here to talk about entertaining the idea of a successful tank. Even if you’re not completely on board with the idea, arguments will be laid out to try and get everyone to at least understand how the Grizzlies could benefit going in this direction.

Hope for the Future

The first argument for a tank is the most obvious. If the Grizzlies keep losing games, they will have a better draft selection for the 2018 Draft. That’s not news, but it’s worth mentioning what that will mean for the franchise and this fan base. Looking at the current roster, there aren’t many players to be excited about in the future. Yes, Dillon Brooks shows some upside, but what is his ceiling actually?

A top-5 pick in this upcoming draft class could be a transcendent talent for the Memphis Grizzlies franchise. Without going too deep, Luka Doncic, DeAndre Ayton, Marvin Bagley, Michael Porter Jr. (risky), and now Trae Young all look to be individuals who could be superstars. That’s why Memphis securing a bottom-5 record is so important. Even as the Grizzlies do have a sketchy drafting record, it would be hard to miss with a top-5 pick in this coming draft.

Still Winning While Losing

One thing I’ve seen across the Twitterverse from the people who don’t support a tank is that they could never cheer against the Grizzlies. And that’s a very valid point. However, the counter-argument to that is you can want Memphis to tank while also cheering for individual events for the betterment of the team.

For example, Kobi Simmons getting playing time Thursday against the Suns was a great step forward for his development which can be supported in a loss. Also, if individual players start having a better shooting night or start playing lockdown defense, these are all things that should be cheered on while the team loses.

Even if you can’t root against the Grizzlies, just appreciate the positives in losing. A tough battle with Golden State or Houston that results in a loss may just be the best formula for success down the road for the franchise.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Phoenix Suns Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

This Roster Isn’t Winning Games

Building on the last point, the last argument for a tanking season is that this roster is just not good enough to compete consistently for a playoff spot. As of right now, the Grizzlies would have to close the season finishing 32-18 to finish .500. Even if you are optimistic about this team, it is hard to see this happening. That is just the facts of the matter.

This isn’t the worst news though. What Bickerstaff needs to do is understand this now. Go out and let the young guys get their minutes. Kobi Simmons, Dillon Brooks, Ivan Rabb and Deyonta Davis are all guys who need development to help the future of the franchise. Letting these guys grow around the staples of the team is very important long-term. The worst thing that can happen is that the Grizzlies lose, which is actually a win. It is a tough pill to swallow about this team not being good as in years past, but why not accept it now and benefit with a solid draft pick.

The idea of a tank is intimidating for many people. This is especially true for fan bases who have seen playoff runs the past 7 seasons. Memphis luckily has not been in this desperate scenario many times before. It is a scary thought to essentially throw away a season for one 18-year old who very well may be a bust. That being said, it is the decision teams are stuck with when the losses keep piling up.

We have seen successes and failures over the past decade. The Philadelphia 76ers definitely have the most notable tank in recent history as they made a public demonstration of “The Process.” This is an extreme version of a tank that seems to be working, at the very least for excitement purposes. However, for the good, there are the bad examples as well. The Orlando Magic and Phoenix Suns are two teams in which the franchises have been running on the treadmill of mediocrity. They are in a constant state of tanking over the past five years. As GBB’s Site Manager, Joe Mullinax, so eloquently said, “For every Ben Simmons there is a Jahlil Okafor, for every Kristaps Porzingis a Mario Hezonja.”

So, this is the risk the Grizzlies will have to endure. If they do it correctly, they will have someone in this draft class who could change the franchise for future. It will give life and hope back to this fanbase which desperately needs something to be excited about. Endure the pain now for a reward down the road. Just think about having a Porzingis, an Embiid, or a Jayson Tatum on the Grizzlies and how exciting that would be. This season has been rough so far, but if Memphis could end up with a top 5 draft pick, the losing will be worth it to end up with a possible franchise-altering superstar that could change the Grizzlies for years to come.

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