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The Grizzlies are tanking and don’t know it

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They’re just bad at basketball

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

The Memphis Grizzlies have said publicly for a while that they are not tanking. Chris Wallace, the General Manager, said he always expects to be in the playoffs every year. From Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com:

“Our expectation always is to be a playoff team and have a chance to do some things when we get in there. We’re behind in the standings right now, but it’s a long way to go. When we get our guys back, I think we’ll surge.”

“We have no intention to trade Marc,” Wallace told ESPN when asked if the franchise might consider dealing the 32-year-old big man. “We never seriously considered that at all. We never placed any calls to any teams in that regard. So that’s not happening.”

The idea of tanking has been debated everywhere for quite some time now. Some people hate the idea and it is a pretty hot topic. Most people who hate will never come to terms with it, and the people who think it is a good idea root for the Grizzlies to lose every night. It is a weird situation when you are cheering for a lose when they are playing almost every night. The Grizzlies are not just tanking though, they are really bad at basketball and it starts with the roster construction.

They signed a player in Ben McLemore to a 2 year/$10.6 million contract in the offseason, using most of their mid level exception. This move in the offseason really made it more difficult for them to sign anyone else of higher value for the same or lower price. Chris Wallace and the front office thought that Ben McLemore would make this team better, and contribute on a nightly basis. In the last five games, he has two DNP-CD’s and only played over ten minutes once. A player that the Grizzlies thought would contribute a lot, isn’t even seeing time on the court.

Young players like James Ennis and Wayne Selden Jr., who the Grizzlies thought would contribute even more this year have been absent. Selden has not even played save for a few minutes because of injury, and Ennis has not been able to get back to his reliable form that he was last year. James Ennis really struggles in the half court offense, and the Grizzlies half court offense is pretty much non existent. Ennis excels when he is the open court, defending and running in transition and when that happens he has great games, but the Grizzlies do not really get out and get transition buckets. They play at a snails pace even after re-tooling their roster to get more athletic.

Injuries are another concern for the Grizzlies and most notably Mike Conley. Even when Mike Conley was healthy he was not playing to the level that we saw him play last year. His field goal percentage, three point percentage, rebounds and assists were all career lows in the 12 games that he has played this season. On top of all that, he has not played in a game since November 13th of this year and he probably wont be back until the middle of January, that is probably the best case scenario.

Brandan Wright is another player that has had injury concerns throughout the year. They thought that they would be able to utilize him with Marc Gasol some, giving them different lineup combinations, but he has not even been around to do that because of his injuries.

The players that the Grizzlies drafted and thought would take a huge leap this year and contribute to the team after letting Tony Allen and Zach Randolph go have been an absolute disaster. Andrew Harrison is not a good point guard and is definitely not a starting point guard. He has a negative net rating for the year, does not shoot the three ball well, and does not contribute much beyond his getting to the rim. His ability to get to the rim has limits though. Jarell Martin is in his third year and you would expect him to be able to take that leap to role player in this league, but he has yet to show that ability consistently. He constantly gets lost on defense, does not rebound the ball particularly well, cant shoot the three ball, and when he is open from three, he does not even think about shooting it.

The front office thought that Mario Chalmers would be a reliable back up point guard this year after coming back from an injury but he has soon that he is clearly not the same player that was here a few years ago. Mario has been inconsistent this year at best and turns the ball over entirely too much.

The Grizzlies are second to last in the league in points per game.

They are the slowest team in terms of pace.

The give up over a hundred points a game.

They are a middling team in terms of defensive rating and almost last in offensive rating.

The Grizzlies are one of the worst rebounding teams in the league.

They are the 28th in assists per game.

They are 28th in three point percentage in the league.

The Grizzlies are bad at basketball.

It does not matter that Chris Wallace and the Grizzlies wont publicly say they are tanking. It doesn’t matter that they are out there trying to win basketball games. The Grizzlies will lose a lot, not because they are “tanking” but because they have a front office that has mismanaged the roster. They signed players to their roster for large contracts that are not even playing in games anymore. The front office has put together a roster that is largely made up of G-League players. The choice to tank to get the best possible draft pick this year has already been made and it was made by the front office. That choice was made when the Grizzlies put this roster together during the summer.

The Grizzlies are seven games back from the 8th seed in the Western Conference playoff race. You don’t have to be in favor of tanking. You don’t have to be favor of fighting as hard as you can to get to into the playoffs only to fall short and finish 10th, then get a middle of the road draft pick. The Grizzlies will not let that happen because they are so bad at basketball that it wont even matter what they do.

They could trade players away for better players in return, but they don’t have assets to start with for that to even happen. The Grizzlies are tanking for a top draft pick and seem to have no idea that’s what they are even doing.