The season has ended and now the real job starts back up for the front office of the Memphis Grizzlies. Chris Wallace, the general manager, is the face of all the decisions. They are going to have a tough job explaining another mediocre year from the team they assembled. Yes, the Grizzlies played tough against a great Spurs team, and yes, the team had two major injuries to deal with, but that shouldn’t bring comfort to Grizz Nation ending up with yet another high seed. Let’s go over the big moves they made from last offseason through this season:
Draft Picks: Wade Baldwin, Deyonta Davis, Rade Zagorac, and Wang Zhelin
Mike Conley’s record-setting 5-year, $152.6 million-dollar deal
Chandler Parson’s unexplainable 4-year $92 million dollar dumpster fire of a contract (coming off two knee surgeries I might add)
Waiving Troy Williams and then signing Toney Douglas
The front office, and Wallace in particular, is 100% at fault for the mediocrity of this season and the seasons of the past.
We can start the analysis with the 2016 draft. At the time, everyone loved the Grizzlies draft. Overall, it was an average draft that has four players who have yet to develop. Baldwin and Davis had bright spots playing some big time minutes for the Grizzlies this season. Zagorac and Zhelin are complete question marks. Of course, hindsight is 20/20. We can look now and say that Malcolm Brogdon would have been a better pick then Wade Baldwin, but that is not the point being made.
One of the problems with the Grizzlies front office isn’t the drafting of these specific players, but it is the lack of draft picks moving forward because of trades that haven’t panned out. Memphis doesn’t own a draft pick in the 2017 draft. For next season, there is no way of improving the team outside of free agency, which unfortunately is hard enough being a small market team with no cap room.
The reason the Grizzlies have no cap room is because of their two massive off-season signings they made this year. First, the good. Mike Conley came back to Memphis and resigned making him the highest paid player in league history. This decision was best case scenario with the front office. They get back their icon point guard who Memphis adores. So, as this was a smart, well-deserved move to pay him all that money, it was also a no-brainer. Conley had a career year and proved he was worth his mega deal.
Now, the bad. The front office offered their big-time free-agent acquisition Chandler “The Bandit” Parsons a four-year long term deal. Wallace and the crew put all their chips (and cap space) on a player who has had two knee surgeries. Even if he was an average player this year, this move is inexcusable. I understand the urge to criticize The Bandit for poor play throughout the whole year, but more of the fault lies with the people that offered him that outlandish deal.
The team now has zero cap space to work out other deals to get this team to the next level. Conley is a piece to build around, so his contract is acceptable, but the Parsons deal is what Grizzlies fans need to worry about. He will come back next season after this third (!!!) straight knee surgery. He never quite looked right last year in his cutting and jumping around the court. If he can’t come to a form to somewhat justify this contract, Wallace and the front office need to be cleared out. This signing was front office malpractice.
Season In Review
During the actual season, there were not many moves to be made for the Grizzlies. They stayed silent during the trade deadline and only had one impactful waiving/signing at the end of the season. Unfortunately, it was yet another foolish move. The front office waived Troy Williams, who now is having a renaissance with the Houston Rockets, and signed Toney Douglas, who was a bigger dumpster fire than Chandler Parsons this season. This was not a huge impact move, but because of the Grizzlies lack of depth, Williams could have been very helpful in some minutes against the Spurs.
The front office now has a big decision. The Core Four may be ending with both Zach Randolph and Tony Allen at the end of their contracts. Can the Grizzlies get to that next level with the Grit N’ Grind culture Tony Allen implemented years ago? That is the question that must be answered with the offer sheets they give out come July 1st. Both veterans will be hot market commodities, not to mention other Grizzlies free agents JaMychal Green and Vince Carter.
Or does the front office blow the whole thing up? They could trade Marc Gasol to the Boston Celtics for 2 or 3 first round picks and Avery Bradley, or they could gauge interest with the Washington Wizards for a Marc Gasol for Bradley Beal swap. If the Core Four is, in fact, over, which direction is the Memphis front office thinking about going? It will be near impossible to improve and trade for a star without giving away Marc. The Grizzlies cannot trade a first-round pick until 2021 because of the Stepien Rule stating teams may not trade first round picks back to back years (the Celtics own the Grizzlies 2019 first rounder.) This restricts the Grizzlies trade mobility.
Either way, Chris Wallace needs to move on or change his style of thinking long term. His track record has been far from acceptable. For every Zach Randolph trade, there was a separate Jon Leuer, Kyle Lowry, and O.J. Mayo trade that were all disasters. For every Mike Conley pick, there was a Hasheem Thabeet pick. Wallace has been with the Memphis Grizzlies since 2007. At the 10-year mark, there isn’t much to show for except a team that finishes a little above average each year without much flexibility to make big moves. Memphis need to be done with settling for a product with not much hope for the future.