Part 5: What does this all mean?
Over the past week, we have looked at each part that makes or breaks a franchise in the NBA: the draft picks, the free agents, the trades, and the future draft picks. So if you haven’t read any of the other pieces, stop and take a read, then come back.
In each of our four parts, we examined how the Grizzlies have done in each category and how they’ve gotten to this point over the past decade, because it’s time. It’s time to make some hard decisions. The past is finally catching up to this team. The past of bad draft picks, no real free agent acquisitions, and bad trades is finally catching up to the Grizzlies.
After the first round exit to the Spurs, the biggest problem that sticks out with this team is that, after Marc and Mike, there are no real scoring options. They thought this might have been fixed with Chandler Parsons this year, but that didn’t pan out. There’s still time for this to work, but that’s not the only problem. The biggest problems is role players. James Ennis III really didn’t amount to what you thought he might be, Troy Daniels has been great shooting the ball, but the second half of the season, teams figured him out and seriously slowed him down. There’s no way to tell if Vince Carter is going to hold on for yet another season. Andrew Harrison isn’t the answer at the backup point guard position. Wade Baldwin IV looks nowhere near being ready to play in the NBA.
This is what mismanagement of a franchise looks like over the past ten years. When you draft one player in ten years who makes meaningful impact for your team, something is seriously wrong. This is why it takes every piece to the puzzle to create a successful franchise over the long haul. You might be thinking, “Weren’t the Grizzlies successful in making the playoffs seven straight years?” Yes, you’re right, they have been. Unfortunately, they have been successful but have forgotten to look to the future for this franchise, and more importantly, they wasted the prime years of Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. If they’d drafted better, or had better free agent acquisitions, they Grizzlies could've been even better than what they were, potentially making it to the Western Conference Finals more than once. That’s the problem. Now, here we stand this offseason with decisions to be made.
The Grizzlies have to choose between gambling on the core four, existing in a vicious cycle of mediocrity, or blowing it up and trying to rebuild. The first two might actually be the same thing. Zach Randolph and Tony Allen are both up for new contracts this offseason, along with JaMychal Green. A lot of what happens this offseason will begin with Green, depending what other teams want to pay him, and that will decide what the Grizzlies will be able to do with the other bigs on the team. Tony Allen will want to get paid, but I’m just not sure what the market is for a shooting guard that can’t stay healthy and can't shoot.
I don’t know what the Grizzlies will do; it will most likely be a combination of letting Tony go and bringing Zach Randolph back, while trying to make a low level free agent signing this offseason. I wouldn’t rule out some type of Brandan Wright trade if they did bring Randolph back. Would these moves put the Grizzlies back into the top four in the west? There’s no real way for us to know at the moment.
The other option is to blow it up and start looking to rebuild. You could also blow it up halfway by trading just Mike or Marc. The biggest problem with that? They don’t have any draft picks, and the young players they do have don’t look super promising. Anytime you start a rebuild, you take on a scary task. You can be a team rebuilding for years, getting high draft picks, and still never be good. It could be a long long time before you’re ever back in this position. That takes a toll on the fan base and the city, not to mention the players. The Grizzlies would likely not want to go down this road. The Grizzlies are going to want to stretch the core four or whatever that might look like next season for as long as they can.
The reality of the situation is that the Grizzlies lucked into much of what is to be considered the core four and the reason that this team has been so good over the past 7 years. Sometimes you have to be good but also a little lucky to make it as a successful franchise over the long haul, but the Grizzlies are at a crossroads. What they do next will likely shape the franchise in the next 5-7 years. If they continue to draft poorly, once Mike and Marc leave, they will be in a rebuilding mode by force and not by choice. If they continue to give up draft picks in trades that don’t work out, then they won’t even have picks to screw up in the future. If they continue to not sign quality free agents to help out their franchise players, they will toil in mediocrity.
It’s decision time.