The Core 4.
Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, Marc Gasol, and Mike Conley.
This group has become iconic in Memphis culture, but now that era is coming to an end.
Zach Randolph left to join former Grizz coach Dave Joerger in Sacramento.
Tony Allen is likely to depart as well.
Is this the end for the Grizzlies’
Not quite. Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, who both recently signed hefty contracts, still remain in Memphis.
With two of their mentors (likely in the case of TA) gone, this is their team. The time for them to take charge is now.
The era of “Grit N’ Grind” is fading away. The NBA left that style of overall play a long time ago, but the Grizzlies clung to it, finding a lot of success. However, with Zach Randolph and Tony Allen (both founders of the movement) aging, it was time for Memphis to move on.
Coach David Fizdale seems to want to move to a faster style of play than the Grizzlies have been playing in recent years. So, Memphis needed players who fit Fizdale’s desired mold.
Mike Conley fits into it quite nicely. Over the years, we’ve seen Conley grow as a player in many respects. This last season under Fizdale was arguably Conley’s best year to date, yet he still didn’t make the All-Star team. On the season, he averaged 20.5 PPG and 6.3 assists, and had a PER of 23.26. In addition, he shot a career-high 45.9% from the field, and 40.7% from three (another career-high stat).
Meanwhile, in the high post, Marc Gasol dominated last season and made another All-Star appearance. On the year, he averaged a career-high 19.5 PPG and 6.3 rebounds. The Spaniard also improved from the three point line immensely last year, as he shot a career-high 38.8%. However, as the season wore on and the playoffs arrived, Big Spain didn’t perform as well in the postseason as many had hoped he would.
Coach Fizdale will have a very different deck of cards dealt to him this season, but he’ll still have Conley and Gasol at the helm. It’s paramount that both players are fully on board with Fizdale’s plans and style of play. Fizdale wants to implement a style that is more modern than the grinding-it-out Grizzlies are used to, and perhaps that isn’t entirely Marc Gasol’s style. Being a big man who has developed in the paint, Gasol might prefer the gritty style Memphis has traditionally played, while point guard Mike Conley can easily adapt to a faster offense.
Last season, the Grizzlies were ranked 28th in pace. That should change this season with the additions of players like Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans, who both provide some shooting and athleticism. Also, shooting guard Wayne Selden Jr. signed a two-year deal with the Grizz, and he showed out in Las Vegas. Selden also gives Memphis more depth, youth, and athleticism that will fit well into Fizdale’s system.
IF Chandler Parsons is healthy and can at least play semi-decent this season, he’ll also be able to get up and down the court the way Coach Fizdale wants to.
This is the year that the Grizzlies will be in a transition mode, in a sense. They’ll still have some pieces from the “Grit N’ Grind” era. But perhaps Fizdale can blend his faster paced offense with the Grizzlies’ grinding defense of years past. On the other hand, it could be a bumpy road at first with so many shifting pieces. The combination of the previous mentality with the current staff and personnel will be interesting to watch unfold.
But, what is most important is how Mike Conley and Marc Gasol act under this new system. They’ll have to show the Memphis community, their coach, and their teammates that they believe in this transition. Otherwise, things could spiral downward quickly for the Memphis Grizzlies.
A lot hinges on the health of Chandler Parsons, obviously. But, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are going to have to have stellar seasons again for the Grizzlies to be successful.
For Mike Conley, that just means for him to continue to do what he’s already been doing. Last season, Conley improved his game overall and was extremely clutch in the postseason as well. He’s just got to continue to be aggressive offensively and remain healthy. It’ll be important for Coach Fizdale to monitor his minutes so he’s not worn out at the end of the season. Unfortunately, Memphis’ backup point guard situation is a little shaky, so it’ll be interesting to see how Memphis addresses that this year. Above all else, they definitely can’t afford to run Mike Conley into the ground.
For Marc Gasol, he needs to fully embrace this leadership role. Last season, everyone saw what Big Spain could truly be, but as the season wore on and the postseason arrived, Gasol performed a little below my expectations. He still struggles with taking charge when needed, as well as being the true leader he’s meant to be. With other veterans like Vince Carter and Zach Randolph gone, this is truly Gasol’s time to be selfish offensively.
Gasol is a great passer, but the Grizzlies need him to take more shots and have that finisher’s mentality consistently. Otherwise, we might see a repeat of the end of last season and postseason.
Gasol, in many ways, really improved last year. Everyone saw flashes of Big Spain truly taking charge on the offensive end and living up to his full potential. Also, he improved greatly from the three point line. Now, Gasol has even more range than ever before, and that’s something opposing teams fear.
Gasol’s game has evolved as he’s been with the Grizzlies, but now it’ll be a different kind of test for him as Memphis enters a new era. How will he handle it, from a physical and mental perspective?
As the “Grit N’ Grind” era rides off into the sunset along with some memorable figures, Conley and Gasol are left to pick up the pieces and lead a new batch of teammates into uncharted waters.