The beauty of the NBA is that even the offseason can be entertaining. It started with NBA free agency having us all tuned into Twitter every waking moment of our day. Then, we saw NBA Summer League games sell out in Las Vegas (WHAT?!). Now, we are witnessing the best reality TV on the market with the banter between Kyrie Irving and LeBron James. Even with all that drama considered, can we please just fast forward to the season already?
The Memphis Grizzlies have already made a few interesting deals this off season that has proved a new direction for the team. Though there haven’t been any blockbuster deals involving the Grizzlies, the roster changes have created some buzz and intrigue around the team.
The only problem is that basically all of the Western Conference have also made some noise too.
When the Grizz signed head coach David Fizdale, he made it clear that Grizzlies would retain the Grit-N-Grind mantra. However, the team would also speed the game up and adapt to the new style of play in the NBA. Last season the team took a step in that direction with Fizdale leading them to middle-of-the-pack shooting while going through a regression in defensive numbers.
Memphis is no longer known for defense and lack of three-point shooting. Though they are not the Rockets in terms of points per game or three-point attempts, the style of play has definitely changed for Memphis.
The roster changes this off season are more proof of that.
Tyreke Evans is now a Grizzly. Not known for his long range shooting (just a 29.5% career three-point shooter), he isn’t a huge threat to spot up around the perimeter, but he is a scorer by nature. He can handle the ball, pass, and rebound with his 6’6, 220 pound frame. This is a faster, bigger, younger replacement for Vince Carter.
No, he doesn’t have the shooting threat that VC had, and in no way is Evans better than Carter in his prime. Evans will prove a better (and cheaper) option long-term off the bench for the Grizzlies.
Another addition is Ben McLemore. Since he is virtually unproven (he wasn’t very good in Sacramento), there is not a ton of expectation for him coming to Memphis. With another shooting guard option featuring size and athleticism, the Grizzlies are expanding the way they can attack on the offensive end. Anchored by a versatile center in Marc Gasol and an elite point guard in Mike Conley, adding younger, athletic talent proves a difference in philosophy moving forward.
Shedding the age and price of Zach Randolph and Vince Carter is simply smart business, though it is sad to see them go. The Grizzlies got younger (if Tony Allen doesn’t return to Memphis, the oldest player on the roster will be Marc Gasol at 32 years old), yet less experienced. They got more athletic, yet still aren’t an elite shooting threat. They have opted to take risks with the signings of Evans, McLemore, and that is more evident with adding Mario Chalmers on a partially guaranteed deal. But if he proves to be healthy and shakes the rust off quickly, he can be a legitimate back-up point guard that Memphis needs desperately.
But will these moves matter in a more muddled than ever Western Conference?
Paul George moved West to join the OKC Westbrooks. Jimmy Butler is going to try his luck in Minnesota after a trade. Chris Paul moved East but not far enough, so he will now complain with a new set of teammates in Houston. And of course, the Warriors maintained the most exciting team ever created. So, the Grizzlies have a tall task of competing in the West...
But so what? The important thing is that Memphis is looking to prepare for the future and is adapting to the change in style of how basketball is played.
There is still some unfinished business to attend to - signing JaMychal Green, first and foremost. However, as Grizzly fans, we should be excited looking to the future. The offseason has been productive and proves that the front office is at least trying to compete in the era of the Warriors.