The Memphis Grizzlies released their training camp schedule on Tuesday and we are 18 days away from Grizzlies Media day on September 25th. Training camp is an exciting time because it means we are less than a month away from cheering on the Grizzlies in the FedExForum once again.
Although training camp is an exciting time for the fans, it’s also a concerning time filled with difficult decisions by management. Teams are given essentially a couple of weeks between camp and preseason to figure out what they want their roster to look like for the upcoming season. For some teams, like the Golden State Warriors, those decisions were mostly made long ago and any leftover moves to be made are minuscule. However, for a team like the Grizzlies, there is plenty to be concerned about going into camp.
Here are my four main concerns going as the boys come back in town to prep for the upcoming campaign.
The Power Forward Problem
As of this writing, JaMychal Green is still a restricted free agent. Without him, the Grizzlies power forward position is a black hole. Jarell Martin is the only legitimate power forward and frankly, he isn’t a starting caliber player in the NBA. Both Deyonta Davis and Brandan Wright are centers who can be turned into power forwards, but neither projects to excel next to Marc Gasol in the starting lineup due to spacing issues. Both are better set coming off the bench as backup centers. Rade Zagorac could be a stretch four but, like Martin, he isn’t ready to start or play heavy NBA minutes yet.
Even if/when the Grizzlies re-sign JaMychal, which CBS’s Matt Moore says is likely to happen before camp, Coach Fizdale will have to figure out how he will distribute minutes behind Green. Does he go small and play James Ennis or Chandler Parsons at the four with the bench unit, or does Jarell or Deyonta impress Fizdale enough that he trusts them with those minutes? With or without JaMychal Green, Fizdale will have his hands full figuring out the power forward position.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: health will be a huge factor in the success of the Memphis Grizzlies this season. It seems like we say it every year, and this year is no different. The Grizzlies have already lost Ben McLemore for the first month of the season with a fractured bone in his foot. Chandler Parsons is coming off another knee surgery. Tyreke Evans has had knee issues of his own the last few seasons. Mario Chalmers is getting his first chance to prove he has recovered from his Achilles injury two seasons ago. Rookie Ivan Rabb hasn’t officially signed with the team yet due to concerns over an injured ankle. The four guys coming off injury, especially Parsons, will need to prove they are healthy and ready to contribute, otherwise fans may get nauseous thinking about a repeat of the 2015-2016 season.
Who stays? Who goes?
Including the cap holds for JaMychal, Tony Allen, and Rabb, the Grizzlies currently have 20 players on their roster. Kobi Simmons will be on a two-way contract, and it’s unlikely that TA returns. This leaves the Grizzlies with 18 players (still assuming the JaMychal reunion) on the roster that they will need to trim down to 15 before the season begins. Who makes the team and who doesn’t is still up for much debate. There is a logjam of players at the point guard position and it’s likely one or more of Andrew Harrison, Wade Baldwin IV, and Mario Chalmers (non-guaranteed contract) gets cut.
Do the Grizzlies decide Jarell Martin isn’t a worthy investment and cut him (or package him in a deal with Brandan Wright)? Does the team decide Troy Daniels is too one dimensional to stick around? Do they decide Rabb isn’t worth the health risk and decide not to sign the rookie out of Cal whom they traded a draft pick to select? There will be many different opinions on what the Grizzlies should and shouldn’t do, but figuring out the roster will be the main focus when camp rolls around later this month.
This upcoming season will be a big one for the Grizzlies. With the Western Conference getting even more stacked, the Grizzlies didn’t do much to improve their roster and lost key figure heads in Zach Randolph and (presumably) Tony Allen. Some believe that could be addition by subtraction in the up-tempo style of play in today’s NBA. However, many national media outlets have predicted Memphis to slip out of the playoff picture for what seems like the 5th year in a row. Decisions made during training camp will help determine if the Grizzlies prove the doubters wrong again, or if they finally fall out of the west’s top 8.