There’s no denying that the Memphis Grizzlies had a solid offseason, especially given they won only 22 games last year. They got rid of a lot of the gunk from last season’s tanktastic squad and replaced it with competent veterans. They used their top-5 pick on a defensive-minded big man with the potential to become a unicorn.
However, things looks off.
Use your top-5 pick on a talented prospect at a position of need...
Have him come off the bench.
This same top-5 pick has unicorn potential, can stretch the floor, and score off the dribble...
Play him in the post.
Your best rookie in YEARS played in all 82 games last year and started in 74. He also gradually improved in every aspect of his game throughout the season...
Play him SIX minutes in the season opener.
You call your high second-round pick another “first-round pick,” and you find a four-year college player that fits the team’s mantra...
Sign a mediocre veteran at his position.
A third-year player starts on opening night the past two seasons and showed steady improvement throughout last year...
Inactive on opening night.
You use your valuable mid-level exception on a young, versatile weapon with intriguing playmaking and defensive potential...
Play your mediocre veteran additions more.
Given the following information, you probably know who I’m talking about. Granted, it’s only been one game, but you can already tell that the coaching staff isn’t utilizing Jaren Jackson Jr., Dillon Brooks, Jevon Carter, Andrew Harrison and Kyle Anderson properly, or at all. Instead, the Memphis Grizzlies relied on the some mediocre veterans far too much.
To be quite honest, it just sounds like the Grizzlies are playing things too safe.
Your team isn’t winning anything if Garrett Temple has the most shot attempts. Shelvin Mack shouldn’t be playing 30 minutes a night, especially if he’s 1-8 from the field and not even dropping dimes. It’s a damn travesty that he played more minutes than Dillon Brooks, Anderson, Harrison and Selden COMBINED. I understand MarShon Brooks can go get buckets and change a game with that, but he was 2-9 from the field last night. It wasn’t his night; go with your young wings instead. Sure, JaMychal Green is in the starting 5, because he can be a versatile defender and is probably the best rebounder on the team. However, Domantas Sabonis made Green his son, snatching up every rebound away from him.
I understand that these guys are veterans, and there — supposedly — more reliable than young players. It’s just way too safe though. Those players that the coaching staff is looking to rely on aren’t really starter-level players that can be impactful on a playoff team. Temple and Mack are best suited as insurance policy off the bench. Green projects more as an energy big off the bench than a starter. You can make an argument that MarShon Brooks wouldn’t be on most NBA rosters.
The underutilized young players the Grizzlies could actually swing a game, despite their youth.
Kyle Anderson should honestly be a starter, as he proved last year that he can contribute as one for a playoff team. His playmaking and defense are simply too valuable for a team looking to regain its defensive magic and to unleash its point guard as a 20-PPG scorer.
Dillon Brooks proved himself as a legitimate NBA player, as he battled and produced every night after NBA starting lineups. There’s literally no excuse for him to only play SIX MINUTES in a regular season game. His overall skillset and two-way potential warrants a permanent 20-minute rotation spot.
Andrew Harrison and Jevon Carter aren’t really significantly worse than Shelvin Mack. For a team that’s fairly new, Harrison’s familiarity with the offense and with Gasol and Conley should warrant a battle for backup PG spot. Jevon Carter won’t get much run this year, but who says he couldn’t impact a game or two with a few stellar GNG-type plays?
Jaren Jackson Jr. may not be the best option for the starting lineup, and that’s fine. If you’re going to use him off the bench, feature him as your primary option off the bench. He’s flashed a great offensive skillset over the past few months. He can be a great pick-and-pop player, as he can knock down the 3-ball consistently. He’s sized up defenders at the top of the key and drilled shots off the dribble on numerous occasions. Don’t restrict him to the post. He’s not Zach Randolph!
In this year’s Western Conference, you won’t make the playoffs playing it safe, especially with this roster. You can make an argument that each team in the playoffs last year took some sort of risk to get to the playoffs. Utah unleashing Donovan Mitchell as a rookie ... New Orleans sacrificing a first-round pick for Nikola Mirotic ... San Antonio starting second-year guard Dejounte Murray over veteran — and future Hall of Famer — Tony Parker ... to name a few.
Sure, with these young players, there are some risks with it. Anderson won’t shoot 3’s. Brooks hasn’t been good since the Grizz returned to action. Harrison and Carter aren’t as reliable as Mack. Jackson is a foul machine and can’t rebound well.
Who cares though? Their skillsets are just as impactful, if not more impactful, to winning than the incumbents right now. Their strengths could potentially make life a lot easier for Gasol and Conley. In the process, you’re grooming them for the future when the keys came their way sooner rather than later — primarily talking Jackson, Anderson and Brooks.
If they keep “playing it safe,” they’ll become a hamster on the wheel of mediocrity.