No one saw the Grizzlies landing in their current state.
Through the first six games, playoffs were the floor. Now, in the most ironic way, the number one pick in this year’s NBA draft is the ceiling. The front office has proven over and over that there is no rhyme or reason when it comes to this team. Fans are growing increasingly irritated with the decisions of the front office, decisions that have ultimately ended up yielding a bad team with no direction.
I decided to talk with Senior Writer Brandon Abraham, who is also a season ticket holder and Memphis Hustle expert, about his thoughts on the current state and direction of the Grizzlies. In the chat we break down how Memphis got here, and what’s next.
Which direction are the Grizzlies trending?
MM - The Grizzlies are trending downward. Let me clarify - I don’t mean they are losing, which they are. I mean the organization as a whole - the team, front office, and head coach - is going downhill. The roster is poorly constructed, coach J.B. Bickerstaff hasn’t found any solutions, if there are any, and the front office has just made it all worse. Sure, the team is lottery bound, but can we trust this front office to make the right decisions with lottery benefits?
As a season ticker holder, how does the Tyreke-non-trade affect your confidence in the front office moving forward?
BA - The team not trading Tyreke is worrisome because it shows the lack of a plan by the front office. Trading Reke would have signaled a full on tank for the season and gotten valuable assets down the road. The front office is obviously banking that keeping Tyreke will help them keep him this summer. I’m not buying it, but I hope I’m wrong come July 1st.
What is the vibe you get from fans at games and in Memphis regarding the Grizzlies?
BA - Before the trade deadline, the fans were great, still showing respectable attendance at games and cheering the team on. Memphis fans are smart; they know this season is lost, but they’re at least enjoying the young guys playing their hearts out and can see potential in them. It will be interesting to see the fan reaction to the team keeping Tyreke, as that pissed a ton of people off online.
What are your thoughts on Marc Gasol? (intentionally leaving that question up for interpretation)
MM - If you look strictly at his stats, he’s playing at the level we expect from him. His scoring and rebounding aren’t significantly swaying in either direction. But watching him on a game to game basis, he doesn’t look engaged, his body language is terrible, and I think he needs a change of scenery. I love watching Marc and what he has done for the city of Memphis and this team, but it’s time to move on. This team doesn’t complement his style well, and he just seems unhappy.
If the Grizzlies had to cut three players today, with no salary cap ramifications, who would you cut?
BA - I still think he can be a player in this league and beneficial to the Grizzlies, but I gotta include Chandler Parsons on contract alone. I would also cut Ben McLemore to free up about 5 million next summer. Lastly, if it didn’t affect his free agency decision, I’d cut/buy out Reke to preserve our lottery odds.
MM - If you don’t know how I feel about Mario Chalmers yet, I’ll tell you. He should not play another NBA game. I would cut him simply because I don’t want to watch him on the court anymore. I would also cut Ben McLemore. He is contributing nothing and just costs too much. Using that logic, inevitably I would have to cut Parsons too, but that’s a cop-out answer. I’ll cut Jarell Martin. What does he do better than Ivan Rabb or Myke Henry? Sure he has a few highlights, but the bad outweighs the good.
What have you seen in the first half of the season that is working for this team?
BA - The young guys learning is something that has worked from day one of the season. Brooks is playing solidly, albeit outside of his desired role. Rabb, Davis, Selden, and Simmons among others have played well. Say what you will about the Grizzlies’ crappy draft history, but they’ve done a solid job developing what they have.
What is not working?
BA - Managing veteran minutes is not working. Gasol and Evans both average over 30 minutes per game and Chalmers averages more than zero, so that’s a problem. Limiting Gasol/Evans minutes will likely increase the odds of losing games and getting better lottery odds. Limiting Chalmers minutes saves Grizzlies fans from a migraine.
MM - I think the best way to answer this question is to say that the roster is just poor, with below average players in roles they should not be playing. There is too much size, most of which struggles to make their own shots. The guards have the same problem: other than Evans and Selden, no other guards are dependable. This is getting depressing.
What should this Grizzlies specifically be working on in the second half of the season?
BA - Tanking. Lose as many games as possible, but do so while developing young talent and evaluating who you want to keep and who you don’t see as part of the future of the Grizzlies. The main thing is figuring out who is and isn’t part of this team long-term.
MM - Development is key. Players like Wayne Selden Jr. and Deyonta Davis should be getting 30+ minutes a game. Injuries have been an issue with those two, but as much as they can be on the floor, put them out there. The two-way players with limited time with the Grizzlies, aka Kobi Simmons and Ivan Rabb, need to make the most of their time in the big leagues. I love watching the young guys. Giving them reps and minutes can only benefit for the future.
Thanks to Brandon Abraham for joining me.