The Grizzlies are bad at basketball.
Whether you think they are tanking for a bad draft pick, whether you love that idea or hate it, they have lost a lot of games this year. They’re not winning that many more the rest of the way, because of the roster that they constructed this year. They are going to get a top draft pick (hopefully they don’t screw it up), but the question remains -
Where do they go from here?
What do they do next year? What will be so different next year that they return to the playoffs in the Western Conference? The roster unfortunately wont be much different next year, but what SHOULD the Grizzlies? What should they do to get out of this hole they have put themselves in?
Expensive Contracts on the Books
These are players that are coming back no matter what next year, based on salary, trade availability and what the Grizzlies front office currently thinks of them.
Marc Gasol ($24M) - Marc Gasol is the cornerstone of the franchise, for good reason. He has helped them to 50 win seasons, playoff runs, and so much more. For the most part, he will be back, I don’t really see any scenario where Marc doesn’t return. The Grizzlies should be looking at trade offers for him, but I think that he means more to the franchise than they could get in a trade for him.
Chandler Parsons ($24M) - Chandler Parsons will be back next year, for better or worse. I have been a champion of Parsons since they signed him, I thought it was a good signing then, but it has not turned out great. His injury history has caught up to him and he has hardly played any meaningful minutes or games as a part of this team. There isn’t a team that would take on this contract without giving up a significant player from the Grizzlies as well and that just isn’t happening.
Mike Conley ($30.5M) - Mike Conley is the conductor of this team, you could see that from the first few games that he played even when he wasn’t one hundred percent. He has had his problems in the past and this year with injury but he has two years left on this contract, and is the other franchise player on the roster. He isn’t going anywhere even with some type of trade offer, the Grizzlies just would not move on Mike Conley.
JaMychal Green ($7.8M) - JaMychal Green is another player I think will probably be here and has earned a spot on this roster. He signed a two-year deal this past offseason, so next year will be his last year on this current contract. He has quietly averaged 10.6 points and 8.4 rebounds this year and is a player that plays hard while still understanding his role on the court. He is a career year in terms of points, rebounds, assists, and blocks while still shooting 46 percent from the field and taking attempting more three pointers than ever before.
Ben McLemore ($5.4M) - Ben McLemore is a guy that the Grizzlies targeted as their number one free agent signing this past offseason. Using most of their Mid-Level Exception on him, they prevented themselves from really signing anyone else that could help them this year or into the future (aside from Tyreke Evans). Ben McLemore is a player having career lows, only playing in 48 games this season, and only playing an average of 18 minutes in those games. This is a player that has regularly gotten DNP-CD’s on a 19 win season.
They should move off of Ben. He has not proven himself to be an effective NBA player, although I am not sure that anyone would take his contract or that Chris Wallace is ready to publicly give up and call this signing a failure. Expect McLemore to be back next season, even though he has no business being back on this team next year.
These are guys that will be free agents at the end of the season, and the Grizzlies can re sign them if they have the money and if they want them back.
Tyreke Evans ($3.2M) - Tyreke Evans is a player that should have been moved at the trade deadline. He is playing better than he has ever played in his career and the Grizzlies should have capitalized on that, but they didn’t. They chose to keep him to try lure him back next season. There is only one problem with that scenario, they might not have the money that it will take to keep him. I think Tyreke will come in at either a one year high money deal for a team or at $10-12M for a two-year deal with a team. The Grizzlies can only offer the MLE, which is around $8.5 million per year. Expect Tyreke to be playing in a different city next year.
Mario Chalmers ($2.1M) - Mario Chalmers has been bad this year, but for the Grizzlies top draft pick chances, it has been great for the tankathon. I think the Grizzlies will let Mario walk, there is no real value bringing him back next year even on a veteran’s minimum salary. It was great to see him back on the court this year after his injury, but I expect the Grizzlies to use Andrew Harrison as the primary backup point guard.
Brice Johnson ($1.3M) - Brice Johnson is a young guy that cant even get in the games on a 19 win team. You can understand why his career has not really taken off in the way that he would like. His option was not picked up this year so he will be a free agent and I don’t expect him to be back with the Grizzlies.
Young Guys on the Books
These are the guys that will most determine what the Grizzlies can do next season. If they move on some (or all) of them, then they might be able to afford another free agent that would be able to help them out next season. The Grizzlies should be able to make decisions on some of these younger players based on what they have seen this year and how they have played.
Jarell Martin ($2.4) - Jarell Martin went from on the bubble before starting camp to playing 68 game this year averaging 23 minutes a game. In his third year, Martin should be showing more attributes for an NBA player. He still does not defend well enough to play as a four (much less as a wing), his rebounding is not what you like to see from a young big, and he still has not improved on his three pointers. The Grizzlies should try and move on from Jarell Martin, he has not shown what it takes to be even a role player on a good NBA team.
Rade Zagorac ($1.3M) - You might wondering why Rade is even on this list? He isn’t on the team anymore. The Grizzlies signed him this past offseason to a multiyear deal and then waived him before the season to make room for other players. They brought him over to soon and he was one of the many mistakes the front office made this past offseason. The reason he is on this list is because the Grizzlies will still be paying him over a million dollars next year for no reason.
Deyonta Davis ($1.5M) - Deyonta Davis, a second round pick, was traded along with Rade Zagorac to the Memphis Grizzlies for one of their first round draft picks. Next year will be Davis last year on his contract, but he has not panned out as the defensive big that can alter shots at the rim. Deyonta is not asked to do much as a young backup big, all that he needs to do to be able to stay on the court is rebound the basketball and play defense adequately. He has looked lost a lot on the court and more importantly he does not look like he even wants to be on the court. The Grizzlies should try and move Deyonta Davis to free up more money.
Wayne Selden Jr. ($1.5M) - Wayne Selden has been in and out of the lineup all year, he was hurt much of the first part of the year and he really has not looked like the player that defended Kawhi Leonard well at times last year in the playoffs. He will be heading in to the last year of his deal next year as well, but I think he has the most potential out of all the younger players. Selden deserves another shot to be a role player for this franchise next year. Hopefully he can be the player that showed up in summer league.
Ivan Rabb ($1.3M) - Ivan Rabb, one of last years second round picks, has not really gotten a shot this year to be on the court, only playing in 29 games this year averaging 11 minutes per game. Out of all the young bigs, I think he has the most technically sound jumper and looks good shooting those outside 15 footers. I wish he would have gotten more minutes this year on a really bad Grizzlies team to show what he can do against other NBA teams. Ivan Rabb deserves to get play out another year or two in his contract.
Dillon Brooks ($1.3M) - Dillon Brooks has been the stand out young player of the year, drafted in the second round, he has been asked to do way more than he should have been this year. Dillon Brooks should be playing 20 minutes as a backup wing on a good team, but he has been starting this year playing almost 30 minutes per game. Even in the expanded role, he has been nothing sort of terrific considering the circumstances. There are times when he still looks like a rookie and I fully expect him to grow out of that, but he is player that can make a career as a role player in this league. Hopefully Dillon can be put in a better position to succeed and grow as a player next season.
Andrew Harrison ($1.5M) - Andrew Harrison has gone from terrible point guard to slightly above average backup point guard this year. He is being asked to do way more than he is capable of this year as a starting point guard this year. I am not sold on Andrew Harrison being a capable backup point guard in the NBA, but he has gotten ever so slightly better with the extended playing time this year. I think the Grizzlies should try and move away from Harrison and I think there are teams that would take him in a trade this summer, but I think they are attached to him because of his perceived growth so moving him seems unlikely.
New Draft Picks
This year’s draft pick will be a high one, both in the first and second round, thanks to a awful roster that has only won 19 games this season. There is still a long way to go before we will know where the Grizzlies will be selecting in this year’s draft but they should have odds to have a top three pick this summer. It could be Marvin Bagley III, Luka Doncic, or Deandre Ayton that the Grizzlies select. There will be plenty of analysis on which player the Grizzlies should select, but for the purposes of this piece, all we need to know is that the new player will be making at at least five million next year as a top three draft pick.
So where does that leave the Grizzlies? It leaves them in a pretty tough spot, as far as money is concerned and the value of the players they have on their roster. They will likely have core players of Marc, Mike, Chandler, and JaMychal back next year. They will have Dillon Brooks and Wayne Selden as capable young guys that can come off the bench. They have will have a top young draft pick that can hopefully make an impact on the Grizzlies right away next year and a 2nd rounder as well. They will also have any free agents they sign with their MLE.
That’s not a great start to a winning roster. If they can’t re-sign Tyreke Evans, which seems unlikely, who is your starting shooting guard? The roster that they will have next year if they keep everyone under contract will be limited and will look very much like the roster this year. However, if they were able to move to McLemore, Martin, and Davis, they might be able to afford Tyreke Evans and still be able to use their mid level exception on another free agent. Clearing up some of the young guys and making it easier for players like Ivan Rabb to get minutes is the best case scenario for the Grizzlies.
The only way for the Grizzlies to move forward and get better next year is to move off of some contracts. They have to move on from players that are not contributing at an NBA level to clean up their roster if they want to compete and be back in the playoffs next year.
The Grizzlies have to move forward or they will be back in the same position this time next year looking for a top draft pick.