Over the last few weeks, Grizzly Bear Blues and other media outlets/blogs/twitter users have discussed the Grizzlies tank that has finally gotten them to the #1 team in the Tankathon standings. At this point in the season, as the Grizzlies sit 18-45, the playoffs are way out of reach so naturally the focus has shifted to the NBA draft and throwing this season in the trash.
However, I’ve noticed on the twittersphere that not all of Grizz nation is behind (or understands) what tanking is. I’ve seen various arguments about the Grizzlies tanking this season in response to any article or tweet from GBB and other sources, so I have decided to debunk those arguments and help people understand what is truly going on.
“The Grizzlies aren’t tanking”
I believe after the Phoenix game, Joe Mullinax (site-manager extraordinaire) tweeted that the Grizzlies “won” the tankapalooza after being defeated by the Suns. In response to that tweet, someone had the audacity to respond saying that the Grizzlies were not a tanking team. In that game, the Grizzlies played Jarell Martin, by most accounts a power forward, on the wing with both Marc Gasol and JaMychal Green down low. Since that game, the Grizzlies have sat Marc Gasol on back-to-backs and been cautious bringing Tyreke Evans back from his rib injury, which has caused all the young players to play extended minutes, as well as tank commanders Mario Chalmers and Ben McLemore. Over the last few weeks, all of the Grizzlies youngsters have gotten heavy minutes, even in close games.
You can call it “player development” if that makes you feel better, but the Grizzlies are tanking.
“It doesn’t matter what pick the Grizzlies have, if this Front Office is the one making the pick”
The Grizzlies draft history is not good. This front office has time and time again flopped on draft picks. However, other than Hasheem Thabeet, the Grizzlies have done relatively well when picking in the top-10. So it’s a little unfair to blame the front office for whiffing on late first-round draft picks as those players are always hit or miss. In this draft class, most college basketball and draft experts state the top tier of prospects is 7 players deep with border-line elite talent. Even if the Grizzlies win some games and slip in the lottery standings, they will be in prime position to get a solid to great player right away in this draft, especially if they’re picking in the top 4.
Either way, drafting second is much better than drafting 9th, no matter who is making the picks. I don’t care if Le Le from the Memphis Zoo is making the pick, you have better odds of getting a franchise-altering talent the earlier you draft. If you’re not going to make the playoffs, you might as well give yourself the best odds at getting the best prospects possible.
“The Grizzlies are already set at the positions the top draft picks play”
When arguing against the tank I’ve heard various versions of this argument. “The Grizzlies don’t need Deandre Ayton, they already have Marc Gasol at center” or “Why would the Grizzlies draft Trae Young when they have Mike Conley?” and my personal favorite “The Grizzlies just brought back JaMychal Green, why would the draft Marvin Bagley?” When you’re drafting as high as the Grizzlies will likely be selecting, you select the best player available and figure out the rest later. If Trae Young is the best prospect available, you draft him instead of a lesser talent, no debate. Young could come in and be a high-scoring 6th man until it’s time for Conley to pass the torch. Marvin Bagley would likely compete for a starting spot with JaMychal Green right away, and with Green only under contract for next season, you could make moves to find more minutes for Bagley, as well as the other young Grizzly bigs.
It would be moronic for the Grizzlies to pass on Deandre Ayton because him and Gasol play the same position. Gasol is 33 and declining. Ayton is arguably the best prospect this draft class. Ayton would be signed for at least two seasons before hitting restricted free agency and a lot could happen between now and then. Gasol could demand a trade, get injured, etc. You draft the best available player and figure out the rest later. Last year the Celtics drafted Jayson Tatum despite having 100 wing players, and it’s worked out perfectly fine for them.
“It’s unfair to season-ticket holders”
This is perhaps the worst argument to be made against tanking. I’ve been a season-ticket holder for two seasons now and about to renew for my third season. Not once have I seen in any of the paperwork “We guarantee this team will be a playoff team” or “This team will be one of the most exciting teams in the league” because that’s not how that works. I understand completely if you decide that paying thousands of dollars for season-tickets isn’t worth it if the Grizzlies suck. But you are not entitled to seasons that end in playoff runs just because you pay money to attend every home game.
I’d like to think that most season-ticket holders pay because they love their team and get enjoyment in going to watch them compete at least 41 times a season. If you don’t want to renew next season, be my guest, but in no way is it unfair to season-ticket holders that the Grizzlies seem to be looking at the bigger picture instead of immediate mediocrity.
The Grizzlies didn’t plan on being here. With the addition of Tyreke Evans and a healthier Parsons, the Grizzlies were supposed to compete for a playoff spot in the 4-8 range. Due to injuries and some free agent signings not going as planned (I’m looking at you Mario Chalmers and Ben McLemore), the season took a turn for the worse. The Grizzlies did not plan this or want this, but it’s where we are now.
Part of the reason the tank is so painful is because the Grizzlies don’t have any young potential star. Dillon Brooks, Ivan Rabb, Deyonta Davis, etc. have all shown flashes of being solid role players in this league, but none of them bring the excitement of a Dennis Smith Jr. or Donovan Mitchell. The Grizzlies, if everything goes according to plan and best case scenario possible, have a chance to draft an elite talent this draft and go into next season with a Mike Conley at the healthiest he’s been in awhile, a more comfortable Marc Gasol, a contract year JaMychal Green to play alongside some more developed and at least interesting young talent as well as a top draft pick.
The Grizzlies aren’t like the Hawks or Suns with little to no intriguing young talent. The return of Mike Conley alone makes this team much better as it would improve Gasol’s play among others. Throw in an elite draft pick, and this team could be back battling for the playoffs this time next season. It doesn’t matter what your argument is, at this point in the season the best thing for the Grizzlies is to lose as much as possible.