The present for the Memphis Grizzlies is really hard to take right now.
A 15-game losing streak has demoralized the fan base and frustrated the team to the point where it is assumed the losses will continue to mount. This is a stark shift from the feelings of just a year ago, when the “Core Four” was pursuing their seventh straight playoff birth. The past seems like a distant memory, and the present is a dumpster fire for so many reasons, so this edition of the Roundtable will focus on the future.
The year is 2019, and it is opening night. Who currently on the Grizzlies is still on the roster?
Joe Mullinax (@JoeMullinax)- Two of the three gentlemen pictured above are sure bets. Parsons, unless he gets stretch provisioned, is a lock because he may be the most untradable contract in league history. Mike Conley, while not as unmovable, probably isn’t going anywhere either due to injury concerns. Marc Gasol, however, is an interesting case. He has a player option on the end of his contract heading in to the 2019-2020 season, and if things do not improve he may opt out and try to get to a better situation as he nears the end of his career.
Young players like Dillon Brooks and whoever Memphis selects in this year’s draft will be here. Beyond that? The Grizzlies have set themselves up for some roster flexibility heading in to that 2019-2020 campaign. Gasol is the biggest name to watch, but others like Jarell Martin, Deyonta Davis, Andrew Harrison, Ivan Rabb, Wayne Selden Jr., JaMychal Green, and Ben McLemore may well be out of town at that stage of the season.
Of those seven? Green, Rabb, and Davis seem like the most likely to return at this point, but we’re a ways away from this playing out. Prognostication is fun, though.
Grace Baker- In 2019, JaMychal Green is still on the team. Marc Gasol and Mike Conley have both moved on, and Chandler Parsons has been discarded. Jarell Martin, as well as Dillon Brooks, remain on the team. Tyreke Evans is definitely gone, and Deyonta Davis remains a Memphis Grizzly. The future for Memphis is so blurred right now, it’s so hard to imagine what it will be like in October 2019.
Gabriel Alvarez- Conley and Gasol are the franchise players and the front office is not likely to listen to trade offers. Parsons will also be there for sure, his big contract is too difficult to move. The current rookies Brooks and Ivan Rabb will still be under contract. If Green, Martin and Harrison continue to expand their game next season as well, they will be hard to bring back. McLemore, Selden and Davis will have to prove themselves next season. I keep my hopes with Evans staying with the Grizzlies.
Mac Trammell- Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, and Chandler Parsons will still all be on the team as their contracts will not allow them to be traded very easily. Ivan Rabb and Dillon Brooks will be there on their rookie deals. I want to think that Wayne Selden will still be around, but I think he probably leaves in free agency, as will JaMychal Green. With a dearth of talent, there’s a decent chance the team retains guys like Andrew Harrison, Jarell Martin, and Deyonta Davis just to see if they ever blossom into something unexpectedly. But I’d be more inclined to think those three will not be Grizzlies by opening night 2019. So to answer the original question: Conley, Gasol, Parsons, Brooks, Rabb, and this year’s draft pick.
McCarty Maxwell- Conley, Gasol, Green, and Parsons are a lock, both contractually and strategically. Wayne Selden Jr. looks to be another lock, he has a ton of upside and wouldn’t grab much back in a trade. Ivan Rabb signed a contract to stay, Kobi Simmons has shown promise, those two will likely be around. Andrew Harrison will be back, hopefully he continues to trend upwards. The questions I have are with Deyonta Davis and Jarell Martin, those two are NBA tweeners that are replaceable in the draft or in trades. They won’t demand much in a trade, so that seems unlikely, but their spots could be taken by a draft pick or another G-Leaguer with promise.
And yes, I am aware I left Tyreke Evans off the list, he will not be back.
How open to other head coaching options are you, or should J.B. Bickerstaff get the job?
Mullinax- As my post yesterday about Becky Hammon showed (read it here), I am pretty open to ideas. But as others have stated, I want to see a solid process play out. Bickerstaff has done a lot in the eyes of a lot of folks to earn this job, and there is no denying his leadership has made a burning, sinking ship seem less fiery and likely to take on water. But interviewing other folks, like a Messina, Borrego, Stackhouse or Hammon, would be welcome as well. This is probably not going to be a highly sought after gig, so options should remain open.
Baker- If the Memphis Grizzlies are going to keep Marc Gasol and Mike Conley around, then it’s most important that Memphis has a coach that both players are fully committed to. If they truly believe in J.B. Bickerstaff, then I think he should get the job. Given the current circumstances, he might be the best guy for the Grizzlies to keep around. However, if any bigger names pop up over the summer, Memphis should definitely consult with their stars and see if they can find a better fit. The bottom line is to have Gasol and Conley totally on board with the head coach. If Memphis decides they want to deal away their stars, they should focus on finding a coach that specializes in developing young talent without major veterans on the team anymore.
Alvarez- I would stick to J.B. He knows the team, and the players seem to be on his side. Despite his record, the depleted Grizzlies team has competed and some players like Harrison and Martin have improved substantially with him. He deserves an opportunity with a healthy roster. Lastly, it is time that the Grizzlies stick to a coach for a long term. The coach carousel in the last few years is a sign of instability.
Trammell- Very open. I believe the Grizzlies should hire the person who best fits the job. If that person ends up being J.B. Bickerstaff, so be it. But to ignore other possible candidates seems foolish. Akin to how the front office should take calls on Marc Gasol trade scenarios knowing full and well they will reject them, the team should explore other coaching options even if they believe they already have the right guy. You never know when you might be absolutely blown away.
Maxwell- I don’t see what J.B. Bickerstaff has done to earn the head coaching job. The team is worse under him, he doesn’t seem to be changing anything strategically, and a fresh start next season could be healing. I wouldn’t be upset if Bickerstaff is given the job, I don’t think he is a terrible coach. As such, there is not any other options that I see would be a better suitor. But chalking this season up as a loss and starting fresh next year with a new staff could be a welcome sight for fans and players alike.
Should the Grizzlies draft the best available talent, regardless of roster fit, or focus on selecting a player who best fits the current team?
Mullinax- If you’ve watched this team this season, you know the answer. You take the best player available, regardless of pick, because the Grizzlies lack talent. Id you have the #2 overall pick and Luka Doncic is gone already, a wing who can score and facilitate who would (in theory) “fit” the roster as constructed? You don’t get cute and try to take a question mark like Michael Porter Jr. You take DeAndre Ayton, or Jaren Jackson Jr., or Marvin Bagley III, players who don’t have health concerns and project to be very good NBA players. Who cares if Gasol and Green are here next season? Memphis cannot afford to be so short-sighted any more.
Baker- I think the Grizzlies should draft the best available talent if they’re going into total rebuild mode. Memphis needs a difference maker for the future. If he’s a point guard, then maybe they should trade Mike Conley for some younger pieces next season. Unless Memphis is going to try to roll the dice again next season and try to be good right now (which I don’t believe is the right path for them to take), then they should try to draft a potential star, regardless of position. If they get someone really good, then they can start building a new team around the player for a future of success. Because even if they got someone decent right now to fill a position, it’s not going to probably be enough to make an immediate impact for 2019 playoffs.
Alvarez- The best available player. With Gasol and Conley aging, the Grizzlies need to look at the future. And even if drafting an NBA ready player, his impact will probably not be immediate.
Trammell- Best available talent, no question. How many players projected in the top seven or eight do not fill a need for the Grizzlies immediately? DeAndre Ayton/Jaren Jackson Jr.? Even if you think they don’t fit in the team’s depth chart, the team still needs depth at every position. Why couldn’t Ayton/Jackson start with Green coming off the bench (a role I imagine he’d thrive at on a contender)? Or vice versa and bring the youngin’ in as your sixth man? There are honestly too many holes on the team to worry about fit with the franchise’s pick this year.
Maxwell- I am in the minority here, but they should draft talent they actually need. Why draft a center or power forward when this roster is full of those already? If we trade one or two of those young power forwards away, then by all means pick up a better talented one. But if they are going to be around, then draft a guard or shooter, a position that has been void for years in Memphis. The value of drafting a center or power forward on the Grizzlies roster will diminish because the team will then be desperate to get rid of them, taking much less than they normally would just to free up roster spots. That is not a risk worth taking, especially with this front office.