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Season in Review: Grizzly Likes and Dislikes

It wasn’t all doom and gloom.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

(Editor’s note- welcome Parker Fleming to GBB! He was formerly the Site Expert at FanSided’s Beale Street Bears and now joins us as a Senior Staff Writer.)

There aren’t many words that could describe the Memphis Grizzlies’ season.

Awful.

Terrible.

No good.

A crapshow.

Miserable.

And my favorite,

tanktastic.

Mike Conley was out for all but 12 games. Chandler Parsons didn’t play much… again. The Grizzlies spent over $5,000,000 for Ben McLemore to be…well…Ben McLemore.

They fired the wildly popular Dave Fizdale because of a lackluster record. His firing was also a result of his poor relationship with Marc Gasol. Then, after starting the season 7-4, they went 15-56 for the rest of the season.

They went through a “trade him, don’t trade him” ordeal with Tyreke Evans, and now they risk losing him for nothing.

And even before they pulled the plug and fired up the tank, they were already pretty bad.

Overall, not an ideal season by any stretch of imagination. However, you can be optimistic for some things. There are plenty of signs that lead many to believe the Grizzlies can bounce back next season.

So what are some notable good, and bad, things to come about from this past season for the Memphis Grizzlies?


NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Like #1: Dillon Brooks’ emergence

Dillon Brooks might be the biggest bright spot of the Grizzlies’ season. For the first time since OJ Mayo, the Grizzlies finally have a young player to be excited about. Who would’ve ever guessed they would find it with the 45th pick?

Brooks, who played in all 82 games, showed growth and progressed throughout the season. At the start, he cracked the rotation and thrived as a do-it-all bench player. Ten games into his career, Brooks made his way into the starting lineup and never turned back. He started out as a 3-and-D wing that guarded the opposing team’s best perimeter player night in and night out. However, as the season grinded along, he expanded his offensive repertoire -- knocking down more triples, attacking the basket, and shooting off the dribble.

After the All-Star break, he averaged 15.2 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 2.3 assists. There’s hope that he can become more than just a 3-and-D specialist. He can be a secondary playmaker that could average 12-15 points a game on a good team.

It’ll be fascinating to see if Brooks can build on his stellar end to the season.

Dislike #1: Mike Conley getting hurt

Mike Conley getting hurt destroyed this season -- even when he was playing, he didn’t look 100 percent. Without the Conductor, the Grizzlies were awful.

There was no rhythm or flow to the offense. Aside from Tyreke Evans, they didn’t have a reliable scorer in “must-score” situations — late in the shot clock, close games, etc.

The hope is for Conley to return completely healthy and pick up where he left off in the 2017 playoffs. However, his injury also shows that Conley’s days as a starting point guard are numbered. Basketball mortality was on full display in Memphis this season.


NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Like #2: Steady Improvement from the Young Guys

As the losses piled up, the young players got plenty of experience. In the process, the majority of them excelled and took advantage of the opportunity.

We already touched on Dillon Brooks. He’s awesome.

Andrew Harrison’s confidence skyrocketed, as he played stellar basketball in February (15.6 points on 40.5% shooting from deep and 4.5 assists). His jumper improved exponentially, and he simply showed poise as a NBA point guard. Unless the Grizzlies decide to find a backup point guard in the draft or free agency, they have a reliable one in Harrison.

Jarell Martin fought through adversity this season. He debunked the rumors of getting cut with his play on the court. It looked like the game slowed down for him, as he found better, more frequent scoring opportunities. He also showed legitimate athleticism and versatility from the power forward position. Though he might not be a rotation player on a good team, he might have added another year or two to his NBA life.

Though he received most of his playing time at the end of the season, Ivan Rabb looks like a legitimate candidate for the backup center/”big” position next season. He’s a nightly double-double threat, and he has an insanely high basketball IQ.

Wayne Selden Jr. also flourished as a perimeter scoring threat, but he couldn’t stay healthy. Though he lacked consistency, he still could be a solid rotation player -- or potentially a starter -- for next year’s Grizzlies team.

The Grizzlies don’t have any players that scream upside, but they do have some nice complementary pieces for the immediate and long-term future.

Dislike #2: Cutting Wade Baldwin for Mario Chalmers

You can argue that this was the right move at the time. The Grizzlies thought they were going to be a playoff team, and Mario Chalmers was a player that could help them do so in theory. In the process, they cut Wade Baldwin -- the uncoachable first-round pick that didn’t show much improvement.

What a terrible decision.

Wade Baldwin isn’t lighting up the league or anything, but with the way this season went, you need him instead of Chalmers. The University of Kansas hero did nothing to really help this season, and he looked like a shell of his former self. Baldwin, on the other hand, is only 22 years old and has flashed promise as an strong defender in this league.

With Conley down, Baldwin would’ve gotten first-hand experience at becoming a legitimate NBA guard. Instead, I’m stuck monitoring how he’s doing in Portland, wondering “what could’ve been” with yet another Grizzly prospect that was gone too soon.


NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Like #3: Tyreke Evans’ renaissance

If you grew up a Memphis Tigers fan, you had to love what Tyreke Evans did this year. He looked like his old self -- the player everyone thought he’d become.

He started the season as a sixth man, and if Conley was healthy, Evans might’ve made a run at the Sixth Man of the Year award. Instead, he took over as the starting point guard and thrived. He maintained his scorer’s mentality, but he also was a legitimate primary playmaker — finding opportunities for both himself and his teammates. What made him a deadlier option though was a reliable 3-point jumper. After years of struggling from deep, Evans found a groove from range — connecting on 39.9% of his 3-point attempts.

Unfortunately, we don’t know Evans’ future with this team, but you couldn’t help but marvel at the excellent work he put in this season.

Dislike #3: The decision not to trade Tyreke Evans

It was no secret that the Grizzlies wanted a first-round pick for him, but the market wasn’t there. What did they do? Not trade him.

They made the decision not to trade him, because it’d help their chances of retaining him next season — and that’s fine. However, what if he doesn’t want to be here? What if some team gives him a better deal? What if a championship contender offers him a deal?

It’d be hard for him to pass up, and the Grizzlies would lose him for nothing.

Yes, they didn’t get what they wanted: a first-round pick. Who says they couldn’t have used the extra second-round pick and their own second rounder to move into the latter part of the first-round? They could’ve used the extra pick on a draft-and-stash prospect — it’s worked before (see: Jokic, Nikola; and Gasol, Marc).

Instead, we’ll be anxiously waiting to see if they can retain Tyreke Evans after such a risky trade deadline decision.


NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Like #4: Chandler Parsons doing basketball things

After Parsons’ abysmal first season with the Grizzlies, you might have lost some faith in him. His Instagram workout videos sent you into Cloud 9 daydreams of him being the third fiddle next to Gasol and Conley.

He wasn’t that this season, and he may never be that max-level player again. However, Parsons showed signs of becoming a reliable higher-end role player on a good team — close to guys like Kyle Anderson and maybe Joe Ingles.

Though his speed and athleticism have taken a sharp decline, he’s still a deft playmaker -- using his high basketball IQ to pick his spots on the court. He can serve as a secondary creator alongside Conley, or a primary facilitator in the second unit.

In addition, Parsons found his shot after suffering the worst shooting season of his life. He bounced back this season, raising his shooting percentages to 46.2% from the field and 42.1% from deep.

If Parsons can be available for 55-60 games next season and contribute at this level, it’d be a huge plus for the Grizzlies.

Dislike #4: Parsons didn’t play enough

Yes, Parsons played solid basketball, but he didn’t play enough. He only played in 36 games (only two more than last season), and no one really knows the deal.

He was usually out for “knee soreness,” “illness,” and “rest.” It raises some questions for next season.

Was he just out to be safe and to secure the tank? Or is he still dealing with knee problems that hinder him from being on the court? Will they have him on a minutes restriction next season?

No one really knows, and it’ll be an interesting storyline next season.


NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Midwest Regional-Kansas vs Duke Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Like #5: Lottery dreams

Since the loaded 2014 class, I’ve become more enthusiastic about the draft each year. Often I found myself wondering, man it would sure be nice to snag a Joel Embiid, Kristaps Porzingis, D’Angelo Russell, Ben Simmons or Lonzo Ball -- to name a few.

Then, this year’s cream of the crop makes your mouth water — DeAndre Ayton, Luka Doncic, Marvin Bagley, Trae Young, Mo Bamba and Michael Porter Jr. Once the losses started piling up, I immediately thought of these prospects on the Grizzlies.

Now, the Memphis Grizzlies will waltz into the lottery with the second-best lottery odds.

It’s a tanker’s dream come true, and now we await to see if the Grizzlies can get this one right and snag a franchise player.

Dislike #5: The losing

Nobody likes losing, even if the reward for it is a high draft pick. It’s just agonizing.

The players look defeated. Frustration boils both within the players and the anti-tank fans. Arguments spew between the pro-tank and anti-tank fans.

Losing for six straight months is just grueling -- you have to be a special type of person to do so.

Though some positives came out of it, losing isn’t a culture you want engraved in a professional sports team. Fortunately, the Grizzlies will have Conley and a top-five pick next season, along with the player they use the mid-level exception on. They could pull off the quick turnaround to transform this team into what we know: a playoff-contending team.

What are some of the things you liked and disliked from this season? Comment your thoughts below.

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