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Offseason Priorities for the Memphis Grizzlies

What are some of the Memphis Grizzlies’ biggest offseason priorities?

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

To say this season didn’t live up to the Memphis Grizzlies’ standard is putting it lightly; it was disastrous. Mike Conley’s injury played a huge part in its collapse, but there are plenty of other factors as well — ones that’ll factor into the Grizzlies’ offseason decisions.

They made an apparently impulse-driven decision (at least that was the public appearance) to fire Dave Fizdale after losing his eighth straight game and benching Marc Gasol in the fourth quarter. The team’s lone playmaker, Tyreke Evans, was out quite a bit after the trade deadline. Chandler Parsons played more than he did last season, but still didn’t eclipse the 40-game mark. They basically had to play the rest of the season with guys that played like they were picked up on Beale Street.

As the Grizzlies go into the offseason, where should their priorities for this summer? Is it time to blow it up? Or can they turn it around?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Duke vs Rhode Island Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

No. 1: Nail their top-five pick

Duh, right?

The Grizzlies must get this draft pick right. It’s their highest draft pick since 2009 when they selected second. Messing this up doesn’t only mess up the immediate future but could damage their long-term plans.

Luckily, the Grizzlies will be selecting in the top-five regardless of the draft lottery. The primary goal should be to land either DeAndre Ayton, Marvin Bagley or Luka Doncic. These three prospects are the biggest impact players in the draft, and they could all play huge roles on a playoff-bound Grizzlies team next season. They can also carry the torch from Marc Gasol and Mike Conley and lead the next generation of Grizzlies’ team.

What happens if all three of them are off the board?

The Grizzlies will basically play the “risk/reward vs. safe bet” game. Do they lean towards safer — but lower upside — prospects like Mikal Bridges and Wendell Carter? Or do they want to risk it and go for high-upside players like Michael Porter Jr., Mo Bamba, Jaren Jackson or Trae Young?

No matter which direction the Grizzlies choose to go, they must find someone that could make an impact as soon as next season, as they make another run at the playoffs with All-Stars Mike Conley and Marc Gasol leading the charge.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

No. 2: Re-sign Tyreke Evans

The Grizzlies will definitely have a busy offseason, and the next priority might seem bigger. However, after the trade deadline decision to keep Tyreke Evans after sitting him out the week before, the Grizzlies must re-sign him. The failure to do so will just look foolish, as they missed out on the opportunity to find young assets to build on.

While Chris Wallace insists he’s never lost a guy he wanted to keep, it’ll be quite interesting to see if they could re-sign Evans. They do have the full mid-level exception this summer, but what will he command in the open market? Fortunately, Lou Williams’ 3-year, $24M extension might make it easier for the Grizzlies to keep him, as the deal could set a benchmark for high-level scorers off the bench. However, what if someone goes above the market value?

Reminder, nobody expected Zach Randolph and Vince Carter to receive a combined total of $20M annually. The Kings did it though to ensure veteran guidance. What if someone wants to overpay for the best sixth man on the market? Teams like the Pacers and the Celtics could look to keep bolster their Eastern Conference chances with a high-octane playmaker off the bench. What if the Lakers lose the LeBron sweepstakes? They could sign Tyreke to a big one-year deal to get a veteran push off the bench for their young core.

The Grizzlies might feel confident in re-acquiring Tyreke Evans, but all it takes is one team. If that one franchise messes it up, the Grizzlies are going to look like absolute fools for not giving him up.

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No. 3: Sign a head coach and commit to him

For the past five years, the Grizzlies have had commitment issues with coaches. Lionel Hollins clashed with, and openly bashed, the ownership after the 2013 Western Conference Finals. Dave Joerger consistently eyeballed other coaching jobs each summer. Then they fired Dave Fizdale for going 14-26 in his last 40 games.

The Grizzlies will run into another summer of coaching decisions, and it could be really interesting or completely anticlimactic.

They could just remove JB Bickerstaff’s “interim” tag and make him the permanent head coach. But what has he done to deserve it? Granted, he’s took over a dumpster fire scenario, and he’s connected with the players while earning their respect. The team doesn’t look better with him though. The offense was completely stagnant, and the defense wasn’t good either. Maybe they might hire him with the hopes that his system looks better with Conley leading the way. On the other hand though, it’s hard to see why he deserves the job.

If the Grizzlies want to conduct a legitimate coaching search, they could target a G-League coach (Jerry Stackhouse) or someone from the Popovich’s coaching tree (Ime Udoka, Ettore Messina or James Borrego). They could swing for the fences and chase Villanova’s head coach Jay Wright. They could also look to see who’s on the market after a fire sale.

No matter what happens though, they need to commit to a head coach for the long haul.

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

No. 4: Evaluate the young players

Of all the young players on this roster, Dillon Brooks, Wayne Selden Jr., Andrew Harrison and Ivan Rabb look like immediate contributors for next season

Where does this leave the other players though? Could they make an impact on a playoff team?

Jarell Martin has improved immensely this season. He’s had multiple games where he flashes an offensive array — putback dunks, mid-range jumpers and drives to the basket. However, he doesn’t look much better defensively, as he still fouls quite a bit (averages 4.9 fouls per 36 minutes). If the Grizzlies draft another big in the lottery, Martin may find himself on the outside looking in.

Deyonta Davis can be a solid rim-runner, as he can catch lobs on one end and protect the paint on defense. He’s also flashed a nice mid-range game. He can be a solid backup for Gasol next season, but he has a low basketball IQ. Davis also lacks the motor to evolve into a Clint Capela or DeAndre Jordan type center. He’ll probably play in the Summer League, and if he doesn’t dominate, he might see the door.

Kobi Simmons can be a nice third point guard, but the Grizzlies could also keep him on a two-way deal next season. Ben McLemore is probably stuck with this team, unless they find a potential suitor for him. Even if they’re stuck with him, maybe a full offseason and training camp could actually help him evolve into a decent contributor off the bench.

If the Grizzlies want to roar back into the postseason next year, they must move on from some of these guys in order to make room for playoff-caliber contributors.

Other priorities

  • Become more versatile. The Grizzlies have five pure big men (Green, Martin, Rabb, Davis and Gasol) and only four wings (Dillon and MarShon Brooks, Selden and … McLemore). They need more multi-positional wings that could run at either the 3 or the 4.
  • Make the most of the second-round pick. The Grizzlies are locked into the 32nd pick in the draft, and they could easily use this early second-round pick on a college veteran (see: Jalen Brunson, DeVonte Graham or Grayson Allen) or a high-upside prospect (see: Hamidou Diallo or Gary Trent Jr.).
  • Have a Tyreke Evans insurance plan. The Grizzlies signed MarShon Brooks to a two-year guaranteed deal, and he looks like the “Tyreke Backup Plan.” However, he was out of the NBA for four years. They must use the mid-level exception wisely to build this team’s depth.

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