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When a tank is not a tank

The tank was just a disguise to justify how poorly this roster was constructed.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Minnesota Timberwolves Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Well here we are. We knew this day would come, the day we would finally bear the fruit that this season so carefully and intentionally grew, at least that’s what we told ourselves. The Memphis Grizzlies will have the number four overall pick in this year’s draft, the prized possession of a season that should have never happened, yet became unavoidable as the season matured.

The somewhat recently coined process of “tanking” for Memphis glamorizes the bottom feeders of the NBA by giving them a reason to lose games. Like it or not, this idea has been embraced across all leagues, yet ironically, tanking hasn’t been around long enough to prove whether it works or not.

So the Grizzlies tanked, right? They are now reaping the harvest in the fourth pick, and next season will be different... right?

I beg to differ. The Grizzlies were simply not capable of winning NBA basketball games as constructed.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Minnesota Timberwolves Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Sure, the season started off with a bang, Memphis as a community was on fire for this team. And then reality struck. Injuries set in. The weaknesses of this team were exposed. And ultimately the shortcomings of a mismanaged front office and ownership rippled into every level of this organization.

Think back, if you dare, to the roster that was trotted on the floor for this team. Marc Gasol is a real NBA player, though he proved he isn’t capable of carrying a team consistently (and some of his leadership flaws were on display for all to see). Dillon Brooks played like a rookie, but showed signs of NBA contribution.

And then what?

Too many power forwards and a bunch of losses later and the Memphis community embraced the unintentional tank.

This team was doomed to fail when it was assembled. The 2017-18 season wasn’t an intentional tank as we would like to believe. The Grizzlies were just terrible, incapable of winning. Some of the blame goes to players under-developing and under-performing at this stage of their careers. Other blame goes to the coaching switch that shouldn’t have happened, yet created supposedly contolled chaos within an already suffering locker room. The combination of both, the players that were signed on this roster and the coach that was selected to lead them, proved to be unfit for winning.

Don’t get me wrong, I called it a tank myself. I supported the tank, promoted the graceful tank t-shirts, and now look forward to who the draft selection will be. But as I think back to last season, it becomes more and more evident that this team was assembled poorly with no hope of actually competing.

The flaws weren’t exposed until a month after the season started, but the flaws were there from the first tip of the ball in October. Injuries caused a huge hole in the lineup, true, but even if Mike Conley and Chandler Parsons were healthy, the players that would have been relegated to the bench would be exposed nonetheless.

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

The inexperience, immaturity, and pure lack of NBA skill of the players on the roster conveniently made for a good tank, but Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace and the rest of the organization didn’t intend it to be that way. There was legitimate hope for Ben McLemore, Mario Chalmers, Deyonta Davis, and Jarell Martin.

Now look where we are.

With the optimism that comes with this high 1st round draft pick, the future looks bright... or brighter than it ended last season. But with virtually the same leadership in tact and three of the four mentioned above back next season (Chalmers will almost surely be gone), it’s important to understand that the same result could be inevitable. Of course, we should be optimistic for next season, highlighting the flaws of an organization is never fun. Yet as we prepare for a number four pick that will have the pressure to contribute immediately, realize that this next season, barring major trades in the off season, will be virtually the same roster.

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

The young guys like Davis, Martin, and Wayne Selden Jr. now have another season of experience under their belt, so that should translate into better production, yet that experience came at the hands of constant slaughter by better teams and players. Hopefully there weren’t bad habits created and J.B Bickerstaff can maximize their strengths. Conley and Parsons will be back, Gasol won’t have as much of a burden to carry, and the rest is still to be determined.

The Memphis Grizzlies are at a crossroads, both in the front office and on the court. Unfortunately for whoever the pick turns out to be, there will be an enormous amount of pressure for that player to be productive, most likely quicker than someone should be asked in a young NBA career. Regardless, the Memphis roster, aside from the addition of a number four picked rookie, will look the same.

Get your mind right Memphis. This tank could keep rolling if the front office doesn’t figure out a way to blow it up, or at least gracefully disassemble and rebuild it.

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