Have you seen the Memphis Grizzlies play basketball this season?
First off, I’m sorry. Secondly, then you know that a series of decisions and situations went wrong that led to the disastrous season.
Thank goodness for NBA 2K, because it gives us a chance to rewrite the wrongs of the past and present.
Two wrongs in particular stood out to me. The Grizzlies wavering between tanking and contending and the firing of David Fizdale. Both of these situations happening concurrently likely made the season worse, but with this experiment I am about to propose, we can pinpoint what exactly was the turning point in one of the worst seasons in franchise history. Or it just gives me a reason to play NBA 2K18 and write about it on the world wide web.
Here’s the idea. In MyLeague mode, similar to “Franchise” in other sports video games, you can choose whether you’d like to start with current rosters or from the previous offseason, where you can start in April 2017 and play out the offseason prior. For this experiment, I will pick a situation, always start in the prior offseason, and simulate three years into the future. It gives us enough time to properly gauge our draft picks while also not straying too far from the present where ANYTHING can happen.
-All games are simulated. Don’t want to get my grubby human hands all over this experiment.
-Downloaded the 2018-2020 draft classes from PSN user “jackmove916” for continuity sake
-Kept all of the standard options when you start the mode, except I turned “Automatic League Expansion” OFF because I do not want to deal with that when it’s definitely not happening in the next three years in the real NBA.
And these are the results:
Fizdale over Gasol
This one hurts the most, because it genuinely affected this team’s offseason plans already as the interim head coach was made permanent head coach.
Also, I reeeeally liked David Fizdale. In his first year as a head coach he took Memphis to the playoffs, looked competitive against the mighty Spurs, and became a national star with “Take that for data!*”
*Side note: no matter how you pronounce “data”, Fiz said “da-tuh” not “day-tuh” so please quote the man correctly.
The firing appeared to be a choice from the front office to pick Gasol over Fizdale. After Marc was benched in the 4th quarter in a loss to the Brooklyn Nets, he made his frustration known and Fizdale was gone.
But, what if the Grizzlies were on David Fizdale’s side? If one had to go and they ended up choosing David Fizdale, how would the Grizzlies turn out post-Gasol?
Three-year record: 101-145
Best season: (39-43), lost to Houston Rockets in Western Conference Quarterfinals (2-4)
-Traded: C Marc Gasol to Sacramento Kings for the 2017 5th overall pick (via PHI)
This is really good value for Marc, especially considering there’s no way a 32-year old center commands that type of return. Also, the pick ended up being used on F Jayson Tatum from Duke. IRL, he’d probably be the rookie of the year if it weren’t for Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell being out of this world.
2017-18 Opening Day Roster
No Tyreke, no Dillon Brooks, no MarShon Brooks. The price you pay for starting in the off-season. But Conley is here and healthy, and Fizdale is back at the helm. Let’s see what they can do.
So about that “healthy” thing I was talking about...
A big injury for a 9-9 team with little talent. Chandler Parsons is also out for 2-4 weeks with a sprained toe. Neat!
Lowkey the best part of this experiment is not having Ben McLemore and still having Troy Daniels. I miss you, Troy. Come home.
Conley comes back to a 14-17 team, not the worst record and I’m glad they steadied the ship.
At 21-30, Conley gets hurt again. Why did I have to say anything about him being healthy? He’ll miss two weeks with a sprained toe and likely be back for a post-All-Star break rush! (I hope)
I’m avoiding as many trades as possible. This experiment is to determine the relative digital worth of David Fizdale vs Marc Gasol, not find out how many trades I can pull off to ensure I do better with Fizdale. 23-33 at the All-Star Break post-deadline means I’m committed to this frighteningly mediocre-or-worse season.
Jayson Tatum is 14.8 PPG on .472/.391/.870 splits his rookie year at the break. That’s MY rookie of the year.
Finished the season at 32-50. A very bad season with not a lot to hang one’s hat on but Jayson Tatum, who ended up making 1st-team All-Rookie. Gasol for Tatum (the pick that became him) will end up looking good long-term, but it’s a little painful now.
The following offseason, the Grizzlies got the 6th pick in the draft lottery.
-Drafted: G Luka Doncic with the 6th overall pick and SG Rawle Alkins with the 36th overall pick.
I know Joe Mullinax and half of Memphis right now is enthused about the Donc man (Editor’s note: I am -JM).
No big moves in free agency, just signed Festus Ezeli to be my backup center. The roster was pretty much set this year anyways.
The 2018-19 season is upon us! With a starting five of Conley-Doncic-Tatum-Green-Davis, this team can be pretty unique and score in bunches.
Mike Conley is somehow the only player over 30-years old on this team. Youth!
Four games in, Tatum breaks his right arm and is out 4-6 weeks. Nothing I’ve planned has worked. All my friends are dead, push me to the edge.
This team started 5-2! WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG WITH A 5-2 TEAM???
6-9 now. A 1-7 stretch because this team knows I want to make the joke. I appreciate them.
Luka’s having a pretty dope rookie season. Would be a shame to see that in real life for the Memphis Grizzlies. A real shame.
And with a leg stress fracture to Festus Ezeli and *gulp* a spinal injury to Larry Sanders (welcome back, Larry!), my center position is decimated. Forcing me to move Deyonta to full-time center and signing free agent C Kevin Seraphin to the minimum. If only there were an All-Star center with Memphis ties I didn’t have to give up to start this experiment.
This team is 30-28 (7th seed) at the All-Star break with a net rating of -2.5. Some regression is likely in order, but this team won 30 games all last season. Unless I go winless (please don’t do that to me, 2K), this will be an improvement.
-Signed: F Chandler Parsons to a three-year extension at the veteran’s minimum. A huge pay cut, but that’s what 75 overall players end up agreeing to.
Turns out I was right on regression. The team is 4-12 post-break and now the 10th seed, although they’re just a game back from the 8th spot. Riding a cool 10-game losing streak at the moment.
The streak snapped and the Grizzlies BARELY made the playoffs, sneaking in past the Suns by a tiebreaker for the 8th spot at 39-43.
More, importantly, THE DONC MAN IS ROOKIE OF THE YEAR. Getting him at #6 was a steal at the time, is a steal now, and would be a steal in real life. In the other simulation where I got Marvin Bagley III at #5, he also got rookie of the year. I suppose I am just the best cultivator of young players, but only in their first year.
In the playoffs, Memphis lost to the #1 seed Houston Rockets in 6 games. Not a sweep, so I’ll take it.
2019 NBA Draft: No first round picks for Memphis, but they grabbed C Moses Brown in the 2nd round.
Free agency was again nothing too drastic as the roster is pretty full and again, I don’t want to make this an experiment about trades. It’s just giving Fizdale time to win. But, I did end up signing G/F Andre Roberson and F Trevor Ariza to one-year minimum deals to shore up the back end of the roster.
Deyonta Davis and Andrew Harrison both came back on the one-year qualifying offer.
The final season of this simulation began worse than the other two, with a 12-18 start. This was made even worse with an unfortunately humourous injury by Jayson Tatum that’ll put him out 4-6 weeks
This season has gone south quickly. Andrew Harrison, Wayne Selden, Moses Brown, and Jayson Tatum each missed at least three weeks due to injury and we just got to the All-Star breaking, limping in at 21-38 with a net rating of -6.2, 2nd-worst in the NBA.
It got even worse, somehow. Currently standing at 28-51, the third-worst record in the league with no real hope for the future. David Fizdale hasn’t exactly inspired confidence in my decision to keep him over Marc Gasol. But, during this dumpster fire of a season, there’s a silver lining.
DEYONTA DAVIS FOR DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR. He probably won’t win, because this screengrab was taken with three games left to play and I doubt Deyonta is gonna put up a 15-block performance to climb up the rankings in those three games.
And something else I didn’t even bother to check at the break, Luka Doncic is a friggin All-Star. After a season where he averged 22.9 PPG on .502/.423/.884 shooting with 6.7 assists per game, he deserved it.
So the season would end 30-52 and Deyonta did not get DPOY. Memphis didn’t get a single player on any All-NBA, All-Defense, or All-Rookie teams, either.
So maybe David Fizdale vs Marc Gasol was a marginal choice. Coaching matters, talent also matters. But they both need the other to succeed. Mike Conley, aging, being far and away the only winning player on this team and ready to contend, was done no good having to play with young Luka Doncic and Jayson Tatum, who both played great, but not great enough to make you forget about Marc Gasol.
Tatum was fine, career average of 14.1 PPG on .528 TS% is pretty good for a player who is still 22. But Conley, Doncic, and Gasol might have been the better combination for immediate success, although I believe my iteration of the team would be a force to be reckoned with in a couple of years. Even with David Fizdale.