There’s absolutely nothing wrong with optimism. It’s all a part of fandom. On the other hand, proclaiming that a 22-win team will win 50 games the following season seems ludicrous — especially when most of the players on the 22-win squad will be back next season.
Yes, I know Mike Conley was hurt last season. Let’s be honest here, he doesn’t increase their win total by more than double. The Grizzlies were one of the worst teams in basketball before they shut down Tyreke Evans and limited Marc Gasol’s minutes.
The Memphis Grizzlies will surely — hopefully — see an increase in wins. Getting Conley back in the fold surely adds 8-10-ish games. They acquired solid two-way threats on draft night, when they picked up Jaren Jackson Jr. and Jevon Carter. Chandler Parsons at 50-60% is better than Omari Johnson at 100%. Another year of experience for Dillon Brooks is surely enticing.
However ... 50 wins? In the insanely loaded Western Conference?
The Grizzlies do have resources to add talent this year — more notably, the $8.6M non-taxpayer mid-level exception that they should have more of. Are there any moves that could help them reach Pera’s lofty goal?
Using Full MLE on bonafide starter?
If it wasn’t for the absurd spending from the summer of 2016, none of these guys would be attainable for the mid-level exception. For the Grizzlies to make the playoffs and possibly win 50 games, they must acquire one of the players from this group.
For starters, the Grizzlies reportedly expressed interest in Avery Bradley — one of the league’s most terrific defenders of the past half-decade. It’s certainly an enticing move, as his defense and 3-point shooting (36.6% for his career) are both superb. On the other hand, can he stay healthy? He’s only played over 65 games just twice in his eight-year career — hasn’t done so since the 2015-16 season.
The two most glamorous options for the Grizzlies are former University Memphis Tigers Will Barton and Tyreke Evans. Yes, I’m lumping them together, because they’re literally the same player.
Cue the double-Spiderman meme.
Both players are absolutely incredible at scoring the basketball. Evans averaged 19.4 points a game, while Barton scored 15.7 points per contest. Their 3-point games are evolving, as they both shot north of 36% from deep last season. They’re both willing playmakers as well, and they could give Conley more chances off the ball. For guards, they’re excellent rebounding — hauling in around 5 per game each. More importantly though, they have ties to the city and would be embraced here.
Those 3 players give the Grizzlies the best chance of making the playoffs and winning 50 games. They all come with question marks though. Can Bradley stay healthy? Would Barton take the MLE, after declining a 4-year, $42M extension? Does Tyreke Evans even want to come back to Memphis?
You could possibly hear the Grizzlies linked to guys like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Rodney Hood as well, but they’ll probably get you closer to 35-40 wins rather than 45-50.
The failure to get Bradley, Barton or Evans kills any chance of this team winning 50 games.
Cut some youth, bring in cheap vets?
When it comes to the team’s youth, the Memphis Grizzlies have a “quantity over quality” problem. There’s a bunch of young players on this roster, which seems like a dandy situation. However, how many of them could contribute to winning basketball?
Jaren Jackson Jr., Dillon Brooks, Wayne Selden Jr., and Andrew Harrison are the only ones that would be a part of the rotation on a playoff Grizzlies team next season. Jevon Carter and Ivan Rabb could also find themselves in that group as well within the next 2 seasons.
Jarell Martin and Deyonta Davis flashed some promise last season, but the arrival of Jaren Jackson Jr. certainly makes them expendable. Ben McLemore just isn’t that good. Plain and simple.
It wouldn’t do much harm for the Grizzlies to free up some roster spots to add some cheap veteran talent. The most intriguing options would be Zach Randolph and Tony Allen ...
...but it’s time to let go.
Maybe checking in on Luc Mbah a Moute, Joe Johnson or Thabo Sefolosha would add wing depth and provide the team with much-needed veteran guidance and shooting.
If the Grizzlies want to contend for a playoff spot next year and find themselves with Bradley, Evans or Barton, they need to free up some space on the roster for one — or two — of these guys.
The Memphis Grizzlies could very well bounce back and make it to the playoffs, which will be a bloodbath. However — sorry, Robert Pera — it’s hard to envision this team winning 50 games.
For starters, the Western Conference is absolutely brutal. Golden State, Houston, Utah and New Orleans are potential 50-win teams next season, and that doesn’t even include the possibility of the Lakers getting LeBron and/or Kawhi. Portland, Minnesota, and Denver — all 45+ win teams — aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Dallas and Phoenix should find themselves in the 30-win neighborhood, when you factor in their stellar draft night and open cap space.
There won’t be an easy game in the Western Conference.
More importantly, the Memphis Grizzlies need too many breaks to achieve this goal. First off, they need to hit in free agency — maximize the value of the mid-level exception and free roster spots for cheap veterans. Mike Conley and Marc Gasol have to play like All-Stars all year. Chandler Parsons has to play 50-60 games of solid basketball off the bench. Dillon Brooks needs to avoid the sophomore slump. Jaren Jackson Jr. and Jevon Carter have to contribute right away. JaMychal Green needs to either be a solid third big, or net you a starting-caliber wing.
If all these things go right, you could be looking at a potential run to the playoffs. Then again, when have the Grizzlies caught a break?