We are about a week into the official start of free agency, and the NBA landscape has changed dramatically with LeBron James going to Los Angeles and DeMarcus Cousins joining up with the Warriors. These two huge moves in the league, and specifically the Western Conference, will be a huge factor in the decision making process for teams moving forward.
Specifically, in Memphis, the mood around the Grizzlies fan base has been utter disappointment in the front office for not signing any impact player with their mid-level exception. As I highlighted in an article last month about bargain free agents, this off-season was going to be crucial for the direction of Grizzlies franchise. They had to nail both their draft picks and free agency for this team to transition as more of a reload rather than a rebuild for next season.
However, as we sit here almost a week through free agency with the biggest moves already made, the Grizzlies have done nothing while the front office seemingly has no plans of signing anyone outside of “impact” free agent Omar Casspi.
Because of this incompetence and other factors as well, the case (or some call it a vent session) must be made and argued for this franchise to start thinking about rebuilding for the long-term future instead of trying to compete in this even more difficult Western Conference.
If you have followed me at all, you know that I have made the case the Grizzlies should rebuild for about a year now. The Core Four era was winding down, and the team identity has been changing rapidly. The franchise has been stuck in a rough place with the superstar talent in the West making it near impossible to compete with consistency. It is not where any franchise wants to be, but front offices and fan bases must think realistically to turn the page on a new era.
Dominant Western Conference
Currently, even with a healthy Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, this Grizzlies roster will most likely not make the playoffs next year in a tough Western Conference. Golden State, Houston, L.A. Lakers, Utah, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, and Minnesota are all most likely making the playoffs next year. This does not even mention the likes of Portland, New Orleans, and Denver.
In a probable best-case scenario, Memphis will battle all season and only get the eight-seed. A different, higher probability scenario is that they could compete with the roster they have now and end up as 10th seed in the West, ultimately sending next year’s pick to Boston, which we’ll get in to later on.
No matter which of the two scenarios play out, I do not see that being a productive season for the future of the franchise. It will only be another year of mileage on Marc and Mike with little development for the young guys with nothing to show for it.
Youth Development and Building Assets
Instead, the argument is to begin to rebuild the franchise on the pillars of Dillon Brooks and Jaren Jackson Jr. These guys can become the focal point of a young team that is building for the future rather than stunting their growth with more experienced players that should not be taking minutes from these youngsters. The team will need to clear a path for the younger players to make their mark on the franchise.
Brace yourself Grizz Nation, this would mean eventually trading Marc and Mike to build more future assets. Unfortunately, the best window to trade an expensive, aging point guard and center was about a year or two ago, however, they both still have a good amount of value. If Memphis could still gain picks or young players for either of them, the Grizzlies need to jump on that opportunity.
This season should be focused on youth development first and foremost. The coaching staff and front office cannot be straddling the line while they end up with a half push for the playoffs and half push for rebuild. The likely worst-case scenario for the Grizzlies is finish 11th or 12th in the West which would put them with the 9th or 10th pick in the NBA Draft next season.
The Boston Pick
This brings us to the last reason the Grizzlies need to rebuild now. It is that the team can still hang on to their first round pick for the next two years before it becomes unprotected in 2021. The Boston Celtics own the rights to the Grizzlies first round pick in 2019, top-8 protected, and 2020, top-6 protected. Even as the trade did not work for the Grizzlies, if they start their rebuild now, they will not have to worry about transferring the pick to the Celtics now and will get to bring in two more early picks. So, then, in 2021, Memphis will have a great roster to compete for the playoffs once more. It is critical to the rebuild that the Grizzlies keep their own pick the next two years.
The Memphis Grizzlies are in a very tough spot with the direction of where the franchise is going. The front office has made so many mistakes over the past two years which has destroyed any hope of continuing to compete on the highest levels they had with the Core Four. The salary cap is completely hamstrung due to bad contracts that it is still wild Chris Wallace has a job.
However, it all does not have to be negative. The Grizzlies can start their rebuild this season and focus on keeping their 2019 and 2020 draft picks. After a few short years of bottoming out, the Parsons contract will be off the books and hopefully the team turned Marc and Mike into a solid return of assets or blossoming young talent. The power teams in the West will have cleared out and the young talent on the Grizzlies will be the talk of the league. There is a positive future for this franchise, and a rebuild is the best way to that future.