Flashback to February 8th, 2018. For dedicated fans of the Memphis Grizzlies, this date may live in infamy for years to come. You may remember it as the day you pressed refresh on Adrian Wojnarowski’s (aka Woj) twitter about 100 times between 2:00-3:00pm ET. February 8th was the day the Grizzlies front office opted to decline all offers to trade Tyreke Evans.
I won’t get into details, but essentially Evans was having the best season of his career on an expiring contract, and had all but guaranteed himself a deal with any other team in the league for more than the Grizzlies could offer him the next season.
Fast forward to now, Tyreke Evans has agreed in principle to a one year $12 million deal with the Indiana Pacers: a Tyreke-themed Woj-bomb about five months after the Memphis faithful were expecting.
I just want to say Thank you to the Grizzlies organization for believing in me when no one else did, and the Memphis fans, you supported me as a tiger and my one year as a Grizzly Memphis will always be like home to me. Thank you all so much pic.twitter.com/xCdIZYIfnX— Tyreke Evans (@TyrekeEvans) July 4, 2018
While Evans was still on the Memphis payroll, he produced results that no one, including most other NBA teams, were expecting. He led the Grizzlies in scoring, assists, and three pointers made per game (aside from MarShon Brooks who played limited games). He was a scoring machine, averaging 19.4 points in just over 30 minutes per game. The most valuable part of his game on this Memphis roster was that he could get a bucket on his own whenever he felt like it. If you’ve been following this team for awhile, you know that is rare for on a Memphis roster.
Now that Reke is gone, there are some big shoes that have to be filled. The scoring options are now less one consistent piece, so who is expected to step up? Perhaps there is light at the end of the starting lineup tunnel.
Let’s take Mike Conley out of the equation. Throw away last year’s numbers when he was obviously trying to play through injury. Pencil him in for close to 20 points per game this season. Marc Gasol will likely be a close second to that, depending on his attitude and commitment to this team. Last year he pouted through 73 games, scoring 17.2 points per game on an inefficient 42% shooting.
Fortunately for those who enjoy decent, organized basketball, Tyreke Evans filled in where Conley and the oft-injured Chandler Parsons could not. Who will be the third scoring option now?
As NBA super teams become more super, the Grizzlies will be hard pressed to compete against anyone without a trio of legit scorers. The first name that comes to mind is, of course, Chandler Parsons. Let’s not forget that at one point in his NBA life he was a 15-5-4 guy. That was many moons ago and though possible this season, is more wishful thinking than likely reality. Anything the Grizzlies get from Parsons is just a bonus.
JaMychal Green quietly had one of his best seasons last year, but a giant leap from 10 points and eight rebounds a game is not likely. He will continue to be a consistent factor on both ends of the floor, but crowning him the Grizzlies next legit scorer just makes me sad.
Dillon Brooks could step up, but consistency is key. Brooks will have another year under his belt and likely some pressure taken off with the addition of a healthy roster, yet he is better suited as a three and D type player, not a legit scorer.
Other names can be considered, though there isn’t enough evidence to make a solid case. MarShon Brooks could be an unlikely star, but his beginners luck could fade quickly. Ben McLemore may surprise us, after all he did finish the 2017-18 season on a high note. There will likely be one or two new faces as well, maybe one of them takes the reigns.
But there is one man that stands above the rest…
Wayne Selden Jr. holds the key. Wayne Selden Jr. could be - no, should be - the difference this season. As injuries have continued to plague him, he has shown that he is a legit NBA scorer. In the small sample size of last season, Selden averaged 9.3 points per game, shooting a sustainable 40% from three. He has had flashes of athleticism that few can reach, his shooting stroke is pure, and he is built like a truck. Selden just has to stay healthy so he can keep a rhythm on the floor.
We have yet to see a full season from him, though last year was a nice taste of what is to come. He had a banner summer league a year ago and is off to a nice start this summer as well. Selden put up 20-6-4 in his first outing against the Utah Jazz summer league team and more is to come. Barring another injury, this is a prime year for Selden to step up.
As Grizzlies fans are aware, there will be plenty of surprises yet to be seen for this season. After last season’s marathon, fans have earned a little break from the pain. Along with the thrill of adding two rookies with bright futures and starting with healthy bodies, one consistency we can all count on is the renewed excitement surrounding this team.