The Memphis Grizzlies actually had a busy AND productive offseason. Due to the max contracts being enjoyed by Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, and Chandler Parsons, there was never the opportunity for the big splash in free agency.
Perhaps the biggest conceived let down was letting Tyreke Evans walk, but if the direction of the franchise is Grit and Grind, then it was the right move. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope also spurned Memphis to stay in Los Angeles and play with Lebron, but hey that’s ok.
Many in Grizz Nation also held out hope for a Chandler Parsons draft night trade or even the chance to draft Luka Doncic (darn those mock drafts). Those many were also most likely convinced that the front office would also blow the number four overall draft pick.
So its time to assign grades to each of the offseason moves this summer, from free agent signings, to draft picks, to trades.
Drafting Jaren Jackson Jr.
Let’s get this out of the way now. The struggles of this front office to correctly identify talent in the draft is well documented, so there is no need to further beat that dead horse.
The Grizzlies might have fallen to the fourth overall pick but they might have also walked away with one of the top two players in the draft. Deandre Ayton was never in the hearts of Grizz Nation. Marc Gasol is the best player in franchise history and still ruling the middle. Plus, we all knew the ping pong balls were definitely not going to give us the first pick.
The hearts of Memphis fans everywhere also didn't lean towards Jaren Jackson Jr. either. In fact, most people were hoping for Marvin Bagley III, Luka Doncic, or even trading back to take Wendell Carter Jr.
This will be a pick the fan base looks back on and say that Chris Wallace, or whoever made this pick, got it right. Jaren Jackson Jr. is exactly what you need to succeed in the new NBA. He has insane length, has consistent range, and as a big, has the ability to switch onto smaller defenders and not get torched.
In fact, Jackson’s defensive footwork is more polished than many veterans in the league. There is little to no doubt that he will be a force on that end of the floor for years to come. If his offense continues to develop, he will be an All Star for years to come as well.
Drafting Jevon Carter
Many people predicted this pick because of the type of game Carter plays, as well as his position (and the fact he worked out in Memphis). The Grizzlies have long had a desperate need for a suitable back up for Mike Conley. The heavy minutes Conley is forced to play could be a contributing factor to his injuries.
With the drafting of Carter, the Grizz took the best on ball defender in the draft and a player ready to plug in right away. He had an up and down summer league, and when I say up and down, I mean bipolar episode up and down.
Carter will be compared to some of the players drafted after him, such as: Jalen Brunson (a former Player of the Year), Gary Trent Jr., and Khyri Thomas. These are players that would have also been a great pick for the Grizzlies at 32, but Carter’s defensive prowess and ability to play point guard won out.
Signing Omri Casspi
This one is still a bit perplexing. Casspi has never been known for what he contributes on the defensive end, but his versatility on offense makes him worth a shot for Memphis. Casspi could play small forward or be a true stretch four when needed. He will be agile enough defensively to switch everything and guard whoever the opponent throws at him at a decent level.
The idea of Casspi makes sense, but the reality is that there are not enough minutes for him to see significant minutes of any kind.
Signing Kyle Anderson
Talk about something coming out of nowhere. Through all of the free agency predictions made all over the internet, I am not sure anyone pinned the Grizz even being interested in Kyle Anderson. The focus was on guys like Tyreke Evans, Will Barton, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, or even bringing back Lance Stephenson. It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that the Spurs would quietly just re-sign Anderson and move on to next season.
In come the Grizz, doing something very un-Grizz like. They offered a Restricted Free Agent a four year deal worth the max amount they could offer, their mid level exception. Even crazier, the player accepted and his former team did not.
Anderson is an analytical staff’s dream player. He may not fill it up from three, but that is about that only thing he won't contribute on a nightly basis. [Hot Take Alert: Anderson is going to surprise a lot of people from downtown this season. The tools are there.]
Anderson could literally play any position on the floor. He isn't very athletic but his skillset is perfect for the position-less NBA of today. So the Grizz draft the best two defensive players in the draft and snag the best defender on the free agent market and 6th best defender in the league last season according to some defensive metrics. Good luck to anyone looking to score over 100 points against this Memphis squad next season.
The Grizz got younger and better with this signing. Another high grade for summer ‘18.
Signing Shelvin Mack
Where is that head scratching emoji at? The Grizzlies currently roster Mike Conley (recovering from injury) Andrew Harrison, Jevon Carter (recently injured) and Kobi Simmons (2 Way Contract). My degree in Mathematics leads me to believe that there are four point guards on roster already. Shelvin Mack makes five.
I understand that there is no guarantee that Mike Conley will be ready to start the season nor the guarantee that he stays healthy. The front office clearly loves Jevon Carter as mentioned above, so why sign a veteran player at his position to possibly steal minutes?
Its not like Mack is some move the needle bench player for the Grizz. If you listened to Parker Fleming and Nate Chester’s Core Four podcast, you will hear them hit the nail right on the head. If Conley goes down, playoffs are out of the question and it is time to let young guys like Harrison and Carter to get development minutes.
If Conley stays healthy, it is extremely unlikely that Mack provides more than Harrison or Carter does. This signing is perplexing in all facets. This roster spot could be used much more effectively on someone with a better chance to help the team in the future, looking at you D.J. Stephens.
Trading Deyonta Davis and Ben McLemore for Garrett Temple
This move was bittersweet and it honestly should not be. I was always the biggest believer of DD (bitter) and biggest hater of McLemore (sweet). The best way to describe this move is that it was one of the best moves this front office has ever made.
Deyonta Davis was given chance after chance to prove he deserved a roster spot. His lack of emotion was viewed by some in the fan base a lack of desire and drive. While he improved each season, the progress wasn't enough. The drafting of Jaren Jackson Jr. was the end of DD’s career in Memphis.
McLemore was the MVP of the tank last season. He may be the man to thank most for Jaren Jackson Jr. being on the roster today. Potential has always been the word about Ben McLemore, he's just simply never lived up to it. He is freaky athletic, but that is about all he can offer consistently.
Kenobi was not the answer, there is a “new hope” on the wing inside FedEx Forum. Garrett Temple provides the veteran experience as well as a 3-and-D option, both things the Grizz need to make a playoff push this season.
Trading Jarell Martin
There was simply just not room for Martin on this roster. The coaching staff experimented with him at the 3 and he was a defensive liability. As a stretch four, he was too inconsistent to keep on the floor. With Gasol and JJJ on the roster, there are no minutes for him at the five.
Ideally, Martin is a small ball, death lineup five. His athleticism and ability to stretch the floor is so enticing, yet he finds a way to not be on the floor. Whether it is poor discipline on defense or extremely inconsistent offense, Martin is still a project needing work.
It may be a case of Jarell getting a change of scenery that leads to his success. With Ivan Raab, JaMychal Green, Marc Gasol, Jaren Jackson Jr. and even Chandler Parsons in the frontcourt, Martin was simply the odd man out on a roster that had too many players.
Not Re-signing Tyreke Evans
This move, or lack of a move, will be graded according to the lens it is viewed through. If the Trade Deadline debacle is not a part of the evaluation, then the grade will be higher than if the two cannot be separated.
I believe that decision to resign Tyreke and the failure to trade him at the deadline can and should be separated.
At the trade deadline this past season, the entire organization was a mess. No one knew who the owner was going to be, as Pera didn't announce until April, and the team was playing under an interim coach. There was no sense of team identity nor franchise direction, so Wallace hanging on to Tyreke made some sense.
Watching Tyreke play on the floor with Marc last season was not pretty at times. Marc believes in playing basketball the right way: no hero ball, team concept on defense and offense. Tyreke Evans is one of the best one-on-one players in the entire Association, and then add in his improved stroke from deep and he was near unstoppable most nights.
With the decision to go back to Grit and Grind, it only made sense to let Tyreke go. Yes, the sting of not trading him even for a second round pick last season remains, but moving forward, this TEAM will be better off without the ball stopping at him nearly every time it touches his hand.
Don’t misunderstand me. Tyreke was amazing last season. Easily the best player on a terrible team. But that’s all he has ever been. I would not have been upset re-signing him, but with the hindsight of the other moves made this offseason, this was the right move for the franchise. They got a younger, more well rounded player in Kyle Anderson, just remember that three to four years down the road.
Overall the Grizzlies had an outstanding offseason. Outside of the Lakers, they will be poised to have one of the bigger turn around seasons in the league. Winning basketball should be back on Beale this fall.