Welcome back. So we’ve crowned the best PG, and SG in franchise history. So now , let’s tackle the most popular position in the NBA today, the small forward position. Let’s get to it.
5. Eddie Jones
You may not remember, but Eddie Jones was a very good basketball player. Drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers, he arrived in the league with high expectations because the fans did not approve of then GM of the Lakers Jerry West, whom would also become the GM for the Memphis Grizzlies as well, drafting Jones. He turned out to be a fan favorite. The Memphis Grizzlies acquired Jones via trade with the Miami Heat in 2005. Though he was near the end of his career, he provided solid numbers for the Grizzlies. While starting 75 games and averaging double figures in points per game, he helped the Grizzlies make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
He wasn’t the most exciting or flashy player, but you knew what you were getting with Eddie Jones night in and night out. Because of his contributions to Memphis making the playoffs, and being a solid veteran presence for a young Memphis team, Eddie Jones earns himself a spot on my top 5 SFs in franchise history.
4. Tayshaun Prince
Not much needs to be said about this man. NBA champion. Olympic Gold Medalist with Team USA. Defensive guru. One of the most awkward looking jump shots in NBA history. Tayshaun Prince was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies from the Detroit Pistons in 2013 in a three team trade. The Grizzlies traded their star player, Rudy Gay, in exchange for TayShaun and Austin Daye. It seemed Prince was a better fit for the direction that the Grizzlies were headed, which would become to be known as Grit and Grind.
The trade paid immediate dividends for the Grizzlies that season. They went on to have a franchise record in wins, and the franchises first ever appearance in the Western Conference Finals. To me, I’ll always remember his break away dunk against OKC in the playoffs. I was listening to Eric Hassletine call the game in the car, and I screamed when I heard the call. Oh, you don’t remember? Take a look.
Yeah. It was brutal. He helped usher in the greatest era in franchise history. Because of that, he earns himself a spot on the top SFs in franchise history.
3. Shane Battier
Shane is one of the most beloved franchise players ever. Drafted sixth overall in the 2001 NBA draft, he immediately won over the hearts of Memphians. You know that one player that you love to have on your team, but absolutely hate to have to play against? That was Shane. He was an absolute joy to watch, but a pest for the opposing team. Shane was always the man to guard the opposing teams best player. He was the perfect 3 and D type player. To me, he was Tony Allen before Tony Allen arrived. When the Grizzlies acquired him for his second stint in Memphis in 2011 from Houston, it just felt right.
The Grizzlies went on to upset the #1 seed San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs, in which Battier hit a clutch three pointer in game one to seal the deal for the Grizzlies. Because of his on and off court contributions, Shane Battier finds himself on my list of top 5 SFs in franchise history.
2. Shareef Abdur-Rahim
It’s like we hardly ever knew him. Known as “Reef”, he never played a game in a Memphis uniform. However, that doesn’t mean he isn’t deserving of recognition. Selected 3rd overall in the 1996 NBA draft by the Vancouver Grizzlies, he provided an immediate impact to a struggling franchise that was desperate for a franchise player. Averaging a franchise record 18.7 ppg with 6.9 rpg during his rookie season. He followed up his rookie season averaging 22.3 ppg and 7.2 rpg in his sophomore campaign, In short, he solidified himself as the go to player for Vancouver. However, they still remained at the bottom of their division throughout his tenure. This played a part in his departure, and him never seeing the floor here in Memphis.
He was traded to Atlanta for Brevin Knight, Lorenzen Wright, and Pau Gasol. One can imagine, would he have seen more success if he would have remained with the Grizzlies after the move to Memphis? We will never know. However, because of him solidifying himself as a star player in Vancouver, he finds himself as runner up on my top 5 SFs in franchise history.
1. Rudy Gay
Drafted 8th overall by the Houston Rockets in 2006, he was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies. He was seen as the missing piece for a young Memphis team in desperate need of a scoring wing. However, his rookie year was average as best. Averaging only 10.8 ppg, it was nothing stellar. However, his sophomore season, he became the teams leading scorer, and never looked back. At one point, an argument could be made that Rudy Gay was a top 5 small forward in the NBA. Then, a shoulder injury in 2013 changed everything. Belief began to grow that the Grizzlies were a better team without Rudy Gay because he wasn’t efficient, and they seemed to play better without Gay on the floor. Plus, add in the addition of Zach Randolph, and an emerging Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, it seemed like Gay didn’t match the GNG mantra.
He was traded to Toronto in 2013. Right or wrong, it divided this franchise. I would’ve kept Rudy Gay, and traded Zach Randolph instead. Why? Let’s be honest. In today’s game, there was always a ceiling with a PF leading your team in scoring. But with a SF and an emerging PG in Conley rising, I think the ceiling would’ve been higher. Sadly, we will never know what a prime Mike Conley, Rudy Gay, and Marc Gasol could’ve accomplished. Instead, I’ll leave you with this video of Rudy Gay dunking on the entire Miami Heat big 3.