The Memphis Grizzlies moved to 18-18 after last nights loss to the Houston Rockets. They will be closing the door on what has been one of the most eventful calendar years in franchise history. Going from a lottery lock to playoff hopeful has been a fun and chaotic ride. As the Grizzlies stay focused on the playoff run this year, it is important to remain focused on the future as well.
One of the most popular aspects of each New Year are the resolutions everyone seems to make. Yes, the theme is as cliché as they come. However, with commitment, it could be a relevant time stamp in a person’s or entity’s effort to improve.
While 2018 didn’t finish as a successful year for the franchise, there are certainly still ways to make the new year even better. With that in mind, here are some New Year’s resolutions to help the Memphis Grizzlies have an amazing start to 2019.
THE FRONT OFFICE: STAY FOCUSED ON THE FUTURE
For Chris Wallace and the Grizzlies’ front office, 2018 has been a success. Several astute and correct roster moves have made the franchise’s future look much brighter than it did in June. Committing to a defensive based philosophy with highly intelligent players has proven successful.
With that in mind, the focus for 2019 is quite simple: stay committed to what works. The success of this year’s team has been a welcome surprise. However, it should not cause the front office to stray from its commitment to the future.
The key to continue making this team better is to be proactive. If you can make this year’s team better without sacrificing a significant future asset, go for it. However, if the team continues to falter, trading expiring contracts for future assets would be smart. Either way, this team remains a work in progress, so the focus should remain on making it stronger for the future.
JB BICKERSTAFF: COMMIT TO CREATIVITY AND COMMON SENSE
Almost half way through his first full season as a head coach, I feel it is fair to both commend and criticize JB Bickerstaff. His efforts of playing to the strengths of his roster and minimizing off the court issues has been admirable. Memphis has truly overachieved. To come from where Memphis was in January, Bickerstaff has done better than expected.
However, there are clear indications that JB has some flaws that need to be corrected for the Grizzlies to continue to get better under his watch. For one, the stubborn commitment to playing veterans over younger and likely more talented players is concerning. Also, the inability to find consistent offense has cost the Grizzlies several victories.
Memphis’s roster and franchise philosophy are limited if they can not get value added from the coaching staff. Playing your more talented youth now gives you the best chance to win in the present and the future. Using players to their strengths on offense also keeps it consistent. Bickerstaff and his staff need to make quick adjustments if they hope to keep the Grizzlies in playoff contention and develop the roster.
MIKE CONLEY: LEAVE NO DOUBT YOU ARE AN ALL-STAR
A month ago, #ONETIMEFORONEONE was gathering steam to be a formidable campaign. The Grizzlies were also a surprising playoff contender. However, as the Grizzlies success and Conley’s play has fallen off, naturally so has the positive noise. Conley has to find the formula of scheme and rhythm that allows for him to remain dynamic consistently.
Yes, at an older age, it is harder to do that on a nightly basis. However, Mike still has the ability to carry this team to wins. The key to doing that is shot selection. When Conley makes more than 50% of his shots, Memphis is 7-2. Efficiency is the key for Conley. If he can work off the ball or off pick and roll to get better looks, it will help the Grizzles offense be more consistent. If Conley can achieve that goal, 2019 could be a career defining year for him.
MARC GASOL: BECOME OPEN-MINDED TO MINUTES MANAGEMENT
Marc Gasol remains an effective and significant reason for the Grizzlies’ success. However, there are more frequent and longer lapses of ineffective play for Big Spain, even to the extent of his effort being questioned. While Gasol’s desire to play at all costs is admirable, his stubbornness in ignoring the fact he needs more rest as a veteran is a liability.
Less would truly be more for the Grizzlies and Gasol. When he is engaged with energy and health, he can still take over the game. To get that version of Gasol more often, the staff must convince him to rest and stay fresh.
GARRETT TEMPLE AND SHELVIN MACK: REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE
Unsustainable hot starts from Mack and Temple led Memphis to the top of the Western Conference. However, over the past month, each have been just as much of a liability as an asset. With 16 combined seasons in the NBA, both veterans have found success as effective back court reserves. They need to regain their consistent play as highly intelligent players on both ends of the court. By playing to their strengths and not doing more than they can, they naturally will become more effective.
KYLE ANDERSON AND DILLON BROOKS: CONTINUE TO EVOLVE
While Anderson and Brooks have different games, they do share some basic similarities. Both players have limited skill sets and ceilings due to average athleticism. However, both players are effective at maximizing those skill sets and can continue to develop due to their high level of intelligence.
Already a very good defender, Anderson has become valuable on offense due to his off the ball movement, passing, and shot selection. Brooks has returned from injury as a good source of bench production. If both can consistently add value on both ends of the court, 2019 will be another significant step towards a successful future for the Grizzlies and themselves.
JAREN JACKSON JR: JUST BALL, YOUNG MAN, BUT WITH DISCIPLINE
In the first 24 games this season, Jaren Jackson Jr. played more than 20 minutes in 17 of those contests. He averaged four fouls a game. In the 11 games since, he has played 20 or more minutes in each game, and has averaged three fouls a game. Clearly, Jackson Jr. is showing he is maturing.
As he is trusted with more consistent playing times, he is responding with smarter play. That is validated by a +23 rating over the past 11 games . The Grizzlies are simply at their best when Jackson Jr. is on the court. Bickerstaff has to get past his excuses and routine, and simply play one of the best talents on his roster. If that happens, 2019 could be remembered as the launching pad for the career of one of, if not the best, players in franchise history.Happy
As can be seen, nearly every individual in each area of the Grizzlies’ franchise has room to improve. The good thing is the improvements are simple adjustments, centering around each individual being himself and committing to what works. There will be struggles, and the desired end result will not come over night. However, because of the efforts in 2018, there are many positives the franchise can build on to make 2019 very successful for the Grizzlies.