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Biggest Storylines for 2019

If you thought 2018 was interesting, get ready for 2019.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

2018 was an absolute roller-coaster for the Memphis Grizzlies.

They endured their first tanking season in almost a decade. Even though everyone and their mothers thought the Grizzlies would move Tyreke Evans at the trade deadline, Chris Wallace shocked the world and kept him in hopes of retaining him in free agency. The aftermath? Evans played 6 games after the deadline and walked in free agency.

The pre-draft process was an entire circus. They walked into the lottery with the second-best odds for the number one pick. Instead, they landed the fourth pick. The rumors become more of a storm. For about three weeks leading up to the draft, it looked like the Grizzlies were going to land Luka Doncic. There were also murmurs of the Grizzlies liking Michael Porter Jr. — a prospect with lots of potential, but was coming off back surgery. In addition, they were willing to use the fourth pick to unload Chandler Parsons’ contract. All of that was a crap-show, but it’s worked out pretty well, right?

Free agency wasn’t too eventful. They let Tyreke Evans walk. There was interest in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Mario Hezonja, and Avery Bradley, but that did not amount to anything. They did hit the nail on the head though with the Kyle Anderson signing, as he is a position-less offensive player that’s also an elite defender. Basically, they drained a lot of their suck and got good veterans.

The season came along, and it started out fun. The Memphis Grizzlies were bouncing back after a miserable 2017-18 season, establishing themselves as a playoff contender in the West. Mike Conley looks like an All-Star, even after a season-ending heel surgery last year. Marc Gasol looked engaged and was in the conversation for Defensive Player for the Year. Jaren Jackson is better than everyone expected, cementing himself as one of the premier prospects of the next 5 years.

The last month of 2018 was quite cold. Fans are pissed at JB Bickerstaff. Marc Gasol has regressed. The team is sliding in the Western Conferene. The backup point guard situation is still unsolved — a big problem for this franchise for years. Chandler Parsons and management aren’t on great terms right now.

Everything’s fine, but it’ll make for an interesting 2019. What are some storylines we should pay attention to?

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Chandler Parsons’ Situation

Let’s start with something that’s already going on. According to the Commercial Appeal’s David Cobb, the medical staff has cleared Chandler Parsons to play. He’s done multiple 5-on-5 scrimmages in team practices, however, management doesn’t want him active. They mentioned the possibility of a rehab assignment with the Memphis Hustle, but never gave a definite timetable of the length of the assignment.

It looks like the relationship of Grizzlies and Parsons has gone south.

Going into 2019, more and more questions will arise around Parsons and his tenure in Memphis. Will the Grizzlies stretch the final year of his contract next summer? Could a buy-out be a potential possibility? Could they dupe a tanking team looking to hit the cap floor to take on his contract, if a potential asset is on the table?

I don’t see Parsons in a Grizzlies uniform going into training camp next season, as he really doesn’t fit the team’s current and future plans. You hate to see it, because he was seen as the missing piece for the “Core 4” Grizzlies, and a cornerstone next to Gasol and Conley. However, it goes to show that your body can portray you.

NCAA Basketball: Princeton at Duke Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Wait, So Don’t Tank?

If the Grizzlies season continues to go south, fans will call for another tank — mainly because of Zion Williamson.

Let me tell ya. It’s not a good idea.

The Knicks or Cavs will probably land Williamson. It makes too much sense. Zion in the Garden has all the marketing potential in the world. Meanwhile, he’s a “feel better” gift for Cleveland whom just lost LeBron.

Aside from RJ Barrett — maybe Cam Reddish, Ja Morant, and Kevin Porter too — there’s no one that really stands out in this draft class.

Even then, the Grizzlies won't have good odds. The East sucks, and there will probably be 4 teams with top-5 odds in that conference. Unless the wheels fall off again this season, the Grizzlies will convey their pick to Boston — and that’s totally fine. It’d be much better than committing to a tank and landing in the 6th-8th range.

Convey the pick now, so that the protections don’t get tighter going into the 2020’s.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Los Angeles Lakers Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Jaren Jackson Jr. — Summer Watch 2K19

Jackson has been a definite surprise this season for sure, serving as an immediate cornerstone both in the preset and the future. With saying that, there are still some things he needs to work on.

More notably, he has to work on his fouling, which is the main reason he gets pulled in the fourth quarter. Jackson consistently relies on his left-handed hook shot in the post, and while it’s lethal, he needs to add more post moves to his arsenal. Finally, he has a great perimeter and post game — a dream for the analytic gurus out there. However, he does need to add a mid-range game.

Jaren Jackson Jr.’s development will definitely be a huge storyline for the Grizzlies this calendar. A huge component of that is his summer.

Does he gain 10-15 pounds of muscle? Does he add anything to his bag? If the Grizzlies decide to play him in Summer League, does he absolutely run through the competition?

Regardless, it’s nice to finally have a young potential superstar to be excited about.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Marc Gasol’s Player Option

I already wrote about Gasol’s player option back in August. With the Grizzlies sliding, it’s something worth keeping an eye on. At his age, he’s made plenty of money. If the Grizzlies aren’t in contention, Gasol could easily move on.

Granted, it’d be hard to turn down $25M for next season. If he enters free agency this summer, what’s his value? He could fall victim to a situation similar to Brook Lopez, where he takes a one-year veteran’s minimum. Or, he could be like his brother and make $16M over 3 years, despite being a big man in his mid 30’s.

Whatever he chooses to do will ultimately determine the path for the Grizzlies’ 2019-20 season. If he leaves, do they try to ride a season with Jackson and Conley? Or, do they flip Conley for some assets?

Gasol is a hard star to read, as he’s given so many cryptic comments over the past few seasons. Regardless, this situation may be one of the biggest free agent storylines in franchise history.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Other Storylines

  • Free agency 2019

Next year’s free agency is hard to predict and to talk about, primarily because of Gasol’s contract situation. If he opts out, it’ll be interesting to see what they’d do with their cap space. Do they do what they did last season and rely on veterans that fit next to Conley and Gasol? Or, do they start trying to acquire talent that fit next to Jaren Jackson? On the other hand, if he stays, they’ll be strapped to improve upon this season’s performance.

  • Other emerging players?

The Grizzlies have some decent young assets on their team. Kyle Anderson already looks the part of an elite role player, and it’d be great if JB could unleash him as a position-less point forward. Dillon Brooks is an aggressive scorer that could create his own shot in his multiple ways. Jevon Carter could be an absolute pest, and they need to commit to his development in 2019. Any of these players can be good pieces around Jackson, and the Grizzlies need to prepare them for that by feeding them more opportunities this year.

The staff at GBB would like to wish you a Happy New Year! Hope that 2019 treats you well.

Follow @sbngrizzlies.