The Memphis Grizzlies have officially reached the halfway point of the 2018 NBA season, and just how successful this first half of the campaign has been depends on who you ask. For those inspired by the team’s 12-5 start to the campaign, the fact they have gone 7-17 since then is a pretty big disappointment. For others who saw Memphis struggling this season, 19-22 at the halfway mark is a drastic improvement over the disaster that was the 2017-2018 Grizzlies. As of this writing Memphis is 3.5 games out of the eight seed in the loaded Western Conference, and the next few weeks will play a huge part in just what the Grizzlies do come the trade deadline a month from now.
In Part I of the roundtable, five terrific GBBers broke down the season’s biggest surprises and failures so far. Here in Part II I will be joined by GBB Senior Writers Greg Ratliff and Brandon Abraham, as well as GBB Writer Shawn Coleman, to both look back and ahead as the page turns to the second half of the 2018-2019 season.
What grade would you give J.B. Bickerstaff halfway through the season?
Joe Mullinax (@JoeMullinax)- Recency bias will probably have some fans wanting a grade of a F here, but that wouldn’t be fair to J.B. The team had a terrific start to the season, and that has come off the rails in part due to health with the team. Bickerstaff is flawed, as we all are - his rotations are inconsistent and confusing, and he is stubborn both with scheme and his reliance on veterans. Jaren Jackson Jr. should play more minutes than JaMychal Green nine times out of ten, for example, but we don’t see that happening enough.
Still, the Grizzlies are in a better place now than they were a year ago, and considering the hand he has been dealt (especially with all the distractions of the past month) a C feels fair here.
Greg Ratliff (@GregRatliff)- Incomplete. I feel like he’s about where someone with his experience should be at. J.B. makes questionable rotation decisions at times, but seems to have the support of the players which is important. But I think he performs as a “rookie” head coach would. In his other appointments as an interim coach, J.B. was mostly using players and systems established by the coaches he replaced. With this being his first “actual” head coaching job, he’s going to make rookie mistakes. Whether he learns from this is yet to be seen.
Brandon Abraham (@bcabraham)- I would give J.B. a C+. His rotations are weird and very frustrating, but he’s shown a willingness to learn. He’s replaced Shelvin Mack with Jevon Carter as well as playing Jaren Jackson Jr. more down the stretch. He hasn’t been great, but he’s learning.
Shawn Coleman (@StatsSAC)- My Grade for Bickerstaff at the midpoint of this season is a C-. I give Bickerstaff credit for guiding this team to a better than expected start. However, his inability to add value through schemes, manage lineups effectively, or identify personnel advantages is a significant weakness. Bickerstaff is simply a public figurehead for a flawed organizational philosophy, and is not the long term answer as a head coach this team needs.
Who is most responsible for the Chandler Parsons debacle?
Mullinax- Anyone pointing the finger at Parsons alone needs to take a good, long, hard look in the mirror. Even if he knew his health was questionable moving forward, if anything it makes Chandler and his representation that much more impressive to sucker the Grizzlies in to a deal. I choose to believe, however, that Memphis knew Parsons would need time and still pursued him, which I also would have done. From there? The organization has decided they can no longer count on him for extended periods of time, and therefore needs to focus their efforts elsewhere on the roster.
To be honest everyone shares blame for how this has turned out, from the Parsons G-League rejection to Wallace’s hesitance to give a solid return timeline, but it is a perfect storm in a way. Parsons was the right home run swing to take, Chandler has tried and simply failed through no real fault of his own to stay on the court until now, and the Grizzlies have to move on if they hope to compete both now and in the future. As long as Memphis doesn’t give up a 1st or a young player simply to get off the deal, I am actually fine with how this has turned out now that the cloud has been lifted a bit, given the context of the past two and a half seasons now.
Ratliff- Depends on which debacle we’re talking about. If it’s the decision to give him the contract to start with, that’s on Chris Wallace and the front office. If we’re talking about more recent events, I think there’s blame on both sides, but more of it rests on Chandler. I can see why some would say that you don’t want to disrupt the current rotation by inserting a Chandler Parsons that may or may not be effective in his role. I also think that Chandler needs to be willing to do what it takes to prove that he’s ready to go. If what Wallace said is true, that Chandler refused to accept a rehab stint with the Hustle, then that’s all on Chandler.
Abraham- I think both sides share some blame for this debacle. Both sides seemed stubborn on their stances which lead to no resolution. I went into more detail earlier this week about how this could have been handled better.
Coleman- The one most responsible for the Chandler Parsons situation is Chris Wallace. As the past two and half years have shown, effective communication is a weakness of the Grizzlies’ organization. A plan of consistent correspondence between Wallace and Parsons during his rehab should have been set in place from the beginning. While Parsons certainly should share part of the blame, it was Wallace’s responsibility to make sure the situation had minimal impact instead of spiraling out of control.
Who is the most likely player to be traded at the trade deadline?
Mullinax- Before the Dillon Brooks injury, I would have said a tie between Garrett Temple and JaMychal Green. Both are probably good reserves/role players on good contending teams, and both have expiring deals that could be of value to a squad hoping to get off of a long-term contract to be players in free agency this coming summer. With Dillon out, however, the most likely candidate now is JaMychal. He is having a terrific year, and could probably get a decent return of a young player and a 2nd round pick.
However, if Memphis falters these last few weeks before the deadline, Green/Temple/Omri Casspi/Shelvin Mack all need to be on the block. Get as much as you can for any piece that you don’t plan on having around next season.
Ratliff- JaMychal Green. Green with the right team could be a nice player in someone’s second unit as they make a playoff push. He can stretch the floor and at times can be an okay option at the 5 in a smaller lineup. I wouldn’t go as far as to say he’s a prototypical stretch-4, but he can be used in that role at times as long as you can keep him out of foul trouble. Green is also a good energy guy when he wants to be and might provide a little edge and spark to a team as a bench option.
Abraham- I would say JaMychal Green is the most likely player to be traded. The Grizzlies may see value in keeping Garrett Temple after the Dillon Brooks’ injury news. JaMychal is a valuable player on an expiring contract, which should entice some contenders. Trading him would free up more minutes for Jaren Jackson Jr. and allow for Kyle Anderson and Omri Casspi to play some small ball 4.
Coleman- JaMychal Green is the most likely trade candidate on the Grizzlies roster. His constant energy, effective rebounding, and ability to score inside and out as a reserve is an attractive asset for a postseason run. Furthermore, the Grizzlies have younger players who are controlled beyond this year at Green’s position that could use his minutes to develop. Add in his expiring contract, and its makes good sense for the Grizzlies to explore his market to acquire a future asset.
Thanks to Shawn, Brandon, Greg, and every GBBer who participated in our midseason roundtable! Our strength is our staff, and I am proud of the work they have done so far this season.