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Memphis Grizzlies must avoid an Anthony Davis situation

Jaren Jackson Jr. could be the next Anthony Davis, and they must plan accordingly.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Davis trade rumors will dominate all trade talk for 2019.

Everyone has been prepping for this moment, even the Pelicans know. Why else would they pull the trigger on a trade for All-Star big man Demarcus Cousins? With Cousins gone, and the playoffs looking like less and less of a possibility each passing day, no one thinks Davis will be a Pelican — especially the Lakersm the current frontrunners for his services.

How did they get to this point though?

For starters, they landed Davis with the number one pick in the 2012 draft, after their first season without Chris Paul. From there, there were an abundance of bad roster decisions. Granted, the health of guys like Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, and Ryan Anderson could’ve helped Davis and New Orleans over the past decade, but that doesn’t erase their mistakes.

They were stuck between building a team with Davis as a 4 or a 5, which led to taking on the terrible contract of Omer Asik. In the summer of 2016, they chased Solomon Hill and signed him to a 4yr, $52M deal — the same contract that departed Eric Gordon received. Their best draft pick since Davis, Buddy Hield, was dealt by the All-Star break of his rookie year for Cousins. They sold their past two first-round picks to acquire Cousins and Mirotic, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them do it once more.

Now, the Pelicans have to worry about losing a homegrown superstar big man in his prime either by trade or for nothing in free agency.

Jaren Jackson Jr. has honestly turned some heads with his performance this season. He's far more advanced offensively than anyone excepted, flashing a solid post game and possessing smooth off-the-dribble moves in his bag. Defensively, he’s a pterodactyl, quickly solidifying himself as one of the league’s elite rim protectors.

The Grizzlies seem to still be taking their time with him though. His leash seems quite short compared to some veterans on the team — ones that aren’t Mike Conley or Marc Gasol. Sometimes, he's left on the bench in the fourth quarters of close games. You could argue that there aren't enough plays designed for him.

Whether you like it or not, it’s bound to be like this, because it’s not his team yet. It’s not the end of the world either. He’s a better-than-expected 19-year old rookie on a hopeful playoff team that has two top-40 players.

It’s Mike Conley and Marc Gasol’s team right now. You could tell that by the design of the team. The Grizzlies brought in a bunch of high-IQ veterans to cast around their veteran stars. No one else besides these guys — and Jackson — can really create their own shots, or carry the team when the core players are off.

That formula is fine for this season. It’ll surely help them accomplish one of the two: return to the playoffs, or convey the Boston pick early.

After this season though, it’s time to think about a team built around Jaren Jackson Jr., not Gasol and Conley.

Now there. I’m not saying you should trade Gasol and Conley, definitely not by the trade deadline. I’m a firm believer in conveying the Boston pick as soon as possible.

I’m not even saying they should tear it down and rebuild. In fact, they already have a good, competitive base of a future core with Jackson, Kyle Anderson, and Dillon Brooks.

Gasol’s opt-out clause could help things, whether he just walks completely or re-signs for a lesser deal (2-year, $20M — Zach Randolph’s last deal in Memphis — would be ideal).

In the process, they could add a young guard that fits alongside Jackson. Spencer Dinwiddie’s contract extension could make D’Angelo Russell more available, considering they’d probably be more willing to pay Caris Levert and Jarrett Allen over him. He’d be an excellent floor general in the Jackson era, as he’s a great passer and can go for 30-40 points on any given night.

If Milwaukee decides to go with Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton this summer, make things hard for them and give Malcolm Brogdon an offer sheet. He’s a phenomenal two-way player that’s ultra consistent shooting the basketball, and he could either be a 1 or a 2 alongside Conley.

Boston surely has a decision on their hands with Terry Rozier. Why not make it more difficult for them? He was the starting point guard for a Boston team that almost went to the Finals without two of their 3 best players. He’s surely got the chops to take you to the playoffs, and perhaps help you survive.

Any of these 3 guys fit next to Jackson in the long-term, but could also fit next to Gasol and/or Conley next season.

If Gasol walks, you could explore trading Conley, which won’t necessarily be as hard as you think. You might talk about his contract, but there are only two years left on it after this season. Besides, teams are desperate for point guards, especially ones of Conley’s caliber.

This offseason should be planned around Jaren Jackson Jr and how they want a Jackson-led Memphis Grizzlies team to look. Who’s to say that’s a bad thing?

Building the team around Jackson’s skillset on both ends of the court could change this team for the better. The offense could flow more, which could maximize the skillsets of Dillon Brooks and Kyle Anderson as well. The defense could become even more versatile built around Jackson.

A lot of things go into building around Jaren Jackson Jr. As mentioned above, you must see what Gasol does with his player option, and you must at least gauge the trade market for Conley and Gasol.

Secondly, you have to decide where you want Jackson to play — the 4 or the 5.

If they want to play Jackson at the 4, and Gasol moves on, a rim-running big man that could also protect the rim defensively would be a good fit next to him. However, it might be best to slot a floor-spacer at the 5 to feature Jackson in the post more often, and to offset Anderson’s inability to space the floor.

Playing Jackson at the 5 gives this team more versatility, as the Grizzlies ideally shift Anderson at the 4 — featuring him as a playmaking-4.

Finally, they got to find out how they want to build the perimeter. Dillon Brooks is a good fit either as a starting wing or as a spark off the bench. They should target a guard that could be a score-first floor general when he wants to, a la Conley, whether it means targeting a guy like Russell or Rozier. On the wings, they should acquire 3-and-D players that trend more towards 40-percent 3-point shooting rather than 30-percent — someone like Malcolm Brogdon.

I say all this because I look at Anthony Davis’s situation. Night after night, he has to give absolutely everything he’s got just to give his team a shot to win. The other night against Brooklyn, Davis put up a stat-line of 34 points, 26 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 blocks, and they still couldn’t beat a middling Eastern Conference team. He had a 30-20-5 game against the Lakers, and it still wasn’t enough for the Pelicans to win. He has only reached the playoffs twice in his six-year career, with another lottery finish looming.

I don't want that to happen to Jaren Jackson Jr.

I say all this, because I look at the New Orleans Pelicans. They have to mortgage their future just to please and convince their homegrown superstar big man to stay. They’re living in constant fear that the only thing their franchise has going for them might want to leave.

I don't want that to happen to my Memphis Grizzlies.

A trade demand is not even 5 years away. He’ll sign an extension when he’s eligible. However, if the team follows the Pelicans’ path, they could live out all of Jackson’s second contract with noise surrounding a trade and him potentially leaving.

Why not start building the Jackson-led Grizzlies team this summer? Go after a combo guard in free agency. Explore the trade market for the veterans. Think about how you want the team to look with him as your best player.

As a fan, you might worry about a rebuild similar to the Sacramento Kings or the Phoenix Suns, but not all rebuilds are bad.

The year after Portland lost LaMarcus Aldridge in free agency, they returned to the playoffs, catering their team around their young dynamic backcourt. When Utah lost Gordon Hayward, they found a diamond in the rough with Donovan Mitchell, and they featured him all the way to the second round of the playoffs. People laughed about the Paul George trade, until Victor Oladipo became an All-Star and took his feisty Pacers team to 7 games against LeBron James — and until Domantas Sabonis forgot how to miss a shot. After infamously trading Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett for a boat load of picks, the Boston Celtics only had one year in the lottery before returning to the playoffs.

Not. All. Rebuilds. Are. Bad.

The Grizzlies have a great base with Jaren Jackson Jr., Kyle Anderson, and Dillon Brooks to follow in their footsteps. The post-Warriors Western Conference is wide open, as there’s no clearcut heir to the throne. Why not try to build around Jackson starting this summer and gun for that throne?

It’s a leap of faith, but I don’t want my Memphis Grizzlies to be like the New Orleans and fail to maximize their time with a homegrown superstar big man.

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