Finally, Grizzmas is upon us!
The 2019-2020 NBA season began in earnest last night, but for fans of the Memphis Grizzlies the journey starts this evening with their squad in Miami to take on Jimmy Butler and the Heat. To celebrate the regional holiday, I caught up with our Associate Editor here at GBB Parker Fleming to make some predictions for the upcoming campaign.
GBB Site Manager Joe Mullinax (@JoeMullinax) - Merry Grizzmas, Parker! A new season is upon us. The Grizzlies are in a vastly different place than they were a calendar year ago, and with that organizational shift comes new expectations and definitions of “success”. Before we start making predictions that almost surely will be wrong...
How will you define this season as a “success” for the Grizzlies?
GBB Associate Editor Parker Fleming (@PAKA_FLOCKA) - Merry Grizzmas to you as well, Joe! I don’t want to define the season as a “success” by wins and losses, rather by gradually improvement over the season. If they can win even 28 games, that’d be nice. However, I’d rather see Jaren Jackson Jr. stay out of foul trouble less and less throughout the year. I want to see Ja Morant become a more consistent shooter and less of a turnover machine. Brandon Clarke taking and making more 3s would be sweet as well. A bigger success would be for about two of Dillon Brooks, Grayson Allen, Marko Guduric, Josh Jackson, or DeAnthony Melton emerge as a nice complementary piece next to the young core. What about you?
JM - Whether or not they’re better in April than they were on opening night. There’s layers to that, obviously, but whether it is Ja as a perimeter threat as you alluded to or as a team in general, growth is the key. This is going to be a difficult season to get through if you are expecting a ton of victories. That isn’t what this team is built to be. The Grizzlies of 2019-2020 have been constructed to be competitive (no tanking needed here), but not good enough to compete at a high enough level for a full 48 minutes against two-thirds of the NBA. And that is OK. If they play better the last 10 games of the season than they did the first 10, this season was a success.
Now, on to predictions. Let’s begin with the NBA Finals MVP-winning elephant in the room-
When will Andre Iguodala be traded, and for what?
PF - Andre Iguodala will be traded around December 15th for what the Grizzlies want: a bad contract and a first-round pick. However, it’ll be to a team that he doesn’t want to go to. I can see a team that’s built a bad cap sheet (Sacramento, Barnes for Iggy?), or a early-season surprise team, become Iguodala’s trade destination.
JM - I think you’re right about the “surprise” team for Iggy. The Kings make a ton of sense - Barnes, Harry Giles, and a 2nd round pick from the Cavs in 2020 would seal the deal for me for Iggy and, say, Josh Jackson. The Heat are another team that could use some cap relief and may want Iggy for the playoffs - James Johnson and two future 2nd round picks could do it. I think by December 31st he is on a new team, and I would predict it will have nothing to do with the “who”. If the Lakers, Rockets, or Clippers make the best offer, they’ll get Iggy. If it’s the Heat or Kings, it’ll be them. This front office is in the asset acquisition business, not the make Andre Iguodala happy business
The other current “roster” member most in question is Josh Jackson. He could be used as a valuable expiring contract with his team option not being picked up in a trade, or Memphis could re-sign him for the long term if he redeems himself and grows his game this year.
This time next year, where will Josh Jackson be?
PF - This one is the hardest to judge. Josh Jackson could flame out just as easily as he could flourish as a key rotation player. He can be back on even a 2-year, $10M deal with a partial guarantee in there, right? I feel like that’s not far-fetched.
JM - Absolutely. There’s just so much room for variance. The flexibility Memphis has with a former 4th overall pick is another coup for this front office - best case scenario for Jackson is producing enough to remain on an NBA roster, and there’s very little chance he plays himself up to a deal worth more than what you and I have listed here. As a show of good faith, I’d make it a 1 year guaranteed deal worth exactly what his last year option would’ve been worth (almost $9 million) after incentives. I’d also include a team option on it for $10 million that is fully unguaranteed, to hold his feet to the fire. If Jackson plays the way he is capable of, $19 million over two seasons is a bargain. It would hold him accountable to continue to stay on the straight and narrow.
(To be clear, I’d do 1 year $5 million guaranteed, but playing time/performance incentives could get it to that $9 million)
PF - I’m in the same boat. The big battle this preseason has been the shooting guard position.
Between Dillon Brooks, Grayson Allen, Marko Guduric, and DeAnthony Melton, what does your pecking order look like?
JM - Melton just hasn’t had the reps, and missing this training camp is going to hurt him. In the long-term, he may be the answer (he is active for the season opener against the Heat), but the first 10 games or so it won’t be him you would imagine. If the other three flourish, he’s likely the odd man out, but opportunity should still come his way . Guduric is a sharpshooter, but defensive concerns at the NBA level as the games start to count have him third on my list. It comes down in the here and now to Brooks and Allen, and I think I would start Brooks but make sure Allen gets similar minutes off the bench. Grayson should thrive as a 2nd unit/6th man “green light” type, whereas Dillon has the experience from his rookie season of playing night in and night out against top NBA wings.
It also would give Memphis a chance to see what they have in Brooks long-term. Grayson will for sure be here next season (or at least has an NBA contract). Dillon doesn’t. The best way to gauge value alongside Jaren and Ja is to start him alongside Jaren and Ja.
PF - I can echo all of that. My only concern is with Dillon Brooks, who didn’t show much outside of inconsistent scoring. Over the preseason, he only averaged 1.2 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 1.4 turnovers, and 0.6 steals, which is pretty gross. As a rookie, he tallied 3.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists a game -- which would be nice paired with 11-14 points a game. If he can’t do much outside of the occasional scoring explosion, what’s his role on this team? If Grayson Allen can’t score, he’s at least making impactful plays on the defensive end, while serving as that secondary playmaker next to Ja Morant. Guduric will at least keep the ball moving and make plays off the dribble.
By the metrics, Melton is already an elite defender. My big bold prediction this year is that Dillon Brooks is in danger of falling out of the rotation. Am I digging too much into preseason, or is there truth to it?
JM - I think Dillon needs to be more engaged across all facets. I would definitely be hesitant to take too much from preseason stats - two of those games were against non-NBA teams, and the staff clearly had minutes limits and schematic goals going in to the contests that will be different from what they’ll trot out against Miami. Dillon, if anything, will be more likely to only emphasize scoring as a bench wing because that unit will need scoring so badly. I am more OK with Allen doing that because he has the ability to be a facilitator that Brooks does not.
Dillon can defend, “in theory” rebound, and also be the first man out to allow for a facilitator like Grayson (or even Kyle Anderson or Tyus Jones). It just feels like a more natural fit for Grayson to be the wing 6th man alongside “big” 6th man Brandon Clarke than Dillon. Allen maximizes the 2nd unit more to me.
PF - I get that. I just hope that Dillon Brooks is more Malcolm Brogdon lite, rather than Nick Young.
What’s your biggest bold prediction for the season?
JM - For the Grizzlies? Maybe it’s not too bold, but I have them posting a post All-Star Game record of .500 or better. They play 28 games after the All-Star Break, and they’ll win 14 or 15 of those games. 16 of those 28 are on the road, and there’s some tough competition on the schedule. But between rest (late season games against likely playoff contenders Philadelphia, Houston, Denver, and Toronto) and growth from this Grizzlies roster, it’s bold but not CRAZY...at least to me. What about you?
PF - I like that a lot. I can’t think of anything too bold, because a lot of statistical predictions are possible -- Jaren averaging 20-8-3-2, Jonas with a 20-10, or Ja flirting with 18-5-5. I’m going to go with a culture one. The Memphis Grizzlies will be one of the coolest young teams in not just basketball, but in all of sports. The Vancouver jerseys will be a hit. The style of play will look rough at times but will also be fun as hell. They got a flashy highlight-reel point guard in Ja Morant. I also can see one of Morant or Grayson Allen entering, and even winning, the dunk contest. A top-5 pick would make the Grizzlies super popular as well. It’s just going to be a fun season where the flashes of future greatness will be evident, and lots of people will notice it.
JM - The Grizzlies becoming the “League Pass” favorite for NBA die-hards is a good bet. Especially with Zion Williamson out, Ja is the biggest star from this rookie class to start the season. Add in the almost certain experimentation that will come with Taylor Jenkins and there will be a lot of fun (if not good) basketball to come.