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The Top-10 Grizzlies of the Decade: Part I

An honorable mention and numbers 10-9.

San Antonio Spurs v Memphis Grizzlies - Game Six Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to Grizzly Bear Blues’ top-10 Memphis Grizzlies of the decade! Here in Part I, we are going to take a look at a player that was literally one point away from making the cut and the first three entries of our list.

First, some background. Through my seven years in the blogging business I have made lots of friends and worked with plenty of people who know all about the Memphis Grizzlies. I reached out to many of them, asking for help constructing this list through an official vote ballot. Those that opted to participate then submitted 10 names, with the only rule being that the player had to participate in the past decade for the Memphis Grizzlies, starting January 1st 2010 and ending December 31st, 2019 (the day of this posting). Players then got points for the position they were put in by the voter - 1 point for 10th, 2 for 9th, all the way up to 10 points for a 1st place selection.

25 total people, including myself, took part in the polling. Only my ballot will be public through the revealing of the top-10. The panel was as follows-

Without further adieu, here we go. The top-ten Memphis Grizzlies players of the soon-to-be-departed decade...but first, an honorable mention to a player that I had #10 overall on my ballot but missed out on making this list by one point.

Honorable Mention: O.J. Mayo (36 total points, 15 total votes)

Memphis Grizzlies v Los Angeles Clippers - Game 3 Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Grizzlies Stats: 4 seasons played in Memphis, parts of 3 in decade (2010-2012), 301 total regular season games played for the Grizzlies (181 started), 15.2 points per game on 43.3% shooting (37.5% from three), 3.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 14.1 PER, .072 win shares per 48 minutes

O.J. Mayo never quite lived up to the trade that brought him to Memphis in exchange in part for the rights to Kevin Love. But the benefit of hindsight makes that transaction look a lot worse than it actually was. Mayo was viewed as a sure thing coming out of college on the perimeter, a lock to be a scoring monster that would fit so nicely in theory with the eventual peak of Grit and Grind.

And make no mistake, the peak of sustained success in Mayo’s career (before addiction and other issues derailed his NBA life) most certainly happened in Memphis. Outside of his one season in Dallas (2012-2013) immediately after leaving the Grizzlies, O.J.’s key role in the early run of the newly bygone GNG era helped set the tone for the decade, especially the miracle 2011 playoffs. Mayo shot 40.8% from beyond the arc in that postseason, playing almost 28 minutes per game.

O.J. has been gone from Memphis for some time now, and is trying to resurrect his basketball life overseas. But the unlikely upset of the 1 seed Spurs almost nine years ago now doesn’t happen without Mayo. He is worthy of consideration here.

We have a tie for #10! The tiebreaker - total votes received - was also even, so since this is my list I decided to have two #10’s.

First, the guy I didn’t vote for on this list...which is ironic, because once he finally calls it a career he will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer

#10: Vince Carter (37 total points, 11 total votes)

San Antonio Spurs v Memphis Grizzlies - Game Three Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Grizzlies stats: Three seasons played in Memphis (2014-2017). 199 total regular season games played (19 started), 6.9 points per game on 37.2% shooting (34.4% from three), 2.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 11.4 PER, .082 win shares per 48 minutes

Perhaps the voters got a bit caught up in the fact that the great Vince Carter did indeed play for the Memphis Grizzlies in this decade. Allen Iverson barely played during his time in Memphis, and other greats like Dwight Howard and Andre Iguodala have never actually suited up for the Grizzlies despite being on the roster. But Vince Carter played out his contract like the pro he still is (it’s crazy that when he takes the floor for the Hawks in 2020 he will have played NBA basketball in 4 decades - the 1990’s, 2000’s, 2010’s, and 2020’s) despite being snake bitten by injury and long stretches of cold play. He looked very done at times as a player while in Beale Street Blue, not able to play more than 66 games in a season his first two campaigns with the Grizzlies.

That is, of course, until his last season in Memphis - 2016-2017 - where he played in 73 regular season contests and posted his Grizzlies-best in win shares per 48 minutes (a strong .106, especially considering he turned 40 as part of this season). It was also his best season from beyond the arc for the Grizzlies (37.8%), his best net rating (+4), and his solid performance against the San Antonio Spurs in the 2017 NBA Playoffs (32.5 minutes per game, 40% shooting from beyond the arc in six games) helped keep Memphis competitive in that series.

His last season with the Grizzlies was his best one. Combine that with the fact he’s Vince freaking Carter, and he’s earned a spot on our top-10 of the decade team.

Now for his #10 counterpart, another veteran whose best years were behind him by the time he came to the Grizzlies but still made the most of his time in Memphis...and still is.

#10: Tayshaun Prince (37 total points, 11 total votes)

San Antonio Spurs v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Grizzlies stats: Parts of three seasons played in Memphis (2012-2015). 139 total regular season games played (121 started), 7 points per game on 41.4% shooting (35% from three), 3.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 9.2 PER, .055 win shares per 48 minutes

The next decade will be impacted by Tayshaun Prince the front office member for the Memphis Grizzlies. The decade that is ending was made better by Prince the basketball player. While more talented players like Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo had played the wing “better” for Memphis, Tayshaun was a better fit alongside the Core Four of Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol. Defensively his frame and IQ worked nicely within the schemes of Lionel Hollins, and on the offensive end while Prince was not a scoring threat he was able to facilitate offense for others and get just enough going to be a respectable contributor when Memphis needed him to be.

The Western Conference Finals run in 2013 likely does not occur without Tayshaun’s experience and selflessness alongside the thriving Conley, Randolph, and Gasol as offensive weapons. He really wasn’t very good consistently beyond that run, and his departure was with more of a thud than a trumpet in 2015. He made those around him better via intelligence and veteran leadership, though, which are qualities that are still making Memphis better today.

A bit of a surprise at #9...

#9: Ja Morant (40 total points, 11 total votes)

Charlotte Hornets v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Grizzlies stats: Part of one season played in Memphis (2019). 28 total games played (28 games started), 17.4 points per game on 46.6% shooting (39.7% from three), 3.2 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 17.8 PER, .070 win shares per 48 minutes

Feels a bit premature, right?

Ten years from now, Ja Morant will be on this list if it is made. It’s almost certain. He’s that special, and has a talent and charisma that will make the next decade of Grizzlies basketball his, if he wants it to be. Highlight dunk attempts, surprising shooting from beyond the arc, a swagger that is worthy of the city he plays in and all the potential in the world should make Grizzlies fans very, very excited about what’s to come.

But #9 player of the decade? In just 28 games?

He wasn’t on my ballot. I’m just saying.

The panel members that made Morant a part of this special list clearly feel that even in an extremely small sample size he is worthy of placement among these players. Perhaps it says more about the quality of athlete that came through the Grit and Grind Era than it does Ja - a rookie point guard (albeit a special one) on a likely lottery team is the #9 player of the decade in the organization, according to this panel.

That’s not Ja’s fault. Hell, it may not even be the panel’s fault. It’s probably Chris Wallace’s fault.

Yeah. Chris Wallace. Go with that.

Part II is coming soon! Stick with GBB for the remainder of the list through the three-part series, as well as a special episode of GBBLive breaking down the list, all New Year’s Eve long!

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