The Memphis Grizzlies are going to be alright.
I’m not saying this to coddle everyone over the fact they lost to the lowly Chicago Bulls. I’m not trying to overreact to a wildly entertaining game against the Spurs, or Saturday’s win over the dysfunctional Pelicans.
After the trade deadline, there was a lot of push back from both the fans and media alike. Some saw the moves as short-sighted, as many were expecting rebuild-esque moves that yielded young prospects, bad contracts, and draft picks. Instead, the Grizzlies received three players in their mid-20’s, one 30-year old wing, a young prospect, and a 2024 draft pick — which sent fans and media into a frenzy.
I’m here to serve as the glimmer of optimism here by telling you that the Grizzlies are going to be alright.
“The trade return wasn’t enough! Where are our young prospects? Where are our picks?”
Let me be the first to say. You weren’t going to get much better than the deals made at the deadline.
Sure, the Charlotte Hornets were offering a first-round pick, but it was to unload Bismack Biyombo and Marvin Williams’ contracts. Neither player could contribute on the same level as Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, or C.J. Miles. That package might’ve been good, if the Grizzlies were trying to tank. However, they’re trying to win games and convey the pick. This Marc Gasol package accomplishes that, as Valanciunas is a starting-caliber big, and Delon Wright is one of the better backup combo guards in this league.
The return in the JaMychal Green and Garrett Temple trade got a ton of heat. Because of Avery Bradley’s miserable stint with the Clippers, people thought he was washed, even though he’s only 27 years old. Though the Grizzlies didn’t net a bad contract and a first-round pick, or Markelle Fultz, for one — or both — of these players, Bradley was still a good find for the Grizzlies. He’s only guaranteed $3M next season, if waived before July 3rd, and it opened up a $8M trade exception. Those two assets could help the Grizzlies improve via cap space and a trade.
The Grizzlies didn’t net the best package in term of the long-term approach, but it has the potential for more — as each player has the potential and timeline to be a part of the next era of good Grizzlies basketball.
Wallace on not getting assets to build around Jaren for the future pic.twitter.com/EsoOHGTngL— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) February 8, 2019
“We didn’t get any picks or players within Jaren’s timeline.”
Yes, it’s important to find players that fit with Jaren Jackson Jr.’s time. I wrote about the Grizzlies needing to start the JJJ era sooner rather than later to avoid the Anthony Davis situation.
However, they don’t need every core player to fall within Jaren’s timeline.
They’ll find guys within the draft — whether they convey this year or not. They’d be smart to utilize cap space and mid-level exception on restricted free agents like they did with Kyle Anderson, as those guys will fit along with Jackson’s timeline.
If you look at some of the rising young teams in the NBA though, not all of their core guys fall into the same timeline.
The Boston Celtics are the best case of that, as they have a trio of All-Star’s (Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, and Al Horford) and a quartet of promising young players (Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Terry Rozier). The Indiana Pacers’ trio of Victor Oladipo, Myles Turner, and Domantas Sabonis is talented, but what makes them so good is the quality, low-usage veterans around them — Bojan Bogdanovic, Darren Collison, and Thad Young. Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert are surrounded by veterans in their late-20’s, early 30’s, and they’ve been just fine. Bogdan Bogdanovic and Buddy Hield aren’t in the same timeline as De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley, but the Kings are thriving — positioning themselves for their first playoff run in 15 years.
The Memphis Grizzlies could replicate this formula with Jackson by surrounding him with young veterans with high-level playoff experience that are currently in their prime — a good plan given their situation with Boston. Guys like Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, and Avery Bradley could accelerate this rebuild, because they know what it takes to win basketball games — why teams like the Phoenix Suns and Minnesota Timberwolves have struggled for years.
“What are the Grizzlies doing?! They’re so short-sighted!”
Yes, these moves may have been perceived as short-sighted, but this roster isn’t solidified for the next 3-5 years.
Avery Bradley might be a salary-freer, a trade asset, or the defensive presence that rejuvenates that Grit ‘n’ Grind magic. Jonas Valanciunas could walk this summer, be a trade asset next year, or be the enforcer next to Jackson for the next 5 years. Delon Wright could be gone this summer, the stopgap point guard between Mike Conley and the floor general of the future, or the first post-Conley starting point guard.
There’s so much uncertainty around it, because the Grizzlies have become more flexible — something we never thought could happen with Conley and Parsons’ massive contracts on the books.
It’s totally cool for the Grizzlies to be short-sighted right now, because their goal is simple: convey the pick. It might be silly, but it’s not a bad goal to have. You can’t rebuild while you’re in debt. I’d much rather them try to convey the pick now or next year, instead of having the Boston Celtics picking number one on draft night in 2021.
The trade deadline moves might have been short-sighted, but this won’t be the team the Grizzlies try to make the playoffs with while Jackson is the best player. Don’t fret too much.
The Memphis Grizzlies are gonna be alright.
Yes, I said it. The same team with a short-sighted goal, with Chris Wallace as the General Manager, with JB Bickerstaff as the head coach, with an inevitable lottery pick owed to Boston, with Chandler Parsons as its biggest free agent acquisition, and with an awful draft history is going to be alright.
Let’s be real. Wallace and Bickerstaff aren’t going to be in Memphis forever — they may be gone this summer (Editor’s Note: or even sooner). The pick will convey eventually. Once it conveys — or they keep the pick in 2019 and 2020 — they’re free from Boston and can find more franchise cornerstones around their stud unicorn. Though their draft history is bad, they’ve done pretty damn well these past two seasons, as they’ve found Ivan Rabb, Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Jevon Carter in the past two drafts. Though big-name free agents haven’t come to Memphis, the front office has shown some competence signing Tyreke Evans and Kyle Anderson these past two offseasons.
Though there might be some complaints with the trade deadline moves, it doesn’t doom the Grizzlies’ future. Their flexibility, recent track record, their trade deadline acquisitions, and their superstar-in-the-making give me a slight bit of hope for a brighter future.