There was a time, not too long ago, when the Memphis Grizzlies actually were fun to watch. They were playing some of the best basketball in the league, and were playing wonderful team defense and overall as one solid, effective unit.
Of all the preseason acquisitions, few were working out better than one of the last pieces to the roster the Grizzlies brought aboard in August. After just a month into the season, this player was quickly being viewed as a sixth man of the year candidate. Some were even suggesting he was the best backup point guard the Grizzlies had had since Mike Conley was drafted.
This player gave the franchise and fans a lot to be thankful for. Unfortunately, once the calendar got past Thanksgiving, the dream ended. Quickly, opinions that were once abundant with joy and cheer instead became full of frustration and disappointment. The compliments turned to criticism, and the downward spiral only plummeted further as the season progressed.
Few players have seen their stock change as drastically as this player has in a Grizzlies’ uniform. One of the more interesting story lines this season has been the meteoric rise and catastrophic fall of his production.
His name is Shelvin Mack. And with arguably the Grizzlies’ most universally celebrated move since drafting Jaren Jackson Jr, he will not be back.
The Grizzlies sent Mack to Atlanta in exchange for Tyler Dorsey. Yes, Memphis actually received another NBA talent for Mack’s services. This is not a fabrication or work of fiction. This is the absolute truth.
Mack actually is having a similar season to the one he had two years ago, and it is not that different from his career production. Mack has produced a career 12.3 PER and -2.6 Box Plus Minus rating. This season, he sits at 11.3 PER and a -3.5 Box Minus Rating. While a bit below his career norms, his overall production this season is not that far off from his expected level of play.
The angst towards Mack has come from how he as arrived at his current numbers. Since helping Memphis get off to a 12-5 start, Mack has crashed back down to reality due to a sharp dose of regression. In his first 24 games of the year, when Mack was the court, the Grizzlies outscored their opponents by 10 points. In the last 29 games of his stint with Memphis, the Grizzlies were outscored by 214 points. This means Memphis scored 7.3 fewer points per game than their opponents while Mack was playing during that 29 game stretch. Mack only had three games where he had a positive +/- rating in those 29 games.
The obvious conclusion is that literally any alternative would have been better than Mack since the start of December. J.B. Bickerstaff had to rely on him due to injuries and absences across the roster. However, the insistence to play and use him in critical situations was infuriating to many involved with the Grizzlies. Memphis likely would have been better just playing four on five in some instances.
The long stretch of poor play is the reason many were amazed the Grizzlies got a young player in return for Mack yesterday afternoon. He is Tyler Dorsey, and he is best known as being the former back court running mate of Dillon Brooks with the Oregon Ducks. So far in his career, Tyler Dorsey has two things that currently make him a better option than Shelvin Mack. For one, he is young with room to improve. The other, and most important difference, is that his name is not Shelvin Mack.
If there is a sense of satire in this piece, it is fully intended. And the reason being is that for the past 10 weeks, Mack’s play has been nothing more than satirical itself. Relied upon as a relevant part of the Grizzlies rotation, he has been exposed as an embarrassment nearly every time he played.
There is no better way to summarize how Mack’s past two and a half months have gone than a chronological breakdown of his transaction involvement yesterday. At 1:34 p.m., A Woj Bomb (prank in this case) announced his trade. Five minutes later, it was announced the Hawks would be waiving him.
Mack’s legendary Hawks’ career ironically can only be equaled by another Hawks’ icon that was released earlier this year. Of course, I am referring to Carmelo Anthony, and now both of these Immortals are living the life of luxury unemployed.
There is no better way to grade this Grizzlies trade than with an A here at GBB. And that A represents Shelvin Mack’s absence. With his prized possession no longer at his disposal, JB Bickerstaff must reluctantly rely on the Grizzlies youth to fill those available minutes. As a result, his rotations, schemes, and team performance overall can only get better moving forward.