Thursday, April 11th, 2019 will go down in history for the Memphis Grizzlies franchise.
It was a day of hope in a few ways, as controlling owner Robert Pera recognized the issues that many fans and media alike had been pointing out for a long time and rearranged basketball operations. Chris Wallace - who likely already had a reduced role behind the scenes - was officially demoted, and Jason Wexler and Zachary Kleiman were promoted to oversee the organization’s on the court progress moving forward (with more hires likely to come). Perhaps more controversially, J.B. Bickerstaff was also relieved of his duties as head coach. While Bickerstaff had his supporters, the team struggled mightily with in-game adjustments (18 double-digit leads lost) and J.B. never found his footing when it came to scheme and developing his own coaching abilities.
To do all this after a morning media availability where both spoke of a future that Pera knew they would not be a part of is questionable at best, despicable at worst. But the deed has been done...one that most agree needed to happen.
To break down some of the pressing questions both behind and ahead for Memphis, I have assembled 12 (yes, 12) of our terrific staffers here at GBB in a two-part Roundtable. If you missed Part I, check it out here. Joining me for Part II are GBB Associate Editor Mark King, and GBB Writers Shawn Coleman, Justin Lewis, Darren Jeans, and Colin Griffith tackle the 2019 NBA Draft, Mike Conley’s trade value, and more.
Do you want the Grizzlies to have their pick in the 2019 NBA Draft?
GBB Site Manager Joe Mullinax: Absolutely not. The possibility of landing Zion Williamson is not outweighed by the probability that you’re picking anywhere else but #1 overall. Even if you get to, say, #4 overall (where the team selected Jaren Jackson Jr. last season), who are you excited to take? Jarrett Culver? De’Andre Hunter? Cam Reddish? I would much rather get off the obligation and hit the reset button completely than still owe a 1st to Boston.
GBB Associate Editor Mark King: The Grizzlies have done what they can do to convey their draft pick this year, now it is up to fate to see where they will end up in the lottery (which will be decided tonight on NBATV). They should hope that they are not going to have a pick in this year’s draft unless it is in the top 3, if they somehow land a top 3 draft pick this year, then go ahead and take a franchise player at the top of the draft.
GBB Writer Justin Lewis: If we win the coin flip, meaning we are 9th and then the lotto balls put us in the top 3, then yes I want the pick. If it’s 4-8 let’s convey instead.
GBB Writer Darren Jeans: Yes. Go ahead and get another player on their rookie year deal to pair with Jaren Jackson Jr, and other young players like Kyle Anderson and Delon Wright. Stock up on young players to make yourself as enticing as possible for next summers free agency class because of all the money coming off the books next summer.
GBB Writer Shawn Coleman: No. With the knowledge most have of this draft, it is unlikely to find a franchise altering talent after the first three picks. Unless the Grizzlies somehow land picks 1-3, they need to convey. This allows for us to have picks in more talented drafts, thus a better avenue to the cost controlled talent we need around Jaren. It also becomes more sensible for the Grizzlies to embrace the rebuild they need.
GBB Writer Colin Griffith: No, I would much rather have Memphis convey the pick this year. Other than the top three prospects, there isn’t one player that I’d really love for Memphis. If Memphis is truly embracing a rebuild moving forward, it would be nice to pay our obligation to Boston and move on without having that hanging over our heads in the future.
Should Jaren Jackson Jr. play in Summer League?
Mullinax: In a limited role, yes. He certainly shouldn’t play if he isn’t fully recovered from his quad injury, and back to backs should not be in the mix for him. But he could use some time alongside players that will likely be running with him this coming season and needs to play competitive ball again as soon as possible for his development. Even if he didn’t play in all the games, his presence with the team in Vegas would be a good step forward as he almost certainly takes on a larger leadership role with the team moving forward.
King: Jaren Jackson Jr. admitted that he has plenty to work on at his exit interview with the media on Thursday and Summer League is exactly that, a chance to continue to work on skills that he is developing as a young star. He should be playing as much competitive basketball as he can right now to increase development early and often.
Lewis: No. What is there to gain or prove? Nothing. He’s awesome, we know that. Get ready for the season with health being the priority.
Jeans: Absolutely not. I see the pro in letting him get a head start in recovery from injury and getting some early reps in, but he shouldn’t be competing in ANY games unless it’s a meaningful one. Summer League? No.
Coleman: Yes. It is an opportunity for him to get some playing time coming off his injury. It also allows for him to get familiar with new talent the Grizzlies may acquire. And its the best way for the new coaching staff to get a better idea of how to best utilize Jaren. Also, he can work on improving his weaknesses, such as rebounding, in a competitive environment.
Griffith: It would be nice to maybe have Jaren play a few games. If Memphis decides to play in both Las Vegas and Orlando like last year, it could be nice to have Jaren to play a couple games in Orlando just to get his groove back. After having missed the last chunk of the season with an injury, getting a couple games under his belt to get him back in playing shape could be very beneficial.
What is the Grizzlies most pressing need in free agency/the draft?
Mullinax: In a word: versatility. They need players that can do multiple things well, since it is unlikely they will be able to acquire anyone with an elite skill set due to budgetary issues (and the fact they should want to be a factor in 2020 restricted free agency). Considering I do not want Memphis to have a 1st round pick this year (barring a trade - more on that later), in free agency I want them to attack a player like Tomas Satoransky. A bigger guard (6’7”) that will turn 28 in October, Satoransky can play any position on the perimeter, create off the dribble, shoot from range, and be an effective cutter at and around the rim. It may take the full mid-level exception, but he would be worth a look.
King: The Grizzlies most pressing need for this roster is something that they have always needed, a two guard that can shoot the ball. Since they will hopefully not have a first round draft pick, that need will have to be filled through free agency. Someone like Rodney Hood that has proven he can shoot the ball, is on the younger side, but has fallen out of favor with some teams could be a mid level exception candidate, with a contract along the same lines as Kyle Anderson.
Lewis: The greatest need for this team is solid wing depth, as always.
Jeans: I’d say point guard. Again. Wright looks enticing, but are we ready to give him the starting position? Imagine landing someone like Ja Morant to replace Mike Conley Jr. The Ja and Jaren Show. Sign me up.
Coleman: Young perimeter play making should be a priority. The Grizzlies need to improve their consistency at creating high percentage scoring opportunities. They were at their best when they had outside shooting along with getting into the lane for close looks. If the Grizzlies do trade Conley and commit to Delon Wright, a source that can create and hit his own perimeter shot becomes essential.
Griffith: The Grizzlies most pressing need is is player on the wing. Kyle Anderson and Dillon Brooks are coming off season ending injuries. Chandler Parsons will be in the final year of his deal and isn’t a lock to stay healthy. Avery Bradley might not be back. A fresh new face on the wing is exactly what the Grizzlies need.
What would it take for you to trade Mike Conley?
Mullinax: More than it would have at the trade deadline, that’s for sure. By most metrics, Conley is a top 6 or 7 point guard in the NBA right now, in an era where those guys in front of him are all almost locks to go to the Hall of Fame. A possible lottery pick and a young prospect is the floor at this stage - say Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, or Kyle Kuzma and the Lakers 1st this year (probably 11 overall). The Knicks could do a comparable deal involving someone like Mitchell Robinson (or someone less good but still young) and two future firsts, one of their own and one from Dallas. The Grizzlies have leverage here - a trade is not necessary...unless Conley really hates how the Wallace and Bickerstaff situation played out.
King: Mike Conley should hopefully get traded intro a good situation, for him to at least have the chance to win in the last stages of his career would be pretty cool. That being said, a first round draft pick, a younger player that has upside, and a older role player is what you should get for Mike Conley.
Lewis: A first round pick THIS year, a promising young player and a rotation piece are bare minimum starting points. If Conley goes East is to a big market he will be an All-Star, so I expect an all star payment. Send me Lonzo, Josh Hart, and the Lakers 2019 first rounder, or if we don’t convey let’s send mike and our pick to PHX if they are 2-3 and get Ja Morant or RJ Barrett with Josh Jackson and their 2019 second round pick.
Jeans: We have not been able to land a 1st round pick all year. So at this point, that should be the bare minimum. His play has elevated his stock as of late, so landing a 1st shouldn’t be a problem. Looking at you, Magic. Oops. I mean looking at you, Pelinka.
Coleman: It should take a haul. Coming off the best offensive month of his career, Mike Conley is the type of talent that can make a playoff participant become a true contender. And the Grizzlies should value him as such. The return should begin with a young, controllable perimeter talent who could be an effective NBA starter. In addition, either multiple first round picks, or another player with control and good upside along with a future first.
Griffith: For me it would take a package of either multiple picks or a first rounder and a young player with potential and a more expensive veteran if salary matching is required. After his March explosion, Conley’s stock has never been higher and now could be the perfect time for Memphis to capitalize on that. While saying goodbye to the last member of the Core 4 would be incredibly hard, it could help set Memphis up nicely for the future.
Thank you to Mark, Justin, Darren, Shawn, and Colin for joining me in Part II of this roundtable. As always, stick with GBB as we enter what is sure to be a busy off-season for the Memphis Grizzlies.