Week 26 Results
Week 26 Storylines
-The Memphis Grizzlies fired head coach J.B. Bickerstaff and demoted GM Chris Wallace to a scouting role. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the front office re-shuffling.
-Assistant GM Zach Kleiman is being promoted to Executive VP of Basketball Operations, overseeing the day-to-day. Jason Wexler was promoted to president, overseeing both business and basketball operations.
-Memphis finished in a three-way tie for 7th in the lottery standings with New Orleans and Dallas. All three teams posted a record of 33-49.
-As a result of a random drawing by the league, the order is finalized at New Orleans-7th, Memphis-8th, Dallas-9th, if none of those teams jump into the top-4.
-G/F C.J. Miles will pick up his $8.7 million player option for next year, according to The Athletic’s Peter Edmiston.
Required Reading: 6 of GBB’s best (everyone is tied at #1) comes together for a roundtable discussion on the Grizzlies’ season, their front office reshuffling, what they should look for in a new coach, and more. | GBB Site Manager Joe Mullinax with a poetic look on the choices the Grizzlies face and the process they must endure to secure their future.
Front Office Shakeup and Bickerstaff Firing
I think I probably could have stomached another year with Bickerstaff as coach. I never thought he was the right coach for the job, but it wouldn’t have been preposterous to give a coach more than one year as official coach. That being said, moving on from him was the right decision.
Players played hard for him, but players are supposed to play hard for their coach. He’s not the first coach to get his players motivated to play and he won’t be the last. Can anyone fully describe what our offensive system was this year, other than get Mike Conley and Jonas Valanciunas the ball? Can anyone explain why Memphis’ rotations had no consistency nor rhyme or reason when the roster was relatively healthy?
I don’t know who or what comes next as our next coach. Jerry Stackhouse leaving for Vanderbilt recently took the air out of those sails. But Bickerstaff got the full-time job last year to save the franchise embarrassment of going through yet another coaching search, not because he tore it up last year. And all that ended up bringing us right back to square-1. Where we will hire our 4th coach in 5 seasons.
Time will tell if Jason Wexler, Zach Kleiman, and the rest of this iteration of the front office will do a better job. The good news is that there’s no way they trade for Jeff Green again...right? You could have told me that anyone on Earth would be a good replacement for Chris Wallace and I would have to believe you.
The man fell back asswards into the Core Four (Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol) and did NOTHING to give them a competent supporting cast while we were contending. Tayshaun Prince started games for us! Delon Wright might be the best backup PG Memphis has had in a decade and we just got him 2 months ago.
The Chris Wallace era is over....kind of. He’s still in the Memphis organization in their scouting department. Because if there’s anything his tenure as GM was known for, it was our impeccable prospect scouting.
Week 26 Basketball Thoughts
-The first 18 minutes-or-so against Detroit was the hottest stretch of basketball I’ve seen this team play. They shot over 60% from the field and *gasp* actually took AND made three-pointers!
-An incredible offensive performance with incredible defensive execution. Holding the Pistons to just 38 points in the first half was an admirable effort.
-What fools were we to think that a 20-plus point lead would last? This is Memphis basketball. I should be used to this.
-The offense, which was blistering in the first half, just couldn’t create shots without tremendous difficulty in the second half. Memphis scored 36 points in the final two quarters. Detroit scored that in the 4th quarter alone.
-The loss was devastating for the lottery picture. A win, which was very much in play, would have given Memphis the #9 spot without their fate being determined by a random drawing.
-Jevon Carter scored 32 points in an NBA regular-season game. No one can take that away from us. And how lucky were we to actually need a win and actually get it!
-I don’t care that it was basically a G-League game, that win was important and Jevon looked awesome during it.
Protection Inspection Finale
A final lottery standings update...until the actual lottery a month from now.
As a result of the three-way tie, Memphis, New Orleans, and Dallas will evenly split the ping pong balls/odds that could garner them the #1 pick. What the random drawing settled is the order in which they will select if none of those teams jump into the top-4 on lottery night.
Various odds based on our lottery standing (via tankathon.com):
Convey the Pick - 42.1%
Stay at #8 - 31.2%
Top-4 Pick - 26.3%
#1 Pick - 6.0%
Week-side Help Awards
2018-19 Week-side Help MVP: Mike Conley
What a champ. Dealt with trade rumors all year and played on a horrible team and still produced his best statistical year. He didn’t suffer at the defensive end, either. Conley was the only one to play 70 games in Memphis...or 60 games, for that matter.
He averaged 21.1 PPG and 6.4 APG this year, with that being his career-high in scoring and 0.1 assists shy of his career-high in that, as well. When Marc Gasol was traded and Mike wasn’t, no one would have faulted him for mailing it in for the last two months. He didn’t. He played his ass off and even got a Western Conference Player of the Week for his troubles. He kept this team from going off the deep end and gave us a fighting chance to convey the pick. This may have been his last year as a Grizzly, but it’s Mike Conley Forever in the Week-side Help.
Other contenders: Jonas Valanciunas, Jaren Jackson Jr., Delon Wright weirdly enough
2018-19 Week-side Help Mid-Season Acquisition of the Year: Jonas Valanciunas
A serious contender for MVP. Who would have thought, after all the hand-wringing, that the Grizzlies would have played better after trading Marc Gasol? Jonas Valanciunas was a huge part of that. He brought the energy of Joakim Noah with the production of prime Z-Bo.
He averaged 19.9 PPG and 10.7 RPG in the 19 games he played for Memphis. Those are All-star caliber numbers if he kept that up for an entire season. He also did a tremendous service to our conveying odds by keeping us competitive. Memphis was just 8-11 when JV played, which doesn’t seem impressive until you realize Memphis was 25-38 in all other games. And considering the Grizzlies ended up in a three-way tie, every win counted.
When JV was on, it was hard to not to enjoy watching Memphis play and it was productive, to boot. If he’s on the team next year, I will be SO excited to see how he fits in.
Other contenders: Delon Wright, Avery Bradley, Joakim Noah
2018-19 Week-side Help Rookie of the Year: Jaren Jackson Jr.
An award that’s obvious, but exists only so I can recognize Jaren Jackson Jr.’s greatness. The first 1st-round pick since Mike Conley that’s actually been worth a damn. The 2018 NBA Draft looks to be a great one, so far, so Memphis would have had to try to not select a good prospect last year. Nonetheless, I think they ended up with the third-best one behind Luka Doncic and Trae Young.
The 19-year old already plays defense like a savvy vet and his switchability is remarkable. He can guard out on the perimeter and protect the rim with almost equal competence. He has a lot of areas where he can improve upon, mostly his tendency to foul, but he shows so much promise. His ability on the offensive end is something to behold, too. He shows potential to be a great three-point shooter and a way-better-than-someone-his-size-should be ball-handler.
This also gives me a chance to show off my favorite play from this year too: JJJ hitting a three in LeBron’s face to seal a victory against the Lakers.
Other contenders (by default of being rookies on the team): Jevon Carter, Yuta Watanabe, Julian Washburn
2018-19 Week-side Help Funniest Moment of the Year: The Brooks Brothers Fiasco
I know they aren’t brothers, it’s just a catchy name, alright? If you somehow aren’t familiar, the Grizzlies, Wizards, and Suns had a deal in place that would send Trevor Ariza to the Wizards and Kelly Oubre Jr. to the Grizzlies. What the Suns would get turned out to be in dispute. They thought they were getting 2nd-year wing Dillon Brooks. The Grizzlies insisted they were sending journeyman MarShon Brooks. The gulf between Brookses was too large apparently, and the deal never went through.
In retrospect, this should have been the 870th, final, nail in the coffin that was Chris Wallace’s tenure at GM. It’s one thing to take big swings and miss on them, (i.e. Parsons, Jeff Green), it’s another to embarrass the franchise with a completely avoidable situation.
The Grizzlies eventually traded Wayne Selden Jr., MarShon Brooks and a couple of 2nd-round picks to the Chicago Bulls for Justin Holiday, who has proven to be a competent defender and rotation player. MarShon did not despite the promise he showed us last year. This whole situation probably won’t matter much long-term, but LOL, who else but Memphis would this happen to?
Other contenders: Garrett Temple and Omri Casspi fighting in the locker room, this end-of-game sequence against the Warriors.
Until Next Year
That does it for this year in Week-side Help. We will be back next year, every Monday, to recap what hopes to be a better Grizzlies season, week-by-week.
Thank you to everyone who has faithfully read this post every Monday. And thank you to everyone who didn’t, but at least gave me the satisfaction of clicking on my post and giving me validation in statistical ways. If you haven’t done either of those things, why are you even reading this? You chose a weird time to just jump into a very time-sensitive weekly recap of a Grizzlies season that just ended.
Either way, I appreciate all of you.
Have a good summer, Memphis.