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10 Years of GBB: The Biggest “What If’s” in Grizzlies History

Let’s go back at look at some of the biggest what if’s for the Grizzlies of the past 10 years.

NBA: Playoffs-San Antonio Spurs at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, we’re still celebrating, and we have every right to.

Whenever you have a weekday birthday, you celebrate it on the weekends too, right?


Grizzly Bear Blues turned ten years old a few days ago, and we have every right to celebrate until the end of the weekend. Tom Lorenzo, Kevin Lipe, Chris Faulkner, and Joe Mullinax all have done a tremendous job leading GBB to where it is today. The connections with 929 and I Love Memphis, the coverage live at FedExForum, the podcast network developing, and all the cool, innovative content on GBB wouldn’t be a thing without the hard work of those four individuals.

Not to mention, the past 10 years of Memphis Grizzlies basketball has been extraordinary to watch. They experienced the most success they’ve had in franchise history — one that was known for being atrocious before arriving to Memphis. Within the past 10 years, an iconic quartet known as the “Core 4” was born, and Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, Marc Gasol, and Mike Conley are all historic, larger-than-life people that’ll forever be immortalized in Memphis history.

All that comes with “what if’s” — the scenarios that plague and torment our inner thoughts.

What if I took that job?

What if I went to his college?

What if I dated, or even married, this person?

Just a few of the many “what if” scenarios that come up in daily conversation or in everyday thoughts.

I’m not going to continue being a philosopher or anything. I want to explore some crazy “what if” situations from the past 10 years, because a lot of these scenarios could’ve altered the Grizzlies’ history, for better or for worse.

To be real, don’t be bothered by the order, because that was a daunting, difficult task.

1) What if the Grizzlies would’ve never drafted Hasheem Thabeet?

This one was a super easy one. Granted, I may have cheated a little bit, since GBB’s birthday was in July, and the draft was in June. However, it’s been 10 years, and it’s always worth discussing.

Looking back, it’s hard to pinpoint, why Thabeet. He was a dominant force in college, but that was mainly the case, because he was taller than everyone, and there’s not a “Defensive Three Seconds” rule in college. You could also make a point that the other positions were filled by future stars in OJ Mayo, Rudy Gay, and Mike Conley. At that time, we didn’t know whether or not Marc Gasol was a starting-caliber center yet.

So, yeah that was a flop. At the time, he became the highest-selected player to play in the (then) D-League. Then, they needed a first-round pick to get rid of him.

All good things.

They also missed out on James Harden and Steph Curry, two players that’ll go down as all-time great’s.


That move could’ve cost them a title or two. However, it probably would’ve cost them the “Core 4.” Sure, they may still have Randolph and Gasol, but I don’t know if Conley or Tony Allen play prominent roles — or are even Grizzly’s — if Harden or Curry was the pick.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Portland Trail Blazers Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

2) What if the Grizzlies never signed Chandler Parsons?

This is another fun, easy one for Grizzlies’ fans. Parsons was signed to become the final piece between “The Core 4,” filling a need as a big playmaking, scoring wing. He was also supposed to be the third banana that helped usher the Grizzlies into a new era without a full-fledged rebuild.

We all saw the results. Injuries derailed his career, preventing him from being the player he once was. He became one of the most hated players in franchise history. The signing though also might have put an end to “Grit ‘n’ Grind.”

With Gasol, Conley, and Parsons to max deals, as well as very little draft capital or young players to trade, they couldn’t really improve the roster to bolster their playoff chances. As a result, they had to hit the reset button.

So what if the Grizzlies never signed Parsons?

Two different directions. They would’ve signed someone like Eric Gordon or Nic Batum, which would’ve been alright. Or, Mike Conley would’ve walked, since the Grizzlies couldn’t use the cap space to acquire more help. Conley bolting would’ve sent the Grizzlies to a rebuild, one that would’ve been way more bleak than the one now.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies-Press Conference Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

3) What if the Grizzlies would’ve conveyed or gotten the 8th pick this year?

These alternatives were worst-case scenarios, when comparing them to landing Ja Morant. The rebuild would’ve been very meh, as they would’ve been one of the most hopeless teams in the league — despite having a potential star in Jaren Jackson Jr.

Furthermore, the Grizzlies wouldn’t have a promising, dynamic young point guard that’s instantly become a fan favorite before stepping on the court.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

4) What if Mike Conley never got hurt in 2017?

The Memphis Grizzlies were rolling to start the 2017-18 season, and it went to shambles when Conley was out with a heel injury.

Then, the downward spiral started.

Coach Dave Fizdale was fired, Tyreke Evans was sent home in leu of a potential trade then wasn’t, and they just weren’t a good basketball team.

Maybe if Mike Conley was healthy, Coach Fizdale would've never been fired. The Grizzlies would’ve been eager to keep Tyreke, as they would see him as a reliable piece for playoff success. He also probably would’ve won 6th Man of the Year as well. Maybe, a healthy Mike Conley would’ve finally gotten the All-Star recognition he deserved, while leading the Grizzlies to an eighth-straight playoff appearance.

That would also mean no Jaren Jackson Jr. — and probably Ja Morant — as well, the symbols of hope for the future.

5) What if the Grizzlies didn’t care about the luxury tax in 2013?

In the 2013 season, one that ended in a sweep in the Western Conference Finals, the Grizzlies made two questionable decisions to avoid the luxury tax.

They dumped two rotation players (Wayne Ellington and Marreese Speights) and Summer League legend Josh Selby for a relatively unknown player in Jon Leuer. In the trade though, they also gifted the Cavaliers a protected first-round pick.

They also traded away Rudy Gay, whose salary complicated the books as Randolph and Allen were entering free agency.

If they made neither move, they would’ve had more depth, shooting, and a wing scorer in those playoffs. Who knows? Maybe they could’ve pushed the Spurs and flirted with a Finals berth.

The Spurs wouldn’t be clogging the lane, if Gay and Ellington were on the floor next to Conley, Randolph, and Gasol. Just some food for thought there.

6) What if they never fired Lionel Hollins?

Perfect transition, am I right?

Lionel Hollins is the most successful coach in franchise history. Once a team without an identity, the Grizzlies were stuck in NBA purgatory. When he took over, he transformed them into a ground-and-pound, old-school team — which then became “Grit ‘n’ Grind” after Tony Allen’s iconic postgame interview.

His successful three-year playoff run sparked the city and the franchise, and his time came to an end in a Western Conference Finals sweep.

What if they never fired him?

It’s weird, because they maintained the same style of play over the next few years, so the team’s success didn’t take a direct hit. His early firing helped maintain his image as an iconic Memphis coach, as he wasn’t fired for a poor performance or season.

7) What if Mike Conley and Tony Allen were healthy in 2015?

The masked Mike Conley’s triumphant return to take down the Golden State Warriors on the road will remain one of the most glorious moments in franchise history. After that game though, he shot 31.3 percent from the field for the remainder of the series.

Tony Allen was dealing with a leg injury that affected his jumper and his explosiveness. The Warriors infamously had Andrew Bogut “guard” him and collapse in the post.

Those two injuries might’ve cost them the series. However, a healthy Mike Conley and Tony Allen could’ve been the difference between a second-round exit and a trip to the Finals.

8) What if Zach Randolph was never suspended in the 2014 playoffs?

I mean, I don’t blame Zach Randolph for his actions. He was fed up with his bull$#!+. It’s playoff basketball too; it gets physical.

The suspension was iffy though, and it wasn’t really anything that endangered Adams. It was a hard-ish shove.

Regardless of our thoughts on the manner, it might’ve cost them their season. The Grizzlies were undermanned in that game, as it took out their primary source of offense.

Memphis vs. Errbody, though. That was a soft suspension.

9) What if the Grizzlies never came back from the 2-0 deficit in the first-round of the 2013 playoffs?

The Memphis Grizzlies roared back from a 2-0 deficit to defeat the Los Angeles Clippers, the first roadblock to their WCF run.

For one, if that didn’t happen, the “Grind City vs. Lob City” rivalry wouldn’t exist. The Clippers would just be that team that beats them in the playoffs all the time.

More importantly though, he Grizzlies might’ve had no choice to blow it up sooner. Seriously, two straight first-round exits are tough pills to swallow. If they ran it back the next year, boom. First-round exit for the third year in a row.

How much longer would they take to blow it up? Would we experience the same heartache with Randolph and Allen trades as we did with the Conley and Gasol ones? Would the future of the franchise come in 2015 and 2016, instead of 2018 and 2019?

10) What if Rudy Gay never got hurt in 2011?

I hate this for Rudy, because he was an awesome talent and person in Memphis. However, his injury sparked the most successful run in franchise history.

It’s like breaking up with a really cool girl, and taking a chance on the woman you end up falling in love with.

If he stayed healthy, they may not have had a reason to play Tony Allen, which means the “Core 4” wouldn’t be what we all know. Tony Allen wouldn’t be the cultural icon we know and love today. There would be no “All Heart. Grit and Grind.” Everything the Grizzlies have stood for over the past 10 years wouldn’t have existed.

It’s so crazy, yet super cool how certain events could alter the trajectory and state of a franchise — as we’ve seen throughout the past 10 years.

Follow @sbngrizzlies, and comment below some of your favorite “what if” moments over the past 10 years.