There’s no business like show business.
These are the infamous words sung by Ethel Mermen in 1954 that are remembered over half a century later. In the 50’s, being an actor/actress was the pinnacle of all jobs. Nothing else compared.
In 2020, there’s no league like this league. The NBA is king amongst professional sports leagues in several categories, but their offseason is the pinnacle. In a normal year, the mayhem would be spread out over a month plus, but during the 10 years of 2020, the offseason craziness is compacted into a few weeks.
The NBA Draft has come and gone, a plethora of signings via free agency trades have shaken the landscape of the league — all this within a week.
The NBA Southwest division has long been a gauntlet; in some seasons as many as 4 teams could make up the 8 Western Conference playoff teams. The Memphis Grizzlies were the middle team behind the Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and ahead of the New Orleans Pelicans and San Antonio Spurs this past season. Each team has made most of their moves, jockeying for position in this season and the future.
Let’s review each team’s offseason thus far and how it effects the Memphis Grizzlies. Reminder: Trades are certainly not done at the time of this writing.
Key Additions: Christian Wood, Sterling Brown and Kenyon Martin Jr. (draft)
Key Losses: Robert Covington
Projected Starters: Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Eric Gordon, PJ Tucker, Christian Wood
The Houston Rockets could very well not be done wheeling and dealing this offseason as James Harden turned down fifty million dollars a season in hopes of a trade to Brooklyn and Russell Westbrook wants a fresh start as well. As the team currently stands, they will certainly maintain their spot in the Western Conference playoffs, but perhaps as a lower seed and certainly not as a title threat.
The Rockets offseason only effects the Grizzlies’ immediate future if they were blow it up, trade their stars and start over. If that becomes the route, then Memphis is an actual immediate threat to win the division, were Jaren to return sooner rather than later.
Key Additions: Josh Richardson, James Johnson, Wes Iwundu, Tyrell Terry(draft), Tyler Bey(draft), Josh Green(draft)
Key Losses: Seth Curry
Projected Starters: Luka Doncic, Tim Hardaway Jr., Josh Richardson, Kristaps Porzingis, Dwight Powell
Luka Doncic led the most efficient offense in NBA History, often times without the injured Kristaps Porzingis. Despite their historic offense, the Mavericks could only secure the seven seed, whether it was injuries to Doncic and KP or the lackluster defense.
Dallas has had one of the more impressive offseasons in the league, identifying their weakness and bringing in the players needed to address those. Josh Richardson and James Johnson (if not waived) bring a toughness to the team that was missing last season. Tyrell Terry was a steal at pick 31 that could replace the offense of Seth Curry at some point. Tyler Bey and Josh Green were picked because of their ability to play on the defensive side of the ball — their offense will be given time to develop.
Dallas could very well be the favorites to win the Division this season and will be going nowhere any time soon. Memphis did not make any hasty moves this offseason attempting to keep up with Dallas, as they are playing the long game going forward.
Key Additions: Eric Bledsoe, Steven Adams, George Hill, Kira Lewis Jr. (Draft)
Key Losses: Jrue Holiday, Derrick Favors, Jahlil Okafor
Projected Starters: Eric Bledsoe, JJ Redick, Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson, Steven Adams
In a league that demands more and more shooting in order to be successful, the New Orleans Pelicans decided they were just going to do the opposite. While not giving up any sharpshooters in their various moves, the Pelicans doubled down on tough veterans. One would think that the smart move would be to add a center that could stretch the floor next to Zion, but Steven Adams is perhaps the last center in the NBA to do that.
New Orleans didn’t sacrifice their future in order to make a move now towards the playoffs, but they also did not significantly improve their team. They now have four point guards between Lewis, Bledsoe, Hill, and Lonzo Ball. They still have Josh Hart, JJ Redick and Nickeil Alexander-Walker to play on the wing as well as the assumed return of Brandon Ingram. Expect a lot of two point guard sets running a lot of pick and rolls with Zion Williamson and Adams.
New Orleans and Memphis will be neck and neck throughout the season, as neither team made a move to significantly separate themselves from the other. As the next few seasons play out, this rivalry will continue budding and each team will be fighting each other for playoff position. Think of the countless years constantly seeing the Clippers and Spurs in the postseason, thats the future between these two franchises.
San Antonio Spurs
Key Additions: Tre Jones (draft), Devin Vassel (draft)
Key Losses: Bryn Forbes
Projected Starters: Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, LaMarcus Aldridge
Kind of odd for a team that had the type of season they had last year to just run it back. As always the Spurs manage to find home run value in the draft as both Jones and Vassel are excellent fits for Coach Pop. The loss of Bryn Forbes is easily filled by the returning players, but this roster improved minimally with their draft selections. The starting front court is another year older, although Aldridge absolutely torched Memphis last December he is well past his prime.
It feels odd to say that a Popovich coached team was in the cellar of the division, but they could be regular bottom dwellers for the next few years with insane amount of young talent that Memphis, Dallas and New Orleans have acquired the last two years. Never count out Coach Pop, no matter the roster, but his days in the league are likely near their completion which could lead to Memphis regularly finishing ahead of them.
The Memphis Grizzlies front office being competent has been such a refreshing thing to see. Many teams get caught in the rat race short sightedly - looking at you Atlanta Hawks - but Memphis has taken the approach of finding their guys and building a foundation around two future superstars regardless of what other teams are doing with their rosters.
There is no benefit bringing in veterans for the sake of 2021 cap space or draft capital just to fight for the eight seed and be eliminated first round by Marc Gasol and the Lakers. Now if Ja, Jaren and company thrive together because the front office has put together quite the collection of guys, then so be it, but compromising the future is out of the question.
The Southwest division will continue to be a gauntlet going forward due to all the young stars it contains. Memphis is set up to thrive in a few years while watching the other teams mortgage futures for the immediate.