The Memphis Grizzlies are celebrating their 20th anniversary, and there were a lot of different directions this team has taken along the way. I could go more into it here, but let’s go ahead and jump into things.
The 20 moves that defined the Memphis Grizzlies and the many directions they’ve taken along the way.
1) All the trades from the 2001 draft — acquiring Pau Gasol, Jason Williams, Lorenzen Wright, and Brevin Knight
These moves are lumped together, because it had the same objective: start fresh in a new city. The Grizzlies turned Vancouver cornerstones Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Mike Bibby into a promising young prospect (Pau Gasol), one of the game’s most exciting point guards (Jason Williams), a Memphian to serve as the anchor (Lorenzen Wright), and a steady backup point guard (Brevin Knight).
This series of trades accomplished its goal and ushered in a more successful era of Grizzlies basketball than the Vancouver days. It also netted them the team’s first-ever All-Star with Gasol.
2) Trading Drew Gooden for Mike Miller
The Drew Gooden pick seems a little questionable looking back, given the team already had their frontcourt solidified. And there was also Memphis Tiger target Amare’ Stoudemire on the board. Nonetheless, the Grizzlies ended the Gooden experience halfway through his rookie season, leading to them acquiring the most decorated shooter in franchise history.
Mike Miller averaged 13.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.0 assists, while shooting 42% from 3 in 453 games in Memphis. He also has impacted the grassroots scene in Memphis, as he’s had an AAU organization, coached at the University of Memphis for 2 seasons, and now coaching his sons at Houston High School in Germantown.
3) Trading Wesley Person for Bonzi Wells
In 2003, the Grizzlies flipped Wesley Person — a sharpshooter who came out of the gates in a career-low slump — for a younger, more dynamic Bonzi Wells. It was an early-season trade that probably didn’t make a lot of waves nationally, but Bonzi fortified the Grizzlies’ strong wing depth — which already included Battier, Miller, and James Posey.
Wells became an integral part of the team’s second unit, averaging 12.3 points on 43.7% shooting from the field.
4) The 5-team trade
Only a screenshot could do this trade justice without confusing people. It confuses me too:
The Memphis Grizzlies shipped out two starters in a massive 5-team trade to land Eddie Jones. Though it looks lopsided from here, the Grizzlies acquired more depth with Damon Stoudamire and Bobby Jackson.
This move signaled a new direction for the Memphis Grizzlies, as they targeted playoff-tested veterans that can help bring postseason success around young All-Star Pau Gasol.
5) 2006 draft night trade - Shane Battier and Stromile Swift for Rudy Gay
Like the massive 5-team trade above, this draft night trade defined yet another new era for the Gasol-led Grizzlies. They revamped their roster to add more young talent by flipping Shane Battier and Stromile Swift for the 8th pick, selecting the athletic Rudy Gay.
Though it may come across as a revamp, it was the first domino for the team’s rebuild between the Pau era and the GNG tenure. It also brought them arguably their most talented wing scorer in franchise history.
6) Pau Gasol Blockbuster trade
In 2007, Pau Gasol requested a trade from the Memphis Grizzlies. Though teams like the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls piqued interest, and had the young talent to put together a nice trade package, the Grizzlies ultimately shipped him to the Los Angeles Lakers. It was so lopsided at the time that Gregg Popovich had something to say about it!
Though the trade didn’t reap any immediate benefits, the Grizzlies ended up with Marc Gasol, who is the most decorated player in franchise history. In the end, it ended up being a win-win trade where one Gasol brother ended up a 2-time champion, and the other went to a situation where he could grow into a 3-time All-Star, Defensive Player of the Year, and an All-NBA center.
7) 2008 draft night trade - Kevin Love for OJ Mayo
At the time, the Memphis Grizzlies made the right call to flip Kevin Love for OJ Mayo on draft night. Love was a productive college player, but didn’t have the same level of pop or superstar upside as OJ Mayo. And even for that first season or two, it looked like Mayo would blossom into an elite scoring guard.
However, we know look back in this move in infamy, as Love flourished as an All-Star big man, and Mayo never lived up to the hype and is out of the league. To make matters worse, they also added Mike Miller to the deal as well.
This trade was the first domino into decade-long draft misfortune.
8) Kyle Lowry Trade
When the Grizzlies traded Kyle Lowry to Houston, they didn’t net a big return — Adonal Foyle, Mike Wilks, and a 1st-round pick (later DeMarre Carroll). However, it did signal one thing: the future of the team belonged to Mike Conley.
Lowry ended up being the more accomplished player, although whether you want to say it was because he was in the East is debatable. Nonetheless though, it instilled confidence in Conley that he was going to be the long-term starting point guard in Memphis.
9) Z-Bo draft night deal
The Grizzlies made a series of draft night deals in 2009 to land Zach Randolph. They flipped Darko Milicic for Quentin Richardson, then used Richardson to get Randolph.
It’s so sick that the GNG era sparked by trading Milicic for Randolph.
Coming into Memphis, Randolph had a bad rep — being a “good stats, bad team” player on the court; and getting into legal trouble off. In Memphis though, he grew into a local legend that ultimately turned the tide for Grizzlies basketball to instill winning into franchise known for losing.
No Grizzly trade will ever top this one.
10) Signing Allen Iverson
Allen Iverson’s time with Memphis is more of a meme and trivia question nowadays. It was clear the Grizzlies wanted to make some noise and generate excitement for a franchise known for losing. Instead, Iverson wasn’t thrilled with a 6th man role, and his time was over before he even played a home game.
11) Signing Tony Allen
This signing wasn’t supposed to be much of anything, and even the contract itself was a bargain (3 years, $9M). He was an energy bench guy that could provide defensive toughness. He wasn’t even in the rotation to start his Memphis tenure, but once he entered, it sparked the greatest run we’ve seen in Memphis sports.
Tony Allen literally defined the Grit and Grind era.
12) Trading Hasheem Thabeet for Shane Battier
Trading Hasheem Thabeet was the Grizzlies acknowledging their mistake and righting a wrong. It took them a 2013 first-round pick to unload him, but the Grizzlies did bring back a franchise icon, who’s also a 3-and-D wing that bolstered its depth after the Rudy Gay injury.
And if it wasn’t for this trade, we wouldn’t have experienced Battier’s go-ahead 3 to give Memphis its first-ever playoff win.
13) The massive salary-dump trade
The Memphis Grizzlies made a “bold” move to dump salaries over to a rebuilding team for a fringe prospect, and it’s still such a perplexing decision looking back.
On this day in 2013, the Grizzlies traded Wayne Ellington, Marreese Speights, Josh Selby, and a 2017 first round pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Jon Leuer. pic.twitter.com/SUcA0UTFB0— Grizzlies History (@Grizzstory) January 22, 2020
At the time of the trade, the Grizzlies were trending towards the top of the Western Conference and looked the part of a contender. And the players they gave up are pieces contenders look for, as Ellington was a shooter and Speights was a bucket-getting big man off the bench.
The icing on the cake? They gave up a first-round pick with it. This trade cost them a chance to land someone like OG Anunoby, Jarrett Allen, or Derrick White.
It was one of the few trades that could be pointed to as a reason why the GNG Grizzlies fell short.
14) The Rudy Gay trade
There are so many layers to break down here. There was always this energy that the Grizzlies were better off without Rudy Gay, since they made it to Game 7 of the 2nd round without him. In addition, they were dealing with luxury tax issues as well. To avoid it, they flipped Rudy Gay in a trade that netted them Tayshaun Prince, Ed Davis, and Austin Daye.
Prince was a wonderful fit as well, as a lockdown defender that can create his shot inside the arc.
This trade locked in the front office’s dedication to the Core 4, and it also ignited the Grizzlies search for another wing that can create his own shot.
15) Swapping Jerryd Bayless for Courtney Lee
Jerryd Bayless was a fine backup combo guard to have around, probably one of the best the Grizzlies had in the Conley era. However, when they traded him for Courtney Lee, they added another shooter to the starting lineup. Though his 3-point rate was low for what the Grizzlies need (.338), he was a hand-in-glove fit alongside the Core 4 in the starting lineup.
16) Jeff Green trade
Jeff Green was supposed to be the missing piece in 2015, when the Grizzlies’ window for a title was at its most open. Though he wasn't bad by any stretch, he ultimately wasn’t enough for the GNG Grizzlies to get over the hump. This trade was more known than the pick they owed to Boston rather than the Jeff Green... that’s when you know the trade wasn’t great.
17) The Chandler Parsons signing
Probably the most infamous on this list, Chandler Parsons was supposed to be the missing piece for the Core 4, and the bridge player for the Conley-Gasol era. Instead, injuries derailed his tenure, and the team never reached the heights they expected when signing him.
The signing also hindered them from making more moves to maximize their time with Gasol and Conley which led to its newest rebuild.
18) Marc Gasol for Jonas Valanciunas
When the Grizzlies initially started taking calls for Gasol and Conley, I didn’t know what to expect in a deal except for not a whole lot given their age. Instead, they flipped Gasol to the contending Toronto Raptors for the uber-productive Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, and CJ Miles.
Gasol got his ring, and the Grizzlies got a double-double machine whose putting up numbers that’d remind fans of Z-Bo.
19) The Mike Conley trade
Like Gasol, the Memphis Grizzlies maximized Conley’s trade value. They got a veteran that could contribute and help foster a culture (Jae Crowder), salary fodder for more dealing (Kyle Korver), a young shooter with 3 more years on his rookie deal (Grayson Allen), and 2 first-round picks. We’ve seen one pick come to fruition, as they acquired All-Rookie honoree Brandon Clarke. Finessing another pick is key, since it’ll likely convey when Jaren Jackson Jr.’s extension hits.
It also left a ripple effect that defines the team today:
The #Grizzlies traded Mike Conley (plus Jevon Carter and a 2024 2nd) for:— Fastbreak Breakfast (@fastbreakbreak) February 6, 2020
UTA 2021 1st (prot. 1-7, 15-30)
GS 2024 1st (top 4 prot.)
PHX 2020 2nd
PHX 2021 2nd (prot. 36-60)
20) Turning Andre Iguodala into Justise Winslow
Though we don't know the real outlook of the trade right now, given Winslow’s injuries in his tenure, it did define this new regime in a way. This small-market Memphis Grizzlies front office was not going to succumb to the pressure from the national media, and they were going to do what was best for the team. Andre Iguodala refused to show up to Memphis, much to the dismay of his teammates, and national media were clamoring that the Grizzlies should buy him out so he could go to the Lakers.
Regardless, this will always be a win for the Grizzlies, as they turned a 35 year-old player that didn’t want to be there and two veteran role players that weren’t coming back in free agency in to Justise Winslow, a 24 year old wing whose position-less skillset is an embodiment of what Taylor Jenkins is trying to do here. And if he hits, it can be the swing move that takes Memphis towards the top.
What’s so exciting about the long-term outlook for this franchise is the flexibility and forward-thinking of this front office. There are so many possibilities for the future, and the moves that can ultimately define the “nxt-gen” era of Grizzlies basketball, as our very own Shawn Coleman highlighted earlier this week.
And though there are a lot of good and bad here, it’s done a lot to define the Memphis Grizzlies, in terms of what happened then and what’s happening now. The fun from the early years, the magic and success from the Grit and Grind era, and the situation the Grizzlies are in now with Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. at the helm...it all wouldn’t be possible without the good and bad moves made along the way.