The final horn sounded in a tough, hard fought playoff match on the enemy’s turf & the Jazz take game two in Salt Lake City 141-129. However, the Memphis Grizzlies made one thing clear - they’re resilient, & going out with a blast is the only option. Who doesn’t love the attitude, confidence & toughness this team shows on a nightly basis?
The Young “Drip N Slime Grind” has made it clear to Utah this is most likely going to be a long series, possibly going the full distance. Memphis is young & inexperienced in terms of NBA postseason play, but they don’t show it much as one would expect thus far. This is due to the fact the team is absolutely loaded in depth at nearly every position & positional prototype.
This means the team can constantly make adjustments on the fly & adopt a “next man up” mentality when needed. The fact most of these guys are on either rookie or inexpensive contracts that keeps the team cap well below the luxury tax is a work of art on the part of the Memphis front office. Virtually everyone in the rotation is potentially capable of being a starter and are mostly well under 30 years of age.
Irony is always lurking around the corner though, waiting to serve balance in life. When you have so many young pieces, players aren’t as proven or even reliable at times. Thus, roles are usually not as certain & a conflict can arise. Do you go with this young talent or the other one? Who does the coach place confidence in when the chips are down, to make savvy plays that determine the course of the game? Are there even enough of those guys on the roster to take the next step towards winning?
The wing depth on this Grizzlies roster is a blessing, as bountiful as the church of the late Bishop G.E. Patterson. Dillon Brooks, De’Anthony Melton, Desmond Bane, Grayson Allen, and John Konchar have all proven themselves worthy of rotation minutes at some point in this season. All have shown versatility, hustle, competitive nature, and most important basketball skill/savvy as wing threats on both sides of the ball in most cases. I didn’t even include Kyle Anderson, who is maybe the team’s best forward at this moment, but is certainly the most versatile & reliable.
With so many wing talents, they don’t get in to rhythm at times. The rotation changes so much & guys don’t get into the flow the may need to maximize their potential. In some cases, guys may have possibly peaked in terms of what they can bring in crunch moments or even in terms of consistency.
Fast forward to last night, which saw the return of the Utah Jazz’s best player, two-time All-Star Donovan Mitchell. He made his presence immediately felt on both teams. “Spida” as he is affectionately referred to, missed the Jazz past 17 games with a sprained ankle but he didn’t miss a beat in his return. Ja Morant & Dillon Brooks were right there every step of the way offensively, but it wasn’t enough as the Grizzlies needed veteran play (mainly reliable shooting & defensive stops) down the stretch of a close game & just couldn’t get enough of it. It’s not necessarily a lack of talent, but more so a lack of experience on the second youngest roster in the NBA & the youngest playoff team this postseason.
The same issue arises at the forward/center spot as well but to a lesser degree. It still adds to the roster crunch in crucial times, such as last night when we didn’t even see Brandon Clarke touch the floor & he is considered untouchable by some or at least up until very recently. Let’s not even start on if Jaren is truly our big man of the future when many people (including myself) have serious doubts as to if he can even stay healthy & play big minutes, let alone if he can fulfill the duties of a real big man, such as post protection, rebounding, switchable defense & of course avoiding foul trouble. Also what is the final call on center Jonas Valanciunas, who was neutralized last night if nothing else by the Jazz big men and hasn’t been a consistent star-level producer. However, who does the clutch savvy playoff play & experience come from, that’s required to truly contend long term?
Reality is, Memphis can’t hold on to all of these guys too much longer due to contractual cross roads & the salary cap if nothing else. So the question arises, do you consolidate some promising pieces for a more sure fire piece, or do we continue to evaluate the current roster for the traits of such a player & risk losing guys in free agency for nothing?
Grayson Allen has one more year in his rookie contract before he reaches restricted free agency. Kyle Anderson has one more year until he reaches unrestricted free agency. With Melton, Brooks, Bane & Konchar (to a lesser degree) locked up for the next few years the Grizzlies obviously will have to choose one or possibly even lose both for nothing, which would be a total blunder of asset management in my opinion. We all have seen enough to know what this team has in terms of ceiling for most of these guys.
To be honest I feel only Brooks & Bane (maybe less likely) have the potential to evolve into star-level players. Dillon is already there if he hasn’t made a full arrival already. Bane is the other guy with said potential aside from Kyle Anderson, who is more a stud versatile-utility role player in terms of long view potential than an outright star.
Let’s not even talk about Justice Winslow, who will almost certainly have his option picked up at 13 million bucks for next season & truly doesn’t even look like a rotational fit let alone worthy of such a salary against the team’s cap. You can’t pay a guy 13 million & not play him when you had a chance to cut bait this summer. Talk about Blowing Money Fast? Rick Ross can’t even relate at that level.
The team can always circle back & add talented prospects to evaluate for the future via the draft, free agency & etc. However the time to fully cash in on the current crop is possibly now & certainly not too much longer if nothing else. So this is the summer to start shopping the value of several current Grizzlies around the league to see if a real upgrade is possible & if so how close you can get to obtaining said upgrade with the current trade chips in hand? Does a Grayson Allen/Kyle Anderson & picks package gets you an upgrade or does it take more?
Some will argue why rush when you have such a young team? Why not ride this roster out & go from there? Well for one you will certainly lose valuable prospects for nothing to free agency. Secondly, Ja & Dillon have taken the training wheels off of the team’s theoretical bicycle themselves, & are in full speed peddle. These two guys are ultra competitive & I don’t care what anyone says, both will be looking at what this front office does to improve their chances for next year’s postseason run. Guys this competitive aren’t trying to hear about development when they’ve already arrived to a degree. They want progress & baby steps likely won’t cut it. Now they won’t be requesting trades if little is done this off-season, but you can bet your kidney they’ll be taking mental notes. Can this front office keep up with the rapid development of its core four? Do they truly have a core four right now & is Jaren Jackson Jr truly deserving of such security?
Jonas will also be a free agent after next season as well. Do you continue to keep him as a part of the core? Or does his lack of defensive versatility in today’s game finally lead to gauging his value around the league as well, before you potentially lose him for nothing next off season?
If Grayson Allen is possibly the odd man out, then shouldn’t Memphis be considering what they can get for him instead of waiting until you lose him for nothing? If Allen can help yield a DeMar DeRozan in some sort of sign and trade with San Antonio you have to consider those possibilities right? The same question arises in terms of Brandon Clarke & De’Anthony Melton. Melton has a few years remaining but if he can’t deliver in the playoffs or isn’t a lock in the rotation, then his salary becomes a glaring hole staring at you from the bench. The same can be said for Clarke’s trade value if we keep him on the back burner. How about Tyus who rarely plays now, yet makes “fringe starter” money at around nine million per season? Do you stay the Tyus course despite his struggles to score & the fact his calling card defense took a hit this season?
How long do the Grizzlies pay Tyus more than he has produced this season before realizing they can possibly do better by adding a younger & cheaper prospect via the draft, trades or free agency? Or even a veteran who may be cheaper & more reliable when needed most (looking at you Derrick Rose & Rajon Rondo types).
Adding one or two reliable veterans to the Grizzlies core mix can truly give this team an idea of just how far they can go in the future & exactly what all they are missing now to get there. Staying the course of heavy development & “data accumulation” will continue to leave them in the era of uncertainty & thus a lack of decisiveness in terms of exactly who to play in certain moments & what those guys can truly bring.
Cash in on your fleeing assets to upgrade now, or lose them later for nothing & still need said upgrade then? Hell I’m even all for consolidating assets to trade up in this years draft for a better talent (Jalen Green) than what will likely be available when the Grizzlies pick in the upcoming draft. What’s the point of adding another mid-late first round & second round talent when you’re already overloaded with such? Somebody will certainly get lost in the sauce & thus be a wasted asset, when there were clear areas for improvement to be made & the actual trade leverage to do so.
I also think the same can be said for the current coaching staff in terms of a more proven clutch former playoff performer in the actual game huddles though that may conflict with the youth of the head coach.
That just maybe a conversation for another day though so we’ll leave it at that. Asset optimization - let’s be on the right side of history for once.