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The Memphis Grizzlies and San Diego Padres: Two teams ascending

The similarities are there. But one key difference remains.

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Photo Credit: Sporting News

Memphis, Tennessee is in my blood. I love my hometown. It’s one of two cities I’ve lived in during my 26 years on planet earth. The other is where I live now, San Diego, California. Transitioning from The Most Beautiful Land in the World to America’s Finest City wasn’t easy for a couple reasons.

First off, the wings suck. I don’t care what any San Diegan says, the wings are average at best. There’s one decent spot — shoutout Dirty Birds — but the San Diego wing scene can’t hold a candle to Memphis.

Second, there’s no basketball culture. Sure, there are good open runs across the city. But this city hasn’t had a basketball team since the San Diego Clippers left in 1984. So no, this isn’t a basketball town. This isn’t a football town either since the Chargers sadly left. So what does San Diego have regarding a major sports team?

Baseball, and a really good team at that. What does Memphis have? Basketball, and a really good team at that.

The San Diego Padres and the Memphis Grizzlies have a ton of similarities:

  1. Small Market
  2. Young Superstars
  3. Unexpected, Accelerated Success...

But before getting into the major difference, let’s elaborate on the similarities more.

Small Markets

We know Memphis is a small NBA market, but let me be clear about San Diego. Though SD is a big city, it is not a big baseball market — ranking 23rd in the MLB in sports TV market size. The Padres are constantly treated like a little brother, eternally in the shadows of a behemoth sports market in Los Angeles. For Memphis, the blatant disrespect the city and the team get from national media is ridiculous. If the Lakers, Bulls, Knicks, or insert big market team here had the young core Memphis has, that team would constantly be one of the biggest stories in the league.

Young Superstars

Memphis has Ja Morant. He’s the most electrifying player in the Association. But he’s not alone. Desmond Bane is looking like a bonafide All-Star. Jaren Jackson Jr.’s ceiling is crazy high. The best part is, they’re all 24 or younger.

San Diego has Juan Soto.

Getty Images

Though the former Washington National has had an up-and-down time with the Padres, there’s no denying his talent.

The Padres also have the dynamic, yet enigmatic Fernando Tatis Jr. Look, there’s a lot of controversy surrounding Tatis and his use of the steroid clostebol that I don’t feel the need to expand on. San Diego can only hope he comes back healthy and performs at the same remarkable level he was at a year ago.

Regardless, both players are under 24 years old with the rest of their careers ahead of them.

Unexpected, Accelerated Success

Prior to the 2021-2022 NBA season, if you believed the Grizzlies will finish the season with the 2nd-best record in the NBA, this is how I would’ve responded. Cue San Diego’s Finest, Ron Burgundy.

Prior to the 2022 MLB playoffs, if you believed the Padres were going to beat the 101-win New York Mets, slay the dragon up north by beating the best team in baseball, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and make the NLCS, I would’ve done my best Ron Burgundy impression once again.

But it all happened.

The Major Difference

The Memphis Grizzlies have all the assets necessary for a splash trade. The San Diego Padres had all the assets.

On August 2, 2022, the Padres went all in trading for young superstar Juan Soto in what is considered the biggest trade the league has ever seen.

5 young prospects, 4 of them in the Top 100, and power hitter Luke Voit were included in the trade for Juan Soto and 1st-baseman Josh Bell.

San Diego would not have made the NLCS without that trade. Yes, the Padres lost in 5 games to the Philadelphia Phillies, but making it to the NLCS should be celebrated, especially since the Padres haven’t made it since 1998. Not only did trading for Soto give the Padres immediate success, San Diego will also be a legit World Series contender for the next few years.

Photo by Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

For the Grizzlies, Memphis has yet to cash in its chips. Zach Kram of The Ringer wrote an article analyzing each NBA Team’s financial and draft commitments to come up with The NBA All In-dex. In his rankings, Memphis placed 19th. Here’s what Zach said about the Grizzlies.

Even after extending core players—like Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Brandon Clarke—Memphis is in a strong financial position, and has an additional extra pick (top-four-protected from the Warriors in 2024) on the way. Perhaps no team in the league is better suited for a consolidation trade in the years to come than the Grizzlies, as Morant, Jackson, and Desmond Bane enter their primes and Memphis pushes for its first Finals trip.

I couldn’t agree more. Memphis has the young talent, moveable contracts, and the draft picks to make a big trade.

But the key for the Grizzlies is patience for the right trade at the right time. While the Padres made the right trade at the right time for Juan Soto, San Diego got lucky that a player of his caliber at such a young age became available. Imagine if Luka Doncic or Ja Morant were on the trade block. All hell would break loose. That’s exactly what happened with Juan Soto, and San Diego cashed in with an offer Washington couldn’t refuse.

Though there isn’t a transcendant big name available on the NBA trade market right now, Memphis is in the perfect place to trade for a disgruntled star or make an all-in move to win a championship.

It’s just a matter of when.

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