The Grizzlies Are Still Title Contenders – If They Keep The Band Together
As of this writing, the Memphis front office has yet to make any big free agency moves. So here’s my argument for keeping the band together. It’s a pretty scorching hot take, so hang on tight.
Yes, Virginia, the Grizzlies – these Grizzlies, are still title contenders.
Before all the armchair GM’s come for me with pitchforks, let me preface this by saying:
I’m not arguing that the Grizzlies *will* win a title in the coming season, just that their window for contention is by no means closed.
I realize this outcome is improbable. However, it is by no means impossible.
And when I say these Grizzlies, I mean THESE Grizzlies. The bulk of this roster, 100% healthy. Yes, even Chandler Parsons. (Especially Chandler Parsons)
Now, some of you might be thinking, “but what about Golden State?”
Well, what about Golden State? They’re a great team, and I’m not here to argue against their greatness. Two NBA titles in three years should end that debate before it starts. None of what I have to say is meant to disparage the Warriors.
Words mean things. Great means great.
Great does not mean unstoppable.
A few of the prevailing narratives throughout the league this offseason:
- The Warriors are going to be owning any and every one for the foreseeable future.
- They unfairly built an unbeatable super team to do it.
- Basketball is ruined for everyone because of it.
The first point may seem probable, but it’s far from certain. Some people may be willing to concede the Warriors own the league and no one else has a chance. Suffice it to say that I am not one of those people.
The next two are so laughably bad, I’m not sure they should be dignified with a response beyond an eye roll and a snarky bear meme.
I don’t think there was anything unfair about Kevin Durant choosing to sign with Golden State, nor do I think it ruined basketball for everyone else.
But I meant what I said about our roster fully healthy.
A healthy Grizzlies team would absolutely give the Warriors hell in a seven game series.
This team beat the brakes off the Warriors twice this past year in the regular season. The Grizzlies held them to a record low scoring 16 point 1st quarter in the first game, then proceeded to break that record in the second game by holding them to a 13 point 4th quarter.
(Please miss me if you’re one of those “the regular season doesn’t matter” folks. This isn’t for you.)
Am I the only one that remembers it wasn’t too terribly long ago that the Grizzlies were the team that NO ONE* wanted to meet in the playoffs?
*Except the Spurs.
I will now and forever maintain that if Mike Conley didn’t get his face broken in the first round in 2015, we are all having a very different conversation about this team. And that 2015 Grizzlies team didn’t have nearly the talent and potential this one does.
Is it a long shot? Absolutely. And the stars and basketballs would have to line up just right. That includes keeping the bulk of the current roster together.
Part of that alignment also means everyone has to pull their weight, and do so consistently throughout the season. Which admittedly, has been an issue for this team, as has making it to the postseason with everyone healthy.
Part of it is David Fizdale & staff are better equipped to maximize the untapped potential Gasol and Conley still have. He’s just a plain better coach than Dave Joerger was, Lionel Hollins too.
That said, I think Marc Gasol will be back on track this season. There was a noticeable decline in his playing towards the end of last season, which happened to directly coincide with the end of his wife’s pregnancy and the birth of their second child.
Mike Conley just needs to keep doing what he’s been doing. Working with Nick Van Exel has helped him immensely, and the effects of that were on display this past season. Just like I’ve been saying since the moment Van Exel’s hire was announced. (Yes, I intend to remind everyone of that at every available opportunity. Deal with it.)
Vince Carter I want to see back as much for what he contributes to the younger players as for what he still does on the court. Which was pretty damn impressive.
Zach Randolph has proven he can still produce from the bench, and that he is still an invaluable part of this Grizzlies team. Hell, I think ZBo will be posting up dudes in the church league when he’s 70.
The Grizzlies already went all in on Conley and Gasol, from a franchise perspective. And for Memphis, I think it was the right thing to do, and possibly the only thing to do.
But right, wrong, or indifferent: it’s a thing that is done. Whether or not you like the contracts, there’s a real chance that without signing Parsons, Conley walks. It also showed that majority owner Robert Pera is willing to make an investment in the future of this team, which is kind of a big deal. As was the G-League expansion team.
Now we’re locked in with Chandler Parsons too. For everyone’s sake we ought to hope he comes into next season healthy and plays well. From what we’ve seen on the internet recently, Parsons is already well on his way to healthy.
How healthy and how long it lasts are anyone’s guess, but to write him off completely is ridiculous. As is writing off this Memphis team.
Managing expectations is important, and I think it is fair to say that expecting the Grizzlies to turn into the Warriors overnight was wildly unrealistic for a multitude of reasons. Not the least of which being: even the Warriors didn’t turn into the Warriors overnight.
But what David Fizdale managed to do with an injury-riddled roster was still impressive. His focus on player development will be a huge boon to the team going forward.
Which leads me to ask:
Y’all do realize these things take time, and one season isn’t enough of it to completely write this off as a failure, right? Or that the world doesn’t end at the end of every NBA season?
Which is exactly what our fan base acts like. Every summer, the “blow it up and start over” crowd rears its collective head.
How does that work, exactly? If someone knows of better options for the Grizzlies than the ones they currently have, I would love to hear them.
The local sports talking heads are more than happy to fan the flames, and I guess that’s what they get paid for, but it feels very counterproductive to me.
I’m all for well-deserved criticism of things that warrant it, like on-court production, or lack thereof. I get the frustration and disappointment with the first season of Chandler Parsons.
But all the personal attacks with no basis in basketball? I had really hoped we were better than that.
The public reception Chandler Parsons has gotten since his arrival here is an embarrassment, and it’s not likely to endear other big name free agents to Memphis. And in order to sign better players they have to want to come play here.
Which is another great big elephant in the room, one that I addressed recently in a little chat about the Grizzlies offseason with my friend Nekias Duncan over at Fanrag Sports.
Blowing it up, or making significant changes to the roster, only makes sense if the Grizzlies have other options available to them that are better than the ones they have now… which they don’t. It also fails to take into consideration that in order for Memphis to acquire players of a presumably higher caliber, said players have to actually want to play here.
It’s easy to criticize some of the moves Chris Wallace and the Grizzlies front office have made over the last few years – ranging from “less than successful” to “WTAF were y’all thinking?”
I’m in no way suggesting they should be above criticism. Some of them are objectively awful no matter how you slice it. *cough*Hasheem Thabeet*cough*
However, there seems to be a clear disconnect between wanting the front office to make better player decisions, and realizing that top tier free agents aren’t clamoring to suit up in Beale Street Blue.
Blowing up the current team with no viable alternative to rebuild is probably the worst move the Grizzlies could make. Do you really want to go back to the days of the Grizzlies winning 20 games a year? Because I don’t. And I’m pretty sure neither do they.
Which again leaves us where we started: The Grizzlies need to keep the bulk of this team together to maintain any chance of competing in the league.
And if they do? Damn right they are still contenders.