After the rubble cleared, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol were all that remained from the grit and grind era for the Memphis Grizzlies. After seven straight playoff appearances that started back in 2010, the team saw Vince Carter, Zach Randolph and Tony Allen depart after being key pieces for a lengthy period of time.
Adding Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans were hopeful moves to recuperate the value they lost from the last phase of Memphis basketball, but the team struggled out of the gate. After 22 games, they organization looked around and saw 15 losses. Conley was missing time with an Achilles injury. McLemore was offering nothing. Gasol was showing his first signs of aging. Everything was falling apart for the Grizz.
Sixty games later, the season was over and the Grizzlies only won 22 games, tied for their lowest win total since before the turn of the millennium. They dumped some of their assets at the trade deadline and looked like they were at a crossroads heading into the offseason.
Chris Wallace and the rest of the front office had to make a decision on which direction to take in the road. Should they finally end the Conley-Gasol era and retool with No. 4 overall pick Jaren Jackson Jr.? Or should they make a final push with the core they have built over the past almost decade?
In the end, they chose to chase more postseason berths. They added the advanced stats darling, Kyle Anderson, using the mid-level exception. SloMo should add some stability to the wing, a fixture the Grizz have been lacking since Anderson himself was just a wee lad.
But wait! They also signed Omri Casspi, who is somehow utilized incorrectly on every team he plays for, to a minimum contract to further cement the steadiness at forward. Those two savvy moves, combined with Chandler Parsons, give Memphis a deep rotation of perimeter minded threes that can impact the game in a positive way.
When Conley went down last year, the Grizzlies found themselves unprepared and threw Andrew Harrison into a starting role that he was unready for. to shore up that problem, they drafted Jevon Carter and brought in Shelvin Mack. If Carter’s college tape is indicative of his NBA talents, he adds a defensive tenacity that mirrors that of Patrick Beverly. The Grizz don’t have anyone like that. And in Mack, Memphis brings in a steady hand at point guard who can actually keep things afloat if Mike Conley is to miss some time. The point-guard rotation is solid.
At shooting guard, the summer started with Dillon Brooks and MarShon Brooks being the only two guys on the roster. Dillon Brooks had a quality rookie season and showed signs of being a future piece for Memphis, but he is still young. MarShon had been out of the league for three seasons before a larger-than-life stretch of games landed him a contract. To sum it up, both players are fine, but neither of them is a proven talent at two-guard.
To fix this problem, the Grizz sent McLemore and Deyonta Davis to Sacramento for Garrett Temple. Temple has had an above average VORP four seasons running and adds firepower to the backcourt for the Grizzlies.
Notice a theme of adding firepower?
Jaren Jackson Jr. had a completely ridiculous summer league and looks like he is going to be a solid rookie who could actually contribute. He could be an offensively stretchy and defensively solid big behind Marc Gasol and JaMychal Green, and he solidifies a deep rotation at big man, and ipso facto at basically every position.
That was the theme of the summer. The Memphis Grizzlies added firepower and depth everywhere. And they did it without sacrificing much future flexibility. The only significant loss they have from last season is Tyreke Evans, and they replaced his tri-positional contributions by adding solid players at three positions. They patched that right up.
Now it is clear what the Memphis Grizzlies are going for: a playoff appearance. Conley-Temple-Anderson-Green-Gasol is a sturdy starting five, full of guys who can play well on both ends and fit obvious roles.
Conley and Gasol can create for their teammates, as they have gravity as shot creators and skilled passers. They bend the defense and create easy opportunities for everyone else:
Temple and Anderson can both defend well despite not being the quickest guys ever. Temple hit 39 percent of his threes last year, and Anderson finished the season with a true shooting percentage over 58 percent. Together with two stellar creators, those two should thrive.
JaMychal Green lurks in the shadows, but he is quietly an important glue guy for the Memphis Grizzlies team. He uniquely impacts the game on both ends of the floor and will be a staple in a strong starting unit.
Both Brookses can create shots for themselves to score on the bench, and Parsons can finish what they start if he shoots 42.1 percent from three again. Jackson Jr. and Carter should be pests on the defensive end, and Caspi and Mack can come in and be steady veterans if any of the youngsters are struggling.
On paper, it’s great. The Memphis brass has built a team that, when healthy, should compete for a playoff birth.
Unfortunately, the whole health thing is the big question. Conley only played 12 games last season. Parsons is hurt all. The. Time. Gasol is on the wrong side of 30. Injuries could change everything for this team, and that is their biggest pitfall.
If they can stay healthy, this Memphis Grizzlies team could surprise people. If not, they could be lottery-bound again. Time will tell, but this team will be a tough out every night.