The Memphis Grizzlies have done their draft and, despite the clear requirement from everyone involved in the organization that athleticism needs to improve on the team, the team added two players considered undersized and not great athletes.
Pardon me if I seem confused. Just another example of things that have confused me this summer I suppose.
Don’t get me wrong. I like both players. I think Adams, given some time to get into NBA shape, has the potential to be one of the more efficient scorers around by combining an ability to get to the free throw line with a nice outside jumper. Stokes was a dominating rebounder in college and has a solid back to the basket game. Once he learns the game and his role on the team he should be very productive as well.
But neither player is going to be mistaken for an elite athlete which is what the team said they were looking for from the draft.
Adams and Stokes just add to the question marks as the Grizzlies head into the Free Agency period. And there have been a lot of questions surrounding this team this summer.
- Is the owner insane?
- Who is running the front office?
- Does the coach want to be here?
- Does the team’s star want to be here?
- Is there anyone on the team who can play Small Forward?
- Who’s the starting Shooting Guard?
- Who’s the backup Point Guard?
Some of these questions have been answered. Robert Pera is many things that make him unique among NBA owners but insane is not one of them. His interview with Chris Vernon last week should have put everyone’s worries to bed about that.
Who’s running the front office is pretty much a null issue as well. Chris Wallace is the current GM and is likely to remain in that position for as long as he wants it. Chris is a brilliant basketball mind and a fixture in the Memphis community. He deserves the love he receives from the fans and his future should be secure for years to come in Memphis.
That doesn’t mean he is solely in charge of all basketball decisions of course. Clearly the draft was orchestrated by John Hollinger, the former ESPN writer who invented the PER system of player evaluation. Both Adams and Stokes were not highly regarded among traditional views but their analytics were off the charts. These clearly were picks led by John Hollinger and rightfully so since he was the only lead character scouting them this past year while Pera was out of the loop and Wallace was out of the office.
The coaching situation also has been squelched. Joerger was allowed to interview with his home state team but some extra money (and the threat of compensation if the Timberwolves signed him) brought Joerger back into the fold. Neither did it hurt that Joerger realized that Memphis stands a far better chance of winning right now than Minnesota.
Finally, the issue of the team’s star has been put to bed as Zach Randolph agreed to a 2 year extension on his current contract for $20 million. Of course, that assumes you still believe that Randolph is the team’s star. Marc Gasol and Mike Conley have both put up nice arguments on why they should be considered the team’s star after all.
Which only leaves the questions as to who will start at SG, who will play SF and who will be the backup PG?
Shooting Guard is overpopulated with Tony Allen ($5 million next season), Courtney Lee ($5.45 million), Quincy Pondexter ((3.15 million), Jamaal Franklin ($816,000) and draft pick Jordan Adams all wanting playing time. Likely someone will have to go between Allen and Lee and probably it will be Courtney Lee who isn’t a fan favorite like Tony Allen and worse, once hired Jason Levien as his agent.
Hopefully moving an SG will bring in the small forward the team desperately needs. Right now there is only Tayshaun Prince under contract at SF. Tayshaun looked like a shadow of himself last season and has steadily declined since the Rudy Gay trade. Exacerbating the issue is the fact that the other “contenders” for the starting Grizzlies SF spot aren’t much more enticing.
Quincy Pondexter possibly will get minutes at SF but that isn’t his natural position. Pondexter is capable of being a 3 point threat but he has to contain his enthusiasm to be more than he is while focusing on defense far more than last season.
James Johnson wasn’t happy with his minutes at the end of the season and likely was going to shop himself around the league prior to his domestic battery allegation. After it the chances of JJ returning dropped even further, and with the recent interest the Rockets have shown in him, he’s likely out in Memphis.
Mike Miller has expressed a strong interest in returning to Memphis but wants a multi-year deal from the team. His past history would appear to make that dangerous but if Miller is over his injury bug then he could be an excellent bench player for 3-4 more years. Ray Allen still contributes at 39 after all and Miller has far fewer miles on his body than Allen.
Clearly the Grizzlies need to target a Small Forward either through free agency, a trade or have someone (QPon?) step up their play.
The problem with targeting a Small Forward in free agency is that it won’t leave much money for a backup Point Guard. Currently the Grizzlies have Mike Conley and Nick Calathes as the only true PGs on the roster. Calathes however is going to miss the first 13 games of the season (16% of the entire season) for a performance enhancing drug violation. There is also the rumor that Calathes wishes to sign with a team in Greece for a lot more money.
Regardless of the validity of the Greek rumors (and never trust Greeks bearing gifts Nick) the team needs to find someone capable of backing up Mike before the start of training camp. Conley needs to protect his body and get his rest right from the start of the season to make sure he is in tip-top condition for the playoffs.
This player can’t be an unsigned rookie ready to take a back seat to Calathes the minute he returns either. If the Grizzlies want to get home court advantage in the first round or further, they need to win games right from the start.
Considering all these factors….don’t the Adams and Stokes selections seem a bit, well, peculiar?