Sorry to say, another year of Grizzlies basketball has come to a close, but the 3 Shades of Blue team never slows it’s train! Join us for 3 Shades of summer, as we rally to put a proper bow on the 2013-14 season, cover all the bases of off-season analysis, and transition into the 2014-15 chapter of Grizzlies basketball. Over the course of this week, we’re putting our heads together for the first phase of “Unwinding the Grind,” consisting of a collection of “Friday Morning Five”-inspired roundtables, looking back at the year that was.
In the penultimate edition of “Unwinding the Grind,” the 3 Shades of Blue team takes a look at the decisions of the Grizzlies’ front office over the past calendar year. Be sure to let us know what you think in the comments section below, and of course on Twitter!
1. With a full season behind them, evaluate the moves of last summer.
Chip Crain: The off-season was a success and thankfully so because the team couldn’t have survived without the deeper bench provided by the moves the FO made. I was a little disappointed by the length and expense of Tony Allen’s contract but I understand the political fallout of not resigning Tony last summer. However, it won’t get easier to trade him and he isn’t likely going to remain an elite defender by the time that contract is over. QPon’s contract is also a troubling move because the team had depth without him. Now after missing so much time one has to wonder how well QPon will perform when he returns and with so many players at his primary position when will he get the opportunity to show what he still has?
Josh Coleman: If I were to give the front office a grade, it would be an easy A. The Leuer and Pondexter contracts were complete values. Signing Miller proved to be a complete steal. We’ll have to wait and see how Tony’s contract played out, but if he manages to play 75% of the games over the length of it as well as he did the second half of this season, then it’s reasonable. Calathes was obviously a good move, whether or not his suspension winds up costing him down the line. K2 was the best backup center in the league not named Omer Asik, in my opinion. The jury for many is still out on Joerger, but the way he overcame the multiple issues and adversities this year goes to show how solid of a coach he is to me. Overall, I think this front office went above and beyond what anyone could have foreseen.
Zach Thomas: Each move outside of hiring Joerger as a rookie head coach was fairly risk averse. Jon Leuer was a minimal contract. Tony Allen signing was probably the most risky from a personnel standpoint but structuring the contract to make sense for the long-term and making it work for this season was superb. Q’s extension was a solid contract for a player that could grow into a rotation player over the next 5 years, and if he didn’t then it was a minimal contract. Franklin was about as good a pick you could get for that draft spot, and I think Jamaal will grow into a consistent bench player. Mike Miller was a fantastic pick-up, Calathes was a solid addition that turned into much more than we all anticipated, and K2 trade was the steal of the season. Overall, I believe they proved their ability in the offseason to lock in on high quality players who can maximize their contracts, while minimizing risk.
Matthew Noe: Look at that list, and weigh how each of these moves impacted the team over the course of the season. Exactly. All good on-court moves and no real inflating/smearing up of the payables side of the ledger. The Franklin pick and the Miller signing stand out on the list. The Franklin pick, and the comments of the FO after the draft, showed the confidence they have in him, even when one takes into account that every FO makes the “he’s the one we wanted all along” statement, even if they wind up with a guy who likely will never stand on a North American court. His athletic ability gives him a base, and the fact that he was rather dominant in the D-League gives one hope that he can be at least a valuable rotation player going forward. The Miller signing killed the “please the fanbase” bird and the “GOOD LORD ALMIGHTY WE NEED A THREE-POINT KILLER” bird with one well-spent stone. The other moves were not exactly chopped liver-although Koufos’ playing time did become somewhat more situational as the season wore on, he was a great pickup at a great price that did not surrender flexibility.
Steve Danziger: It was a great summer. With the exception of Franklin, who didn’t really have a chance to do so, everybody that was brought in managed to produce at or above the level of expectation that was tethered to their acquisition. What more could you ask for? If the Grizzlies would have held on in the OKC series, TA would have just about justified the entirety of his new contract right then and there. The only element of last summer that’s really still up for debate is Quincy’s contract, but that was such a low-risk deal that I can’t see him not living up to it, unless the foot continues to flare up in the coming years. Speaking of Franklin, I think there are big things lying ahead for him, once he sees daylight in the rotation.
2. Revisiting the Bayless/Lee swap, how does it grade out?
Chip: I think the Grizzlies get a B for the trade. The Celtics got what they wanted out of it as well which was cap space and a high pick possibility in the draft. The deal was never about an even trade of talent. Lee came in and performed well at first but got lost with the return of Gasol, preferring to defer to the veterans on the team rather than making his own mark. I expect, no demand, more from Lee next season after a summer working with the coaches and a full training camp.
Josh: It’s still no lower than a B+, even with how CLee tailed off after his hot start. The fact is that Bayless wasn’t a consistent scoring threat, was a sieve on defense, and couldn’t be trusted to handle the ball. Lee might not look to score often enough, but at least he’s capable of being sound at the other two areas. Bayless was never part of the long-term plan, so the fact they were able to get an upgrade at SG when they had a need at the position is impressive.
Zach: I would grade that trade an A-. Courtney Lee is a better ball handler, defender and shooter than Bayless so from a player standpoint it was a great trade. The only issue I see is whether that contract of Lee’s will hold up in the long run. He started off hot and then cooled considerably toward the end of the year. I grade it an A because of the skill set we gained, but give it the (-) because of the contract moving forward.
Matthew: B+. Lee’s money still owed is the only thing keeping it from being graded even higher, and this even takes into consideration his late-season slump/disappearance/ whatever the heck it was. The increased size, increased willingness to stay in his lane system-wise, and the vastly improved defense make this deal worth it.
Steve: A-. The acquisition of Lee definitely went a long way early on, as he basically stepped into the role that we all hoped to see Quincy fulfill before the season began. For whatever reason he was abysmal in the month of March, and way too “peek-a-boo” for my liking in the playoffs, but I think his ankle has been bothering him more than we know. If he plays to the level which he’s capable of with a heightened sense of stability about him next season, he’s gravy. As for the extra length of contract vs. Bayless’s, I’m not all that concerned. As long as you’re safely under the luxury tax, there’s no real benefit of being closer to the salary cap line — in fact, it helps to have some contracts like Courtney’s on the books for trade liquidity purposes.
3. Thoughts on the mid-season signings?
Chip: Both were excellent in their moments. JJ jump started the team into getting back into contention but his erratic play made it more difficult to get court time later in the season. Rumors of distrust from Joerger and attitude from JJ probably didn’t help much. However the FO made a very good D-League signing and those type of moves should only increase with the new D-League team affiliation. Beno was a masterful stroke of genius or luck depending on your point of view. Since the team claimed him off waivers I lean toward genius in that move.
Josh: Both came up big when needed, which is all you can ask for. Beno was a consummate professional after being picked up on the waiver wire. #Bloodsport provided plenty of memorable moments and helped the team win some games during a time when they were floundering a bit. Overall, I’d give these two moves a B.
Zach: What’s not to like about Beno & JJ being the 11th & 13th players off the bench? Those guys were great minimum salary additions to the payroll. They also filled needs for us at the time and I can’t argue against either one of them given the landscape of what was available to us for the money.
Matthew: Good to very good. Beno fits the archetype of “journeyman vet PG” to a T, and did that here. Sure, he chose NYK over MEM and others last summer-but we’ll surely forgive him for that as his play over the last few weeks of the season was huge. He was kinda like the seatpost on a bicycle-nothing outrageously flashy or out-front, but when it doesn’t work or isn’t there, you surely notice its absence. As for Dr. JJ, the jury is out. The recent discharge of the cat from the cellophane bag regarding his sometime-reluctance to play within the system changes the calculus as to whether and how hard the FO should try to bring him back for next season.
Steve: Hard to argue with either of them. Nick’s suspension made the Beno deal look like a stroke of genius, while James Johnson’s signing was arguably the turning point of the Grizzlies’ season. I’m not sure I see either of them as part of this franchise going forward, but they each made an impact far in excess of the monetary value reflected for them on the payroll.
4. The best new addition this front office has made was…
Chip: Jamaal Franklin. I know it seems strange when you factor in Kosta, Miller, CLee and JJ but really Franklin was a gift in the draft. Allen is aging and while it may take another season for Franklin to get consistent minutes I think he could become a solid NBA starter. I just hope he gets his chance in Memphis. Kosta likely has one more year. Miller maybe that much. CLee has a few years before hitting 30 and JJ is likely already gone. Franklin, being the FO’s first draft pick, has a likely legacy here and if he puts in the work this summer and in training camp could surprise people and unseat Courtney Lee this season.
Josh: I’ll go with Kosta, given that the team finally had a quality backup center that allowed Marc to rest during the regular season without being completely overmatched — something that had plagued them since the departure of Darko.
Zach: Dave Joerger. The players who were added were all auxiliary players and interchangeable, though coming up huge in certain spots, but the coaching move was no doubt the biggest addition and most critical to the success of the team. There is no way the front office could’ve predicted the injuries and tumult the team would face. Dave Joerger proved himself to be of great value, removing pressure from the front office’s bold decision to hire him.
Matthew: …itself. Yep, that’s a circle, and it’s my answer. With the new D-league move, the Courtney Lee trade, the teeny overpayment to retain TA, and everything else, this ownership and management group has uttered a wonderfully resounding “we ain’t kidding, we wanna make this work big-time” statement to the city and to the NBA.
Steve: #LetItFly. Miller’s shooting brought a dimension to this team that was completely absent in recent years. And 89 games? Who saw that one coming?
5. How confident are you in management going forward?
Chip: Extremely confident. Not many front offices, without a high first round draft pick immediately, have done as well? The triumvirate of power between Jason Levien, Stu Lash and John Hollinger seem to cover the bases for evaluating talent and with a better rapport with the head coach, they should continue to find pearls in the oysters. The next step is to make a blockbuster trade to acquire a game changing player. That won’t be easy and it may not happen right away but if they can manage to pull off such a deal without giving up too much they will have clearly established themselves as a front office to watch out for around the league.
Josh: Supremely confident. The move to acquire their own D-League affiliate only strengthens that trust in their vision for the team’s future.
Zach: I don’t think the front office has given any indication they are incapable of building a team that will be a successful and a consistent threat in the West. However, they’ve had a limited sample size. There hasn’t been any heavy hitting deals or players involved in their moves. I am confident, however, that they will continue to make solid personnel moves, even if fans neither understand nor agree with those moves.
Matthew: Incredibly, with one caveat-this summer will tell us a lot about how willing these guys are to cut bait (Ed Davis’ impending free agency, QPon’s injury even though he’s on a smoking good deal, etc.) with things that may not work. I’ll make no judgement about how they should handle things, those two situations especially, but the end result and how unscathed/reloaded they and the franchise as a whole are able to emerge will tell us even more about the future of the Grizzlies.
Steve: Super-confident in terms of their talent evaluation and commitment to building an architecture for sustained success with this franchise. My only issues with what they’ve done so far lie within the realm of their spring cleaning last year, to rid themselves of some financial complications. The pick that they traded to Cleveland has some wonky protection on it that could seriously hurt the team down the line if they’re not at a similar level of competition two years from now, but I’m just splitting hairs at this point. This is the happiest that I’ve been with the decision-making of this franchise in years.
Don’t forget to check back in with us tomorrow as we take a look at the summer that lies ahead.