What Went Wrong?
Hey fellow Grizzlies fans. I know it’s been a while since I wrote anything but I needed some time to recharge the batteries. I’m back now and hoping to give you more of my thoughts going forward.
So what’s on my mind these days? What the heck happened last season???
People were so anxious about the 2016-17 season. The team had depth, the team had stars still in their primes – if on the back end – and the Grizzlies had finally acquired their first elite SF since the salary dumping trade of Rudy Gay.
So what went wrong?
There was supposed to be depth on the team. The depth didn’t develop as quick as people hoped and expected. That lack of true depth showed down the stretch and even into the hard fought series against San Antonio.
But when discussing what went wrong with the Grizzlies this season there is one obvious place to start.
Chandler Parsons was supposed to be the SF the team needed. Chandler was supposed to be the long range scorer who could spread the court on the offensive end. He was supposed to have ball handling skills to allow Mike Conley relief bringing the ball up the court. Defensively he wasn’t elite but was intelligent and capable with his 6-10 height.
Instead he was a huge disappointment from his slow recovery from surgery until the diagnosis of his partial tear of the meniscus in his left knee. Since there wasn’t a moment that people can point to determining when the tear occurred, it’s possible that the surgery will correct many of the problems with Parson’s game this season. Then again it also could be argued that Parsons will never be the player the Grizzlies need after three knee surgeries in three seasons.
Each cut on a player’s knee is one cut closer to a career ending prognosis. No one knows if his poor play during most of the season was due to the MCL issue or not. Have we seen the last of Chandler Parsons after he “hit the lottery” last season? Did Parsons attempt to rush back too early? Did he fail to work hard enough in rehab? There are many questions left unanswered.
One thing is certain. When you lose a player commanding as much salary and expectations as Chandler it is going to have repercussions all around the roster.
But the Grizzlies hadn’t left a hole behind Parsons. James Ennis was supposed to be a solid NBA player. Some people felt he was the proverbial “diamond in the rough” after his play in New Orleans last season. He didn’t develop that way during the season. At the start of the season Parsons and Ennis looked to be the strongest SF tandem in years if not ever in Memphis. After Ennis’ early season injury his playing time decreased and so did his performance on the court. Carter was supposed to be the 3rd string SF and SG not the starting SF. Ennis’ failure to even reach the #2 option at SF for most of the season was one of the season’s great disappointments.
Tony Allen was aging. This wasn’t a secret heading into the season. To counter that the Grizzlies signed Troy Daniels to back him up. Daniels has proven to be a great shooter at times but hasn’t developed the rest of his game to be a reliable player in most games. Daniels was given the green light to shoot away but he hit only 37.4% from the field. He became a streak shooter quickly benched if his shot wasn’t falling. Daniel’s worked on defense but overall was pathetic on that end of the court.
Allen was up and down all season. At times fans saw flashes of the player he used to be but clearly father time caught up to “the Grindfather.” Too often his attempts at steals left the defense exposed and Allen out of position. Losing half a step means a lot more on defense than offense and Allen was never a threat on offense. Allen’s offensive woes got to a point where teams would often ignore him entirely while focusing on doubling Conley and Gasol.
Vince Carter was also supposed to be available for spot minutes at SG as well as James Ennis so Allen’s age wasn’t considered a pre-season problem. It wouldn’t have been that big of a problem this season except for Daniels lack of effectiveness and the need for Carter’s playing SF. This forced Tony onto the court more than planned. The result was an injury in a meaningless end of the season game that cost Allen the post season. Allen had moments where he’s looked like the defensive stopper of old but too often this season his gambling resulted in the team’s defense breaking down and giving up an easy basket instead of a turnover.
Before the season began it was thought that the Grizzlies were long at PF and C. Gasol, Brandan Wright, JaMychal Green and Zach Randolph looked like a solid and deep front line. Jarell Martin and Dejonta Davis needed to develop their games but as the season progressed it was assumed they would provide back-up relief as well.
Instead Martin was a disappointment barely escaping the D-League at all. Davis was a nice find as a 2nd round pick but his lack of any semblance of offense and a propensity to draw fouls limited his on-court time this year. If his development stalls people will question if Chris Wallace made a smart move trading the potential Clippers 1st round pick for two 2nd around picks in what has been called a weak draft by many experts. Brandan Wright showed flashes but never became a reliable backup at either interior positions.
The only place there wasn’t a tremendous amount of depth heading into the season was PG with Mike having two rookies to back him up. Tony Wroten couldn’t play anymore after his knee injuries. Toney Douglas was brought in to help but was a disaster. Harrison was solid but an offensive liability which teams caught onto making it hard to play him as teams collapse on the interior when he was on the court. Harrison did give people hope with some dazzling plays in the post-season but overall he had a negative impact (-59 points) on the team when on the court in the playoffs.
Baldwin hasn’t developed into a viable alternative but hopefully next season he can compete. The point guard position is one of the most difficult translations from college and at only 20 years of age it is far too early to give up on Baldwin just yet. Still the fans are correct in wanting to see signs of improvement this summer.
So what was supposed to be a team with depth but also with injury risks to important players like Conley, Gasol and Parsons became a team lacking depth despite not suffering catastrophic injuries (outside of Parsons). The team played better earlier in the season without Parsons so his loss shouldn’t be blamed as the reason for the team’s late season demise.
The good news is Coach Fizdale is supposed to be excellent at developing young players. Hopefully he and his staff can teach Davis, Martin, and Baldwin enough to make noticeable contributions next year, Ennis can regain his game and the team can address their needs in the off-season.