Today, I read a column posted by Mark Deeks over on SB Nation titled “The Memphis Grtizzlies’ conundrum: When staying good goes wrong”. The teaser on the SB Nation’s NBA page had the title “Is Grit ‘N Grind Doomed?”, which I referenced in this post’s title.
So, I read the column. Next, I re-read it. Then, I read it one more time.
I saw some folks on Twitter who usually have good insight discussing it (@theRealHrdlicka, @neo_real_ist, and @BenTBrown), and I almost joined it at that point. But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it deserved more than 140 characters (because we all know how long-winded I can be).
First, let me say that I really enjoy what Deeks says in posts and especially on Twitter 99% of the time. He’s got a great mind for basketball, both on the court and in the front offices. I’ve been using ShamSports for my salary information for years, even before I knew who he was. If you aren’t following him, you should be.
To echo what a few people said on Twitter regarding his article, I thought most of his post was spot-on and well-reasoned, if slightly pessimistic in its outlook. Deeks covers the toll that injuries have taken on the Grizzlies’ season and just what that means for the team going forward. More specifically, he looks at the moves that put this roster together, focusing largely on the mid-season trades of last year and the deals made over the summer.
He accurately points out that the Tony Wroten deal looks horrible in hindsight, as the young guard has seen his stats skyrocket as a sixth man for the going-nowhere, rebuilding Sixers (although being a bottom-dweller in the East only puts a team 4 games out of the playoffs). Wroten would not have gotten the playing time in Memphis to develop the way he has in Philly, even with the injury-plagued season they are having. For anyone doubting that, check out his replacement’s minutes. So, yes, the deal looks bad, but it’s a matter of a player being in the wrong system with the wrong team. It happens.
Really, the only bone I have to pick with Deeks was how he portrays the Rudy Gay trade. To quote: “Furthermore, an unnecessary part of the Gay deal saw them opt for Prince and Austin Daye over keeping Jose Calderon and his expiring deal.”
You see, this is where it becomes a matter of looking at the rest of the roster (and the remainder of the season), rather than just a Player A vs. Player B comparison. Yes, Prince’s contract is a millstone right now, especially as his skill level and abilities dwindle with each passing game. However, the team had to have a SF in return. The only healthy SF on the roster after that trade was Chris Johnson, as Quincy Pondexter was still out with a sprained left MCL (an injury that saw him miss 23 games).
The team started Conley, Bayless, Allen, Randolph, and Gasol against OKC in the first game after the trade and got hammered. As the team is finding out this year pre-James Johnson, you cannot expect to compete in the NBA without a decent SF in the rotation. The Grizzlies would not have had one without the separate deal with Detroit that netted Prince.
Was it worth it? Well, Prince played solidly in closing out the Clippers, and was on his way to a good series against the Thunder before getting injured.
If they had kept Calderon, that would have likely buried both Wroten and Bayless on the bench (which might not have been a bad thing), but would have added shooting/playmaking at the complete expense of an entire position that is populated by many of the league’s premier players. The cap space would have been nice this past offseason (and you can probably add another $3 million to that, since Bayless would not have exercised his option in that scenario), but the team would have been unlikely to have as much postseason success as they did, which makes them a middle-of-the-pack playoff team, rather than a Western Conference finalist — a far less attractive destination for free agents.
I say this not to challenge Deeks, but to point out that we always have to dig deeper to see what the true impact is of any deal. Similar to the “follow the thread” post about how drafting Thabeet actually led to the Grizzlies getting Zach Randolph, sometimes a seemingly bad move actually works out in the end.
With all of that said, I agree with Deeks that the team is facing an uphill battle to remain in the “good team” camp. Unfortunately, they lack the flexibility to make many moves, unless they find a taker for the Bayless/Davis/Prince package that has been bandied about. Their only other recourse would be to move ZBo, which would be very unpopular among fans, no matter what it brought in return. The front office has made some good moves to this point, but they are certainly between a rock and a hard place on what they will need to do to remain in the hunt in the always-competitive Western Conference through the rest of this season and beyond. It’s not time for doom and gloom just yet, but keep an eye on the horizon because changes are definitely coming.
Y’all should go check out Deeks’s article and let me know what you think of it. And follow him on Twitter!