The Grizzlies have just completed their best season in franchise history winning 46 games, qualifying for the playoffs, winning a playoff game, playoff series and progressing to game 7 in Conference Semi-finals. It has been a great time to be a Grizzlies fan.
Now comes the hard part. To get from a conference semi-finalish to a NBA Championship contender (and yes there is a difference between the two) Memphis needs something the franchise has never had.
Memphis needs a superstar. I know people are going to say that Z-Bo is a superstar.
He gave a superstar effort in the playoffs but when I think of superstars in the league I am not thinking of players who don’t just score points and grabbed rebounds. I think of players that elevates his teammates to a higher level. I am talking about a player who get the ball at halfcourt and makes things happen at the end of close games. A superstar is Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki. They get the ball every time down the court and not because someone made a good entry pass to him on the block.To me atrue superstar goes and gets the ball, beats his man off the dribble, gets to the free throw line on drives, hits 3 point shots and can still make the right pass to set up teammates for easy shots.
Z-Bo is a great player but you don’t want him to take the ball at halfcourt and try to drive the ball into the lane. Get him the ball in the low post and clear out space is a good idea but that means he still has to have someone get him the ball.
Superstars don’t need others to help them get the ball. They take it and make things happen.
Rudy Gay is close as well. He can hit shots from the inside or outside, he can rebound when motivated and he can get to the FT line. However Rudy isn’t the type of player who can repeatedly make big plays however. If the team needed someone for one big shot, Rudy is the guy but don’t expect Rudy to score 10+ points in the fourth quarter of a close game. That’s just not his style.
Which brings fans to the question: can the Grizzlies take a serious step forward without acquiring a serious game closing player, a superstar in other words?
Superstars aren’t easy to acquire unless you win the lottery, something Memphis has not been able to do in the 6 years of trying in Memphis. In fact, despite being in the lottery 12 times since the franchise was founded the best the Grizzlies have ever done was a 2nd pick in the draft and they haven’t done a great job with those picks. It is highly unlikely the Grizzlies will receive much in return from the 49th pick in the draft.
So how will the Grizzlies get a superstar? They will need to trade quality young players. That likely means breaking up the core at least in part.
Is it worth the risk? It could be for the right superstar. Boston traded away draft picks and quality players to acquire an aging Kevin Garnett and won an NBA title the next season. Boston only won one title but they have been an elite team for the next few years as well. Los Angeles traded away Lamar Odom, Brian Grant andCaron Butler, all very good players in their own right, for Shaquille O’Neal and proceeded to win more than a few championships in the process.
Then there are the opposite stories. Denver trading for Allen Iverson, Washington signing Giblert Arenas, Philadelphia signign Elton Brand. All of these players were supposed to be the stars that could get their team over the top. None did. Swinging for the fences and missing can leave a foul breeze blowing through an organization that can take years to recover from.
Rumors are circling that the Grizzlies are willing or needing to part with O J Mayo, Rudy Gay and possibly even Mike Conley for the right player. I can understand that reasoning because these players, while very good in their own right, aren’t likely to be the type of players that get a team from the conference semi-finals to an NBA championship. Individually they can bring back some nice returns in a trade but could they be combined to bring in someone great? Could a combination of Grizz stars bring back a Chris Paul or Deron Williams for instance?
The Grizzlies look like a team that will be a consistent playoff participant for the next few years but not a challenger for a crown. To get to the next level a big risk will likely need to be made. Will the Grizzlies take that risk this summer?