It took me a few hours to stop reeling from yesterday’s loss. There were many aggravating factors that made it especially grueling. There was the fact that it was on the Grizzlies home court, the fact that they had come back from 3-1 only to fall in the deciding game, the fact that they may have replaced Lebron James as the NBA’s biggest fourth quarter joke, and of course the fact that by winning a physical, low-scoring game, the Clippers essentially beat the Grizzlies at their own game. All of that was hard to deal with, but the hardest thing was dealing with the question of where the Grizzlies go from here.
Awhile back, I mentioned my fear that the Grizzlies could become the West’s version of the Atlanta Hawks – a team that’s always good enough to reach the postseason, but never good enough to do anything. If they keep the roster they have now, that’s probably what will happen. What we learned from the Clippers series is that the lack of a true star really hurts this team. They have plenty of quality players, but no one you can say with absolute certainty that you want taking the last shot. Rudy Gay tried to assume that role, but while he put up solid stats, he never seemed like someone you can count on to hit big shots. In fact, I can’t even count all the jumpers he missed during the series. Every time he took one, I cringed because I knew that unless Marc or Z-Bo could grab the board, it would be yet another failed one shot possession.
So, if the Grizzlies want to assert themselves as a legit contender, they’re going to have to make some moves, but where to make them? There’s already been talk of O.J. leaving, and it’ll certainly be hard to keep him and Marreese Speights. If I had to choose between them, I’d probably take Speights. He got better as the season progressed, and he kept things afloat when Z-Bo went down. Additionally, the team seemed to actually play better with him in the starting lineup, and when he actually got minutes in the Clippers series, he produced (albeit not without some foul trouble). O.J. Mayo could thrive on another team and become an all-star, or he could morph into one of Bill Simmons’ irrational confidence guys – players who always think they’re the best guy on the floor, and can heat up at any moment. He has the potential to be either of those things, but given the choice between that, and a legitimate big man who seems to help team chemistry, I’d go with the ladder every time.
But then, there’s the big problem: what to do with Zach Randolph. I’ve read many Z-Bo trade proposals in the comments sections, and it’s certainly a topic I’ve spent my share of time pondering. The case against trading Z-Bo is that he could easily return to his 2010-11 level next season, and if the Grizzlies trade him now, they probably don’t get fair market value for him, since no one is sure what they would get from him. Imagine Z-Bo turning around another franchise, while the mediocre players we get for him do nothing. It’s a frightening thought.
The case for trading Z-Bo is that he could decline further, and if he struggles next season, the Grizzlies probably wouldn’t be able to get anything for him. There’s the fear that he could become another albatross contract like Rashard Lewis. The thing is, I don’t really see that happening. Even with Z-Bo not all the way back, he still made some legitimate contributions in the Clippers series, tipping in countless offensive boards. It’s tempting to say “let’s get rid of the guy while we still can,” but when I think of all he’s done for this franchise, I just can’t sign off on that. Not when he can be a beast if he’s at 100%, and when he probably has a few really good years left.
So, what to do? I might suggest trading Rudy Gay, but his contract might be too brutal for others teams to take on. If the Grizzlies are willing to accept less than his value, I could see them doing it. Yeah, I don’t think they’ll get fair market value for Gay or Z-Bo, but if I had to keep one, I’d keep Z-Bo, because when both players are 100 percent, he gives the team more. What I would suggest is this: keep Speights, keep Z-Bo, and keep what is one of the league’s stronger front courts. Z-Bo and Gasol can both do more damage then they did in the Clippers series, and everyone knows it. Conley has to stay because he’s the only legit point guard the team has, and he’s often the glue that holds them together. I love Tony Allen, but you could probably talk me into sacrificing his killer D for someone who provides more offense. Do we trade Allen so we can keep Mayo? Or do we bring in another shooting guard who can drain three pointers. There seems to be more questions than answers.
This will be an interesting offseason, as the Grizzlies front office tries to take the next step into giving this team a shot at a title. There’s several paths they can take, and they all involve a considerable amount of uncertainty. Whatever the Grizzlies do, however, it will certainly lead to some spirited debates in the 3SOB realms.