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Where Do the Memphis Grizzlies Go From Here?
Posted By Stephen Litel On May 23, 2012 @ 5:00 am In All,NBA | No Comments
The Memphis Grizzlies had a great season, but their 2011-12 campaign ended in disappointment.
When Zach Randolph was lost for a majority of the season early on, there was a feeling that the Grizzlies would not be able to achieve the same magic they had in the 2010-11 playoffs. Yet, with Randolph only playing in 28 games—and only starting in 8—his teammates banded together and Memphis was the fourth seed in this year’s postseason. In a tough Western Conference, only the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Lakers finished the regular season with a better record.
That can be considered a great season—certainly an exceptional regular season—for Memphis. They are a young team and accomplishing that without Randolph was impressive.
However, to lose in the first round of the playoffs this year when they had home-court advantage against the Los Angeles Clippers—and losing a Game 7 in Memphis—the Grizzlies did not fulfill their preseason expectations or the heightened expectations created because of their play without Randolph.
Now, the team has some difficult decisions to make this offseason. A good chunk of their roster consists of free agents, whether restricted or unrestricted, so the Grizzlies will have new faces next year. The question is whether or not the team will make the right decisions on the players they allow to leave either through free agency or via trades, and whether the new faces will help the squad elevate to the next level.
The most immediate situation that Memphis will need to address is what to do with O.J. Mayo. While Mayo is a talented player, he never completely adapted to his role as the sixth man for the Grizzlies. He is a free agent and there will certainly be a number of teams around the NBA interested in his services and Memphis will have the option to match any offer he receives to retain his services. However, with a qualifying offer out there for Mayo set at $7,390,018 million, the team will have to decide if what he brings to their attack is worth that price tag.
Memphis needs to address their outside shooting this offseason, as Mayo may very well be their best option on the perimeter. That is not a great compliment, however, since Mayo is a streaky shooter who shot 36 percent from behind the three-point line in 2011-12.
The Memphis Grizzlies also need to address their point guard position. Michael Conley had another solid season in 2011-12, averaging 12.7 points, 6.5 assists and 2.5 rebounds per game, but there is not much depth behind him. As is the case with shooting guards on the market this off-season, there is also a good amount of solid NBA point guards who could fill the role as Conley’s backup or, in some situations, could even take over the starting job.
Recently, there has been talk of another way Memphis could address some of their reoccurring issues. Could trading Rudy Gay bring in more pieces for the team to move forward? Obviously, Gay is a very good NBA player, averaging 19 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game during the 2011-12 regular season, but with the new collective bargaining agreement, it may be best to move Gay to another team. He is set to make $16,460,532 million next year, so they will have to make the tough decision as to whether Gay’s production is worth the amount of zeros on his paycheck.
Management and Coaching
Lionel Hollins is a solid head coach and Chris Wallace is a solid general manager, but their standing mirrors that of the franchise itself. They do a good job in keeping the team competitive night in and night out, but there are questions as to whether or not they can remain in their jobs, taking the franchise to the next level and beyond.
There are now coaches available who have had greater success in the NBA and may be that needed new voice and new system that can lead Memphis deeper into the playoffs than ever before. Nate McMillan is available, although there are many who believe he will end up in Charlotte coaching the Bobcats. Some believe that Patrick Ewing is ready to take over the reins of an NBA team as the head man and a roster such as that of the Grizzlies with good post players may be the best fit. Of course, with yesterday’s unsurprising news of Stan Van Gundy being relieved of his duties in Orlando mercifully, his name is sure to come up as well. However, many believe Van Gundy is destined to become a broadcaster.
Once the Grizzlies make their early offseason decisions on which players on the current roster they plan to keep, there are plenty of free agents available who can help to fill the holes. Needing a backup to Mike Conley, there are many free agent point guards who would be in the price range Memphis looks to spend. Some names out there who would fit the price tag would be D.J. Augustin, George Hill, Beno Udrih or Goran Dragic. Some have even begun to debate whether Jeremy Lin would be a good fit with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Allowing Mayo to walk would provide the opportunity for Memphis to address their outside shooting, no matter how difficult it may be to let him go. There are numerous options out there for the Grizzlies—some at a higher price than they may want to spend and some right in their comfort zone—so the team will have to be honest with themselves. Do they truly feel they are only a piece or two away from truly contending for a NBA championship? If so, they may overpay to bring someone in to help in that department. A few names out there are Ray Allen, Landry Fields, Carlos Delfino, Nick Young and Jamal Crawford.
Don’t forget Memphis also has the 25th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. While their spot in the draft falls late in the first round, there are a few players expected to be drafted around the Grizzlies pick who could become valuable for them should they end up in Memphis. If they do the proper legwork and homework on the players who should be available around their selection in the draft, this could help fill one of the holes for Memphis. A few of the players that may be available for the Grizzlies to select who could make a solid contribution are Tony Wroten out of of Washington, Marquis Teague out of Kentucky or Quincy Miller out of Baylor.
The Grizzlies have an up and down draft history—like most teams in the NBA—especially later in the draft. They have selected players such as Kevin Love, Kendrick Perkins and Kyle Lowry in recent years, which are all solid selections. Perkins and Lowry were later in the draft—Perkins the 27th pick, while Lowry was the 24th selection—but this is also the franchise that selected Hasheem Thabeet with the second overall pick in 2009.
With the recent upswing in the Grizzlies’ franchise coupled with all the questions surrounding them heading into the offseason, it is probably best to keep as much of their core intact as possible. While Zach Randolph is getting up there in age in NBA years, Memphis has a frontcourt that many teams envy with Randolph, Marc Gasol and Rudy Gay. Mike Conley is a solid NBA point guard and knows the team’s system well. Keep these four players together.
Which means the best option for the summer of 2012 for the Grizzlies is to allow O.J. Mayo to walk in free agency, rather than spending too much money to keep him. They can then use that money to make offers to free agents who fill the needs the Grizzlies have in order to achieve the goals they have for the 2012-13 season and beyond.
Of course, if Memphis has another collapse in the 2013 postseason—should they make it that far again—as they did this year, there very well may be more drastic changes next year.
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