MikeCheck: Grizzlies Offseason Outlook – Marc Gasol
MEMPHIS – It wasn’t supposed to go down like this.
But after a tumultuous season that included a controversial early-season coaching change, a rash of injuries, the eventual loss of two top scorers and the longest losing streak in the Memphis era of the franchise, the Grizzlies hit the offseason eager to push the reset button.
They are out of the playoffs for the first time in eight years, and headed toward the May 15 Draft Lottery assured of a top-five pick in the June 21 NBA Draft. So there’s reason to hope. There are also expectations – with catalysts Mike Conley and Marc Gasol still under contract, encouraging development of a few young prospects and the full midlevel exception to use in free agency – that this disappointing season in Memphis was a single bump in the road on a path back to playoff contention.
Over the next few weeks, Grind City Media’s ‘Offseason Outlook’ breaks down my personal analysis as to where the coach, general manager and each player on the Grizzlies’ roster stand in the process.
Player: Marc Gasol, 33
Measurables: 7-1, 255 – 10th NBA Season
2017-18 Stats: 17.2ppg, 8.1rpg, 4.2apg in 33.0mpg, shot career-worst 42.0% overall from the field.
Status: Due $24.1 million for 2018-19 salary in fourth season of a five-year deal.
One of two players (Giannis Antetokounmpo) this season to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists and blocks. Also became the third player in NBA history (Kevin Durant, Draymond Green) to post at least 300 assists, 100 blocks and 100 threes in a regular season.
Gasol finished a second straight season on his feet and appears in the best shape of his career. At age 33 and two years removed from foot surgery, that’s highly encouraging. His 25 double-doubles shouldn’t be dismissed in the rubble of a crumbled season, considering they were three off his career high of 28 double-doubles in 2010. Also, considering the team used 30 different starting lineups around Gasol, the fact he still held himself to a high standard through it all speaks volumes about his credibility and professionalism. In the midst of a lost season, Gasol delivered some of his best efforts against elite centers in Rudy Gobert, Nikola Jokic, DeAndre Jordan and Draymond Green. Chalk up any struggles Gasol had to the shortage of talent and continuity around him; not to any alarming decline in his game.
Gasol has too much pride to admit it, but this was a completely wasted season. In some ways, he probably views much of the past two years as wasted, due to issues he and former coach David Fizdale dragged into this season. There’s no denying Gasol left exit interviews with more questions than franchise leaders can answer right now. What’s also clear is that despite his versatility and ability to take over in stretches, Gasol can’t be a steady No. 1 option on a contending team. His 108 defensive rating was the highest of his career, 10 points off from his 2013 Defensive Player of the Year season. Conley’s absence was huge, but don’t discount the comfort, buffer and relief Zach Randolph and Tony Allen also provided Gasol. With that all stripped away, some parts of Gasol’s game and leadership were exposed.
Gasol is one of the three greatest players in franchise history. Still, the Grizzlies are in a delicate predicament. Gasol can opt out of the final year of his contract after next season. He slightly shifted position from saying during the season that he couldn’t see himself asking for a trade, to saying in media exit interviews that he hasn’t thought about whether he’d seek a trade. There needs to be a clear approach with Gasol at this point. If the best course for the Grizzlies is to go big with their top-five lottery pick and pivot to the future, then dealing Gasol for picks and/or young assets this summer would be ideal. If maintaining the competitive window he and Conley provide right now is the way, then it’s prudent to explore trading down in the draft and also snagging a current top-40 NBA talent in a package. There’s really no viable middle-of-the-road option. There’s also no shame in heading down either path.
You want to know what direction we’re headed. You want to know what kind of team are you trying to put together, and what is your purpose? As a player, you want to know and then you plan accordingly. I want to hear what Robert (controlling owner Robert Pera) has to say, what they (Grizzlies front-office) have to say and go forward … I’ve already started working on film, already started working in the weight room. It’s about how you can get better now and not wait until September.
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Michael Wallace are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.