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MikeCheck: Grizzlies Offseason Outlook – David Fizdale

By Michael Wallace
Grind City Media

MEMPHIS – What’s next for the Memphis Grizzlies?

Who stays? Who goes?

How will the Grit’N’Grind era continue to evolve?

Those questions and more face the Grizzlies as they embark on an offseason destined for change after their seventh consecutive playoff trip ended in a six-game series loss to the Spurs in the opening round. There’s plenty of optimism moving forward. There’s also clearly something most fans, players, coaches and executives agree on: 43 wins, a No. 7 seed in the playoffs and a first-round exit aren’t good enough.

Over a stretch of 17 weekdays, we’ll dive into our ‘Offseason Outlook’ series that breaks down my personal analysis as to where each player on the Grizzlies’ roster stands, in addition to coach David Fizdale and general manager Chris Wallace, entering a potentially pivotal offseason.

Coach: David Fizdale, 42

Measurables: 43-39, first-round playoff exit – 1st NBA Season as head coach

2016-17 Stats: Set franchise records for three-point makes (767) and attempts (2,169), ranked No. 7 in NBA defensive efficiency, No. 3 in scoring defense and No. 3 in opponent field-goal percentage.

Status: Three-time nominee for NBA coach of the month (November, January, February).

Notable

Fizdale joined Hubie Brown (2003-04), Mike Fratello (2005-06) and Dave Joerger (2013-14) as the only coaches in franchise history to lead the Grizzlies to the playoffs in their first full season at the helm. He’s also advanced to the playoffs nine of the past 10 seasons as an assistant or a head coach.

Quoting Fizdale

That will be the first thing I do is evaluate myself. Then, I will get into the team and see how we get back on track. The same goal is to get back in the mix to go after a title. I will not waiver on that. I won’t waiver on how we prepare, and I won’t waiver on what I say. It will always be about how we get the Memphis Grizzlies and this city to hold the trophy and get a parade down Beale Street.

Upside

Fizdale was definitely prepared for his first season in Memphis. He talked the talk and followed through on bold claims about rotation and offensive changes that were in store. A masterful, no-nonsense communicator, Fizdale got Mike Conley to expand his game and voice as a leader, Marc Gasol to stretch his versatility to the three-point line and Zach Randolph to accept a productive role off the bench. Fizdale also got six veterans to post career-best numbers or most productive seasons in a Memphis uniform. Splitting the season series with the Warriors, Spurs and Rockets showed Memphis’ potential. By the end of an injury-riddled season with 26 different starting lineups, Fizdale dished his ‘take that for data’ rant and closed on an encouraging note in a six-game series loss against the Spurs.

Downside

The Grizzlies were drastically inconsistent and Fizdale struggled all season to level things out amid a 9-15 finish after the All-Star break. They probably overachieved a bit in the playoffs by extending the Spurs to six games. But Fizdale, front-office management and vets in the locker room all admit this team underachieved in a big way during the regular season. For every promising win at contenders in Golden State or Houston, there were demoralizing home setbacks to lottery-bound Sacramento or Brooklyn. Fizdale’s hands were tied by injuries or playing restrictions, but there were times he tightened his own knot by overthinking moves, like bringing Conley off the bench in New York or leaving Randolph on the bench late when scoring was needed. Chalk it up to first-year growing pains for the rookie coach.

Bottom line

Fizdale has endeared himself to this team and this town. He essentially is a microcosm in many ways of the roster he inherited. He’s a work in progress. A crucial offseason with key personnel decisions looms, and Fizdale would like to see the Grizzlies add a dynamic, speedy playmaker at guard to complement Conley. That, plus a healthier Chandler Parsons, a rejuvenated Gasol and a dominant Conley should raise the bar for Fizdale and the team. Even with Conley and Gasol as anchors, this group can’t afford to lose as many as 10 winnable games to lottery teams like they did this season. Fizdale and his team learned the hard way that those games were the difference between finishing with a top-four seed and homecourt advantage and slipping to No. 7 and facing the 60-win Spurs in the first round.

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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.