30 Teams in 30 Days: Memphis Grizzlies transition away from 'Grind House' style of play
Departure of some roster mainstays mean Memphis must get more from its youth
Since the Warriors downed the Cavs to take the 2017 NBA title back on June 12, NBA teams have undergone a number of changes over the long summer offseason.
NBA.com’s Shaun Powell will evaluate the state of each franchise — from the team with the worst regular-season record in 2016-17 to the team with the best regular-season record — as we look at 30 teams in 30 days.
Today’s team: Memphis Grizzlies
2016-17 Record: 43-39
Major additions: Dillon Brooks (Draft), Ivan Rabb (Draft), Mario Chalmers (free agency), Ben McLemore (free agency), Tyreke Evans (free agency).
Major subtractions: Vince Carter, Zach Randolph.
The lowdown: For the seventh straight season, and under three different coaches, the Grizzlies reached the playoffs. For the second straight postseason, though, they lost in the first round.
The changing of the guard, or at least the mood, began in earnest when the Grizzlies parted ways with Zach Randolph, the heart if not the soul of the “Grind House” mantra that Memphis identified with for a half-decade.
“Z-Bo” personified the hard-working, hard-hat Grizzlies teams that were never pretty to watch but caused hell for most of the elite teams in the West, spooking them constantly in the playoffs but never quite clearing the hump. He was also an anchor in the Memphis community, which embraced him and the team — but all good things must come to an end.
— Memphis Grizzlies (@memgrizz) July 6, 2017
And so, Randolph, along with the ageless Carter, went West to Sacramento, where careers tend to die. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies went about the business of remaking the team and very likely their style in the process.
They didn’t add anyone of note, but that’s mainly because their cap situation is heavy for such a small-market team. Weighing it down is Mike Conley (who the Grizzlies made the highest-paid player in NBA history a year ag) and All-Star center Marc Gasol (who re-signed with Memphis for $100 million in 2015). Both remain very productive players and among the very best at their positions, making their contracts justifiable.
And then there’s Chandler Parsons, who’ll average $24 million for the next three seasons. Parsons dealt with injuries and inconsistency throughout his first season in Memphis and didn’t leave a positive first impression. He was supposed to solve a constant weakness throughout the Grind House years — scoring at the swing positions — but there are doubts if Parsons will be the player he was during his healthy years in Dallas and Houston.
Just to be safe, the Grizzlies signed McLemore on the cheap. Four years ago, McLemore was among the best prospects entering the 2013 Draft and, for a moment, was considered the best bet for the No. 1 overall choice. However, he struggled throughout his time in Sacramento and the Kings simply gave up on him.
Making matters worse, McLemore suffered a broken foot last month during a summer workout in Los Angeles and at the time of injury was expected to miss 12 weeks. That would put his return right around Thanksgiving.
Therefore, you wonder if the 40-year-old Carter were still around, would he get most of the minutes at guard? Especially when considering the alternatives?
Beyond Conley and Gasol, the Grizzlies lacked another scorer who could help out in the fourth quarter of tight games. That appears to be the case this season unless McLemore recovers and has a breakout season, or Parsons stays healthy and is in the running for comeback of the year.
In the Draft the Grizzlies took Brooks, a solid player at Oregon who brings good size (6-foot-6) at the guard position and looked impressive in spurts during Las Vegas Summer League play. They also selected Rabb, who was among the top high school players in the U.S. a few years ago but tapered off a bit at Cal. With the right seasoning and instruction, the 6-foot-10 forward could be a steal.
Memphis brought back Chalmers, who brings plenty of playoff experience after his run with the Heat, yet is nearing the end of his career. If Wade Baldwin IV isn’t ready to rebound after an invisible rookie season, Chalmers will get backup minutes to Conley.
Finally, Memphis welcomed back Evans, who didn’t play for the Grizzlies but instead at the University of Memphis. He was a star there and made a big splash as a rookie in 2009-10, averaging 20.1 ppg en route to Kia Rookie of the Year honors. However, it has been a long climb back to respectability for Evans, who has played only 65 games the last three years due to injuries and could only get a one-year deal this summer as a free agent.
The one persistent question mark is veteran swingman Tony Allen. He remains unsigned — and perhaps unwanted — by Memphis. If Allen, as expected, has played his final game with the Grizzlies, he’d be another Grind House guy tossed to the curb.
It’ll be an interesting transition for Memphis this season, and if the Grizzlies get off to a rocky start, would they be tempted to trade Gasol at the deadline?
Until then, the Grizzlies will sift through an assortment of bodies and see what sticks.
Coming Next: Atlanta Hawks
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