• Brendan Smart

The Memphis Grizzlies Are At The Turning Point

Green Bay Press Gazette

As the calendar turns to 2019, the Memphis Grizzlies find themselves in a tough situation: unlike many teams which are building for the future, the Grizz are trying to make the playoffs -- but with each passing day they find themselves slipping further down the standings in the rugged West. With the trade deadline approaching, will Memphis continue to make moves for this season, or do they throw in the towel and start making choices for the future?

We’ve known since mid-December that Memphis was ready to move on from Wayne Selden Jr. and MarShon Brooks as both were involved in the failed three-way deal with Washington and Phoenix due to the confusion over which Brooks was involved. On Thursday night, the Grizzlies finally were able to get value for them, as they were traded to the Chicago Bulls for shooting guard Justin Holiday.

The 6’6” wingman was leading the Bulls in minutes, and in the midst of another strong year in Chicago, but wasn’t part of their long-term plans. The price of upgrading Memphis’ ‘now’ was two future second-round picks sent to the Bulls, since all the players are on expiring deals. The hope is certainly that Holiday will provide an upgrade on the wing -- where the Grizz have seen too much of Garrett Temple and Kyle Anderson.

The move puts Memphis right up against the tax line, so they’ll have to work carefully if they’re not planning on becoming taxpayers. Since expiring contracts are usually prime assets in deadline deals, Garrett Temple, Omri Casspi, Shelvin Mack, JaMychal Green, and Joakim Noah seem like the most likely candidates to be dealt. Holiday could also go one in one-for-one deal, but league rules prohibit him from entering deals with any other Grizzlies.

One wonders how much value these various assets have, however. The Grizzlies like where they are at point guard and center in franchise centerpieces Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, and have to be very excited about star rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. -- even if they don’t always use him right. So the pieces that are going to take the team to the playoffs come from a disappointing wing rotation and a bench that ranks 24th in the NBA in production. It’s difficult to make something out of nothing.

Frustration is building, though, and after a tough home loss to the Detroit Pistons, Casspi and Temple came to blows. That frustration is hardly limited to those two -- it’s building from the bottom to the top in this organization. Sitting at 5-11 in their last 16 games, and tumbling to the 11th spot in the Western standings, can Memphis turn this thing around?

A source close to the front office told me that Memphis is still trying to win this season. They feel as though a good parallel for this season is 2015, when Memphis had an injury filled season and actually suited up 28 different players, but still made the playoffs. With the core they have, and the number of teams that are more interested in the future than the present, they’re confident that they can make moves within the budget to win games and get guys from teams that are selling out for next season.

One thing is clear: everyone, from the front office down to players on the roster, is not happy about how the season has turned out. One has to think that the 2019-20 roster will look dramatically different from the current one, regardless of what happens at the deadline. If it’s not going to negatively impact the future, Memphis might as well get a start on turning over the team, and see if the Grizzlies can do anything to rescue this year’s campaign.

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