• Brendan Smart

The Memphis Grizzlies Could Make A Million Moves at the Deadline

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The Memphis Grizzlies are four months removed from owner Robert Pera going on their in-house radio show and saying “I think that this team can win 50 plus games.” That proclamation sounded good to the fans, but turned out to be empty optimism. It was a statement about a Grizzlies team that had never played together outside of Mike Conley and Marc Gasol; a statement from an owner in Pera that isn’t around to catch the heat for that slew of unsuccessful offseason moves; a statement that will likely lead to a post-trade-deadline future that still includes Conley and Gasol and no discernible future.

Make no mistake: that would be devastating. If the Grizzlies do not nail this trade deadline, the Grizzlies down-seasons will continue for years to come. Memphis could’ve capitalized on their assets for several seasons, and successfully transitioned out of Grit’n’Grind -- but they’ve failed. Just last year, they watched Tyreke Evans leave for nothing, and Jarell Martin go from a valued contributor to buried in Orlando. The year before, they got a poor return for James Ennis, and figured out that Vince Carter still had value just in time for him to leave.

Memphis could go in a number of different directions, and none of them might be right. The extreme would be moving both Conley and Gasol at once. Getting out from under both of those contracts would be great for Memphis as it finally hits the reset button. Or, perhaps they could go halfway and move only one for younger assets and keep the other for veteran leadership.

It would gut the bench to trade JaMychal Green, Garrett Temple, and Shelvin Mack, but Memphis has to get something for their expiring contracts, lest they have a redux of last season when their best assets walked at the end of the season. Memphis has to move forward with a mindset of getting future assets for these expiring contracts. This season is over.

Perhaps worst of all is that the personnel decisions are indicative of larger team dysfunction.

“It’s a sh*t show!” one agent exclaimed to me when I inquired about interviewing a client of his. And that’s no secret around the league. From that conversation on, I have been awake. Awake to an owner in Pera taking over for a General Manager in Chris Wallace who is now a puppet. Awake to the number of integral members of the Grizzlies front office who no longer do anything, but are still collecting a check until they can get back on the ESPN payroll.

This team had an identity and bond with the city with Grit’n’Grind. Memphis is a hardworking city that embraced its ferocious, unglamourous NBA team. But the Memphis front office has failed in applying that age-old maxim: it is better to get out one year too early than one year too late. The changes they need may be ‘too little, too late’ but that’s no reason to stay the course.

The fans are bruised but not broken. There is much the Memphis Front Office can do to make them whole, but if it doesn’t carefully navigate this trade deadline, it could break basketball in Memphis for years to come.


"For first time, Memphis will begin listening to trade offers on franchise stars Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, league sources tell ESPN. Memphis has reached a crossroads and is preparing to weigh deals involving one or both of its cornerstone veterans. Story soon on ESPN." - @wojespn

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