The Memphis Grizzlies seem to operate with patience and thoughtfulness set apart from the rest of the NBA. Something of a bubble, in which they can afford to retain their best players like Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, but remain unable to draw in the best of free agents.
Maybe this season marked a small change as Chandler Parsons left the Dallas Mavericks to sign a four-year, $94.8 million deal with the Grizzlies. If it wasn’t for Mike Conley signing a $153 million contract with the Grizzlies Parsons would have made more headlines. Parsons joins a group that hasn’t changed much in the last few years. Head coaches come and go (David Fizdale is the next one after 8 years as an assistant in Miami), but the core, with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, and even the never ending Tony Allen, are still here.
The Grizzlies did make small changes: James Ennis, drafting Wade Baldwin, adding Tony Wroten and Troy Daniels. Small additions for depth, perhaps hoping it becomes more. But after a season which was great for about two thirds and ended in being on the wrong side of a sweep against the San Antonio Spurs, perhaps the biggest thing the Grizzlies are hoping for is to stay healthy. Pretty much anyone who mattered didn’t make it to the playoff series.
And it’s not that Parsons, the key addition and a player that might be a bit different compared to the rest of the core group in Memphis, is a walking example of staying healthy. He has 37 games over the last two seasons for the Mavericks, not even being healthy enough to show up for the postseason last year, and playing just one postseason game in 2015. If he breaks down at some point, maybe even the most crucial point of the season, don’t be surprised.
The Grizzlies have been consistently one of the best defensive teams in the NBA over the last few years, but maybe adding Parsons (although Jeff Green was another attempt at instilling something different) can help them change the balance a little bit towards more “trendy” basketball, with outside shooting, quicker ball movement and adding another focal point in an offense that at times can become a little bit predictable.
Best Case Scenario
Ambitions are humble in Memphis. Making the playoffs is always welcome, with the signings of Gasol, Conley and Parsons making sure there’s not tanking in the immediate future. Conference semifinals, usually the ceiling for this team, will be a success. Anything beyond will be a huge bonus. Having their younger players (Wroten, Baldwin) emerge as key contributors might be an even bigger surprise, but a welcome one.
Worst Case Scenario
It’s hard to see the Grizzlies doing too badly with the players they have, but I guess another season of an early playoff exit isn’t something their dreaming of. Obviously, another injury crisis, or finding out that the money they’ve put in to Conley and Parsons isn’t going to make itself useful, will make a lot of people in the front office unhappy.