Even with their 2010-2011 season coming to a halt as an 8-seed in the second round of the playoffs, I still am not positive that the Memphis Grizzlies are the team they appear to be. Zach Randolph looked like the best forward in the league for a month, Pau's brother almost was good enough for me to learn his first name and Mike Conley seemingly tried to throw it in every critics face every night. They dismantled the number one seed San Antonio Spurs and took the Thunder to a game 7. But this team only won 46 games in the regular season - record-wise, they weren't much better than the Orlando Magic or Atlanta Hawks. Was their run because their players got hot at the right time, like what happens in MLB playoffs? Or was it because the Spurs and Thunder weren't prepared for all the trouble an 8-seed could give them? I'm still not sure how good they were.
But going forward, you have to ride the wave of positivity and hope that what we saw over the past month wasn't a fluke or a hot streak - we have to assume that this is who the Grizzlies really are.
Rudy Gay: 15 million
Mike Conley: 6.5 million
OJ Mayo: 5.6 million
Tony Allen: 3.1 million
Xavier Henry: 2.17 million
Hamed Haddadi: 2 million (qualifying offer)
Darrell Arthur: 2 million
Greivis Vasquez: 1.11 million
Sam Young: 947,800 (team option)
Ishamel Smith: 788,872
Total: 50 million
Marko Jaric (seriously): 6.5 million
Shane Battier: 7.3 million
Pau's brother: 3.48 million
A bunch of deadbeats: 1 million
Total: 18.3 million
The Grizzlies' first priority would have been extending Z-Bo, but oddly enough, they might have already done that. At 4-years and 70 million, I am shocked to write that that might have even been at a small discount for Memphis. After way he played in the playoffs, he could have gotten 5 years, 100 million. Crazytown.
1). Sign Pau's brother on your terms rather than allow another team to sign him to an offer sheet
Well, one good thing had to happen to a Gasol family member this summer. Pau's brother is going to get PAID whenever the free agency period begins, and paid big. Somehow, Pau's brother went from a throw-in in a monster trade to one of the key pieces to a team that nearly made it to the Western Conference Finals.
(By the way, I'm not sure how Pau's brother got so completely overlooked in the Pau Gasol to the Lakers deal. If you have a guy like Pau - former all-star, extremely skilled, high basketball IQ - wouldn't you think that his brother would be pretty good? Another guy with the same GENETIC MAKEUP, except with 40 more pounds? How did we not see this coming? Either Chris Wallace is much smarter than we all knew, or he's just extremely lucky. I'd side with the latter. See no. 5 please)
His career averages lie at 12.7 ppg, 7.8 rebounds, 71.5% FT, 54.5 FG%, 1.4 bpg, 2.2 apg. He's 26 years old. He's in just his third professional season and he's durable. Someone is going to offer him 5 years, 55 million - or more. Memphis, I'd throw that money at this man, before someone signs him to an offer sheet and makes that contract more expensive for you.
2). Get someone that can make a long range jumper
The Grizz have to get a guy that can reliably make a 3 point shot. A team that is cannot spread the floor usually won't find success of any type, but I suppose that's just a testament to how good Randolph was during this playoff run - no one could effectively slow him down inside, so the need for spacing didn't seem as great. However, I just don't think that type of adrenaline-fueled play can be counted on over 82 games.
Jamal Crawford, Jason Richardson and JR Smith are the cream of the crop in regards to shooting guards this summer. I'm not sure that type of investment is going to be in the cards for the Grizz, especially considering that they only have 7 million in cap space. Leandro Barbosa, Peja Stojakovic and Mike Dunleavy are all more feasible options, while not the best. The Grizz do have a nice little chest of assets they could use to trade for a shooter - Darrell Arthur, Xavier Henry, Sam Young, Greivis Vasquez, Hamed Haddaddi - to bolster the team in case an investment in Barbosa, Peja or Dunleavy doesn't work out.
Another option is to extend Shane Battier. I get the feeling he likes playing in Memphis and especially likes being the elder statesman around a lot of these young players. If he'd take something like the mid-level for 3 years, his shooting combined with his veteran leadership would be worth the price of that contract.
3). Don't trade OJ Mayo - you idiots
Don't trade him. He is 23. His first two years in the league he averaged 18 points and played 82 games both times. He's a career 38% shooter from the arc. He's got a ridiculous pedigree and is skilled on nearly every front. He was your number 3 pick. You traded Kevin Love for this man.
He is going to be a very good player. Please don't trade him for something like Josh McRoberts and an old Reggie Miller jersey. Be smart. Keep him around. Give him a summer to work on skills, get his head right and blossom into the player he will be. Don't be ridiculous Memphis.
4). Extend Sam Young
I like Sam Young. Like his name, he's largely non-descript. But he does everything pretty well and nothing terribly. For a guy like that, I'd throw 3 years, $12 million at him - pretty much a good bench player's type of money. But that's what he should be. A bench player. I'm looking for OJ Mayo to reclaim this role during training camp.
5). Sign a veteran PG for the minimum
Towards the end of last year, the Grizz had Greivis Vasquez running the point. I don't really have a problem with this - yes, at times he made some bonehead plays with the ball, but it was the playoffs and he was a rookie. I'll cut him a little slack for that one.
Seeing as the Grizz do NOT have a first rounder (courtesy of this trade, where they had to give up a FIRST ROUND DRAFT PICK in order to unload their former number 2 pick, Hasheem Thabeet. That is ridiculous. Not only could the Grizz have Tyreke Evans, Stephen Curry, Brandon Jennings, James Harden, Tyler Hansbrough or DeMar Derozan instead of Thabeet, but they also used him to trade for Shane Battier. Yes, GM Chris Wallace traded two first round picks for Shane Battier. And this is after a trade involving a OJ Mayo for Josh McRoberts fell through in February. Absolutely mind-blowing. It's like you can't write more than 5 paragraphs after complimenting Chris Wallace without criticizing him)
The Grizz can use OJ and Greivis at the point position for short spells and expect them to make the right decisions with the ball when Conley is off the court. But as a backup, Carlos Arroyo, Earl Boykins or Sebastian Telfair could be options with a bit of upside.
This team really found its groove towards the end of the season by being a nearly strictly inside-offense team that stayed true to their defensive principles and rotations. I don't think that the Grizz is far off from even contending for a title - yeah, I said it - but the team I'm referring to is the team that played in 13 tough playoff games, not the mediocre team that was barely over .500 during the season. I need to be able to watch them for 82 games to make a judgment of how close they are. In the meantime, the Grizz HAVE to find some shooters to make their offense and inside-outside game. A returning Rudy Gay and perhaps a re-signed Shane Battier would help, but they really do need a dead-eye marksmen to keep the opposing defenses honest.