Welcome to “Pretty Much Screwed,” our 2012-13 guide to the upcoming NBA season in which SportsGrid’s acid-tongued writers identify the reason why your team should probably start looking forward to 2013-2014. Today we have the Memphis Grizzlies.
I’ll be honest; I like the Grizzlies. I like Mike Conley, I like Rudy Gay, I like
Zach Randolph Z-Bo and Marc Gasol. I love Tony Allen. Not so hot on their bench or coach (Lionel Hollins), but I like their starting lineup. Is that enough to let them off the hook?
As it turns out, no.
The Grizzlies have done so much over the last two seasons to take themselves from playoff bubble team to the upper-echelon of the Western Conference. That’s fine. But what I take umbrage with is the fact that they could be so much better if not for some mind-boggling ineptness by whoever is in charge of their player development.
I can excuse them trading Kevin Love for O.J. Mayo on draft night. Mayo is not Love, but he’s not bad. Could have been better, and probably would have been if his role wasn’t dramatically reduced from his first two seasons (when he averaged 38 minutes) to his next two (when he averaged 26 minutes).
What I can’t excuse is them losing Mayo for literally nothing this offseason. Memphis literally preferred to save money rather than pick up Mayo’s option for the 2012-13 season and let him walk. They didn’t pick up the option and trade him. They didn’t decline the option and re-sign him for less. They just straight-up said “we would rather save a couple million bucks than have you on the roster for any reason.”
Granted, Mayo didn’t want to come back to Memphis anyway, but you HAVE TO get more than nothing for the third pick of 2008 draft, especially since you traded Kevin FREAKING Love for him, and especially since you have no one to pick up the slack with him gone.
Sure, Memphis picked up Jerryd Bayless over the summer, but Bayless put up okay numbers on a horrible Toronto team. The odds of him playing well on a team where he won’t have the ball in his hands all the time are not very good. I’d expect him to fill the tiny Gilbert Arenas-sized hole that Agent Zero left after his brief tenure with the team last year.
No, I think it’s much more likely we watch the Grizzlies starters take turns trying to take a bigger role on offense and collectively fail, because that’s exactly what they did last year after Z-Bo missed over half the season with an injury. Perfect opportunity for Gay, Gasol, or Conley to step up, but they stayed stagnant. I’d love to say this is Gasol’s time to shine, especially after an impressive showing in the Olympics, but he’s almost 28. If it hasn’t happened by now…
So instead, the Grizzlies are just another in a line of teams that are mostly young, but full of second and third options and without the flexibility to add the first option they need to put them over the top. I’m not saying Mayo would’ve been that guy if they’d retained him or developed him better, but having him (either on the roster or as a trade piece) helps a lot more than not.
Actual season prediction: The Grizzlies will be fine this year. Probably lean a little more on their starters, probably win 50 games, definitely go to the playoffs as anywhere from the fourth to eighth seed. But do they have any shot at the Finals? In the stacked Western Conference? No way in hell. No, Memphis is stuck in NBA purgatory; not good enough to contend for a championship, but too good and too young to blow it up. Enjoy it, Memphis fans! Enjoy the next five years of meaningless winning seasons!
[Photo via NBAE/Getty Images]