Memphis Grizzlies – Off Season Report

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Ins:

Chandler Parsons FA – 4 Years / $94m
Troy Daniels FA – 3 Years / $10m
James Ennis FA – 2 Years / $6m
Andrew Harrison FA – 3 Years / $3m (non-guaranteed)
Wade Baldwin IV DR – Pick #17
Deyonta Davis DR – Pick #31
Wang Zhelin DR – Pick #57
Wayne Selden FA – Undrafted Rookie (non-guaranteed)

Outs:

Matt Barnes FA – Kings
Chris Andersen FA – Cavs
Lance Stephenson FA – Pelicans
P.J. Hairston FA – Unsigned
Jordan Farmar FA – Unsigned
Ray McCallum FA – Pistons
Xavier Munford FA – Unsigned

Off Season Analysis:

You may think of me as strange, but I enjoy the ‘grit n grind’ style that Memphis has made their own over the past 3-4 years. So, it should come as no surprise that I like the moves Memphis have made this off-season. Whilst the Grizz will fork out roughly $247m for both Mike Conley and Chandler Parsons, securing both players is a great coup for the NBA’s second smallest market. Conley isn’t a super star,  in fact he has never been all-star, but he is one of the most reliable two-way PGs in the league and was by far the best PG available  this free agency. As a result, Memphis had no problem in paying the max on a PG who is as great as a leader as he is a player. (A great read on the life and thoughts of Conley)

Furthermore, securing Parsons’ services for the mini max of $94m is a great signing for the small market Grizz, who have been desperate for a Parsons-style offensive wing that can score in a variety of ways including from beyond the arc. Memphis also added some potentially nice young players in Wade Baldwin IV and Deyonta Davis, both being projected at one stage or another to be late lottery picks. Memphis will also begin the season with a new head coach, David Fizdale, after former coach Dave Joerger orchestrated his own exit. Fizdale will continue to support and foster Memphis’ already strong locker room culture and plans to implement a new era of ‘grit n grind’ basketball led by Conley and Parsons.

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Conley is a perennially underrated guard. And looking at his top line stats, it’s easy to see why. Conley isn’t a top tier PG in the league; he’s not an elite shooter or scorer like Steph, isn’t athletic like Russ, or pass like CP3. What separates Conley is the high basketball ball IQ, the off-ball movement, the pestering defence and most importantly his leadership. It isn’t just Conley’s intangibles that led to his max deal, but also the Grizz’s front office not willing to contemplate what life without Conley would look like. Just over 12-months ago Conley’s friendship and chemistry was the centre piece of the pitch to convince Gasol to remain in Memphis. For Memphis to turn around and not offer Conley the max would not only be insulting to Gasol but also an utter waste of his last few prime years as one of the most dominant big men in the league. Whilst $153m seems to be an exorbitant amount of money, it’s what a new max deal looks like for vets. Based on years served, Conley is entitled to 30% of the cap, which jumped a massive 34% this year. As Matt Moore describes, the Grizzlies as a small market team would simply be ‘unable to sign someone of Conley’s calibre’, and whilst the ‘sticker shock’ is staggering it is actually reasonable given the scope of things.

The legitimate concern in signing Conley (and also Parsons) is his health. Conley only managed 56 games last season due to Achilles tendinitis, spawning from years of plantar fasciitis. Yet the trade-off for Memphis was simple: all in on there proven solid point guard and leader, or plan for a post Conley era of non-competitive basketball.

In retaining Conley, the Grizzlies wanted to remain relevant, but by adding Parsons they are hoping they can make a deep push come playoffs. Parsons was strongly courted by Portland, but his decision to head to Memphis made the most sense. A back court of Conley, Tony Allen and Parsons makes for a nice blend of playmaking, shooting, perimeter defence and off ball movement. A much better proposition than Parsons competing for touches with McCollum and Lillard. Memphis works for Parsons too, because not only can it can cover his defensive deficiencies, (he posted a 108 defensive rating each of the past four seasons) but they are a well-oiled machine that can help him manage minutes for his shoddy knees (he played 127 games over the past two seasons) and rebuild his game to his Houston days.

As much as Parsons needs Memphis, Memphis needs Parsons. ‘Grit n Grind’ basketball has been screaming for an offensive wing of Parsons ilk to help create and initiate offence outside of the post. Whilst reliable from deep, he also creates and causes mismatches with every offence, new coach Fizzle has already referred to him as ‘his’ own Lebron James, “He’s gonna be the guy I put into every offensive situation imaginable. He’s 6-9, 6-10, he can handle, he can shoot, he can run pick and roll, he can post, he can work off the elbow, he can set pick and rolls.” What makes Parsons ever more tantalising for Fizdale is that he is a willing shooter that cannot be left alone, making almost 7 attempts from range per 100 possessions converting at 38%.

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My concern with the signings is that they are two years too late. As mentioned earlier, that average age of the starting 5 is now pushing 32. Whilst Z-Bo is still serviceable, he is turning 35 this year. Gasol is 32 and returning from surgery to repair his broken foot (big men and bad feet don’t bode well in a long 82 game season). Conley is in his prime at 28, so too Parsons, but as mentioned both are coming back with a big asterisk next to their long-term health. (Parsons is the most concerning, already having micro-fracture knee surgery and surgery to repair a torn meniscus)

The last notable move of Memphis’ off season was the firing of Dave Joerger. Whilst it came as a surprise to your casual NBA fans, to those with knowledge of the Grizz, it is no surprise at all. While sporting a .598% win rate Joerger was never able to get past the second round in the playoffs. Joerger also harboured well-known ill feelings towards the front office. It was reported that owner Robert Pena wanted to fire Joerger after only his fifth game as head coach. Joerger obviously felt a distinct lack of job security from then on, and asked to interview with the Timberwolves last summer. His perceived insecurity wasn’t helped by saying his team played ‘old and slow’, or his Thibs-like refusal to play rookies. What cemented his fate was asking for permission to interviews with both the Rockets and Kings. It was a simple decision for owner and GM to fire Joerger, even if Joerger orchestrated it himself.

Replacing Joerger is long-time assistant David Fizdale. Fizdale tenured under Erik Spolestra and was an assistant in the Heat’s two latest championship seasons. He is known for his attention to detail and was part of the successful Conley pitch, pledging to make him an all-star by giving him greater control of the offense, through an outside-in approach; I want to give Mike the opportunity early on to attack and make plays, and then we’ll get that end of possession post-up for Zach or Marc out of movement where teams can’t just load up on them. Fizdale will have a task ahead of him, speeding up a team that has been resistant to pace. But the inclusion of rookies Baldwin and Davis will help with that.

Rookies Baldwin and Davis whilst both incredibly raw, fit the profile of the faster grit n grind Fizdale wants to play. Baldwin is a lengthy (6’11” wingspan) dynamic point guard that has the tools to be monster on defence. Yet he is extremely turnover prone and has serious questions surrounding his character, (you’re college coach threatening to kill you raises a few eyebrows.) Similarly, Davis possesses an amazing athletic profile; 6’10, 7’2” wingspan and is highly agile and fluid running the floor. Yet like Baldwin, he is far from a polished product. Whilst nether is set to see much of the floor, they’re intriguing prospects that will do well learning from the Grizzlies core, as long as Z-Bo doesn’t eat them.

Grade: B+

2016/17 Prediction: 53 – 29

League Pass Meter: 6/10

The reason why Memphis did not receive an A is that the signing of a Parsons-styled offensive wing is two years too late. The average age of this team is nearing 32. The injury concerns are mounting. Will this season be the last serious push of the Grit n Grind players in Gasol, Conley, Allen and ZBo?

Depth Chart:

PG: Conley Wroten* Harrison*  Baldwin
SG: Allen Carter** Daniels  Selden*
SF: Parsons Ennis Stephens*  Williams*
PF: Randolph Green** Martin
C: Gasol Wright Davis

* Salary Likely Guarantees 10th Jan 2017
** Salary Guaranteed 1st Jan 2017

Salary Cap Situation:

2016/17 salaries: $112,909,960
2017/18 salaries: $100,217,625

Max room: $10.9m
Min room: $1.7m

Future Assets:

Incoming:
2017 2nd (MIA protected 41-60)
2018 2nd (CHA)
2019 2nd (BOS protected 31-55)
2019 2nd (BK via CHA)

Outgoing:
2017 1st (DEN protected 1-5)
2017 2nd (DEN via OKC Protected 31-35)
2019 1st (BOS Multiple Protections)

2016/17 Questions:

Can Gasol, Parsons and Conley bounce back in 2016/17 after serious season ending injuries?

Can Parson’s return to his 2013/14 Rockets form in the grit n grind Memphis system?

Will Fizdale threatnen to kill Baldwin?

Will Conley  earn his $153m and receive an All-Star selection?

Will Z-Bo still remain enough of a threat in the low post to allow Parsons to operate effectively from range?

 

 

 

 

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