The Memphis Grizzlies tried to compete with Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, but their core just isn’t holding up well enough out West.
The Memphis Grizzlies started the 2018-19 NBA season off scorching hot, winning 12 of their first 17 games and seeming like one of the stronger teams in the entire NBA. Things quickly soured for the Grizzlies since.
Memphis now sits at 19-24, last among non-Suns teams in the West and roughly four games out of the eighth seed at the moment. The Grizzlies have been bit with the injury bug over the last week or so, losing Dillon Brooks for the season with a toe injury and Kyle Anderson for a few weeks with an ankle sprain.
The losses were piling up before those injuries began, though, and don’t figure to stop piling up any time soon. The most damning part of Memphis’ season is that their two main cogs, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, have missed just one combined game all season. The Grizzlies wrote off their disastrous 2017-18 season due to barely having Conley and Gasol on the floor together, but those two have played roughly 25 minutes per game together across 42 of a possible 43 games.
The Grizzlies have won those minutes by around 5 points per 100 possessions, but that hasn’t been enough to compensate for the minutes those two don’t play. Memphis barely wins the minutes with Conley and Gasol individually, and gets crushed when they’re not on the floor.
In this Western Conference that only contains one other truly bad team, tanking would be easy. The Grizzlies have a young core to build around in Brooks and Jaren Jackson Jr., and adding another high lottery pick wouldn’t hurt either. The tricky thing is figuring out the pick that Memphis owes Boston.
That pick is top 8 protected this year, top 6 protected in 2020, and unprotected in 2021. The Grizzlies need to ensure they’re at least sort of competitive in 2021. Right now, that seems more likely to happen if Memphis bites the bullet and rebuilds now, quickly, rather than trying to keep this core chugging on for two and a half more seasons.
These decisions are never easy. Rebuilding threatens to lose mid-level teams their fans, as does trading away beloved players. The Memphis Grizzlies need to do something hard to become a contender again though, and if there’s any return out there for Conley and Gasol now would be the time to make those moves. More serious injuries to those two could turn their unwieldy contracts into disasters for Memphis.
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