Believe it or not, the second-longest playoff streak in the western conference belongs to the Memphis Grizzlies. For the past seven years, the Grizzlies have been in the postseason and created the identity of “Grit and Grind.” This year two key players of that era left in free agency in Zach Randolph and Tony Allen. This year the Grizzlies were planning on relying on their two stars in Marc Gasol and Mike Conley and a gang of reclamation projects. Memphis had an excellent start going 7-4 with wins over the Warriors and the Rockets twice.
Then Mike Conley got hurt with an Achilles, and things have gone off the rails. It got so bad that Memphis fired head coach David Fizdale due to losing and reported tension with Marc Gasol. Memphis ownership sided with Gasol, but was it the right move? Now, the Grizzlies are 8-19 and have lost nine of their past ten games. This losing streak will make Memphis’s front office answer some tough questions. Do they trade one of their two stars or both? Which reclamation projects do they keep around?
Which young player is worth keeping around to develop? Are they going to keep J.B Bickerstaff as the long-term coach? When you’re asking these questions things aren’t going well. Remember Memphis does have its pick and two second-round pick in this years draft, but they give up their 2019 first round pick to Boston. So is tanking the right move to make sure they get the best possible pick this year? Let’s investigate.
Marc Gasol and Mike Conley
Let’s break these questions one at a time. Mike Conley is likely out another week with his Achilles injury. He is 30 years old, in his tenth season and has four years remaining on his mega-deal, which sees him getting $28 million this season alone. Conley is an excellent player when healthy, long underrated, he is an all-star point guard. However, he is getting older, injuries have become a problem recently, and he is very expensive. Trading him is tough with the injury and his contract, but other contenders will be interested. Memphis is not going to the playoffs this season. They need to move on from Conley and Gasol. The question for them is how do they get the best deal possible for them. Here are two trades for Conley that make sense for the Grizzlies.
Memphis Gets-Ricky Rubio, Jabari Parker, Dante Exum
Utah Gets- Mike Conley, Matthew Dellavodova
Milwaukee Gets- Derrick Favors, James Ennis
In this trade, Memphis gets a first-round talent in Jabari Parker, who will be coming back from injury this season. Parker is a legitimate 20 point scorer, who can play the 3 or the 4 and give the Grizzlies some much-needed offense. Memphis is 26th in offense. They also get Ricky Rubio from Utah. Rubio has not fit in with Utah and could use a different system. He is still a solid starting point guard in this league. Then they get Dante Exum, who will miss all of this season, but he is a young point guard worth investing him. It’s a good way for Memphis to get younger, while also adding a steady veteran in Rubio.
Utah would do it to get Conley and become a legitimate contender this season. Milwaukee would get help up front with Favors and some excellent wing depth in Ennis.
The second trade Memphis should consider is this.
Memphis Gets- Kenneth Faired, Wilson Chandler, Emmanuel Mudiay, Malik Beasley and a 1st round pick.
Denver gets- Mike Conley, James Ennis
In this trade, Memphis would get two young prospects worth developing in Mudiay and Beasley, plus a first-round pick. They also get Faried, who is still relatively young and Wilson Chandler who is always a reliable wing. Denver would get Conley to address their biggest weakness and another wing in Ennis.
The first trade sees them get a great young player in Parker; the second gets them a first-round pick. Both have risks, but Memphis should look into both.
As for Gasol, he should be traded as well. Gasol can still play, but he is getting older at 32 and has three years left on his deal at $22million a year. Memphis said they don’t plan on trading Gasol, but it would be the best thing for the franchise. Here are two trades for them to consider.
Memphis Gets- Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert, Cavs first round pick
Cleveland Gets- Marc Gasol
Cleveland goes all in on trying to get LeBron another ring before Lebron maybe leaves Cleveland. Memphis would get a first-round pick, a solid starting center in Thompson and a solid reserve wing in Shumpert. Here is the other trade.
Memphis Gets- Jabari Parker, Thon Maker, Matthew Dellavedova, 2nd round pick.
Milwaukee Gets- Marc Gasol.
This trade again sees Memphis getting Parker, plus an intriguing big in Thon Maker and a solid backup point guard in Delly plus a 2nd round pick.
Let’s say Memphis makes the first trade in both scenarios. So they trade Conley to Utah and Gasol to Cleveland. Here is what their new 15 man depth chart would like. Other moves including send guys like Jarell Martin to the G-League need to happen.
Pg- Ricky Rubio
Sg- Ben Mclemore
Sf- Dillon Brooks
Pf- Jabari Parker
C- Tristan Thompson
Pg- Tyreke Evans, Mario Chalmers, Dante Exum
Sg- Andrew Harrison, Wayne Selden
Sf-Chandler Parsons, Iman Shumpert
C-Deyonta Davis, Brandon Wright
However, this roster plus a first-round pick makes things look a little brighter. Parker, if he can stay healthy, is a building block. Plus they can invest more time in guys like Davis, Selden, and Brooks. They also have only one bad contract now in Chandler Parsons. We will get to him later. The next challenge is which reclamation players deserve to stay.
This group included Tyreke Evans, Mario Chalmers, and Ben Mclemore.
Evans had a sizzling start to the season but has cooled off a bit since. He is still playing great basketball and has seemed to have found a home in Memphis. Evans is only on a one year deal, but Memphis should look to resign him to a short friendly deal. He is still just 28, is a team player, who can play multiple positions and is willing to come off the bench. Those guys are always valuable.
Chalmers, however, should be released after the season. He is on a one year deal, he is 31 years old and is not playing well this season. Chalmers does not fit Memphis’s rebuilding plan and should be let go.
Finally, there is Ben Mclemore. I have never been high on Mclemore, but he is still only 24 and is on a two-year deal. He has not played well this season and has very little trade value. Memphis likely needs to run out the clock on him and hope they can at least make a decent bench player out of him.
Then there is the group of JaMychal Green, Brandon Wright, Chandler Parsons and Andrew Harrison. Green is a borderline starting caliber power forward and just resigned to a four-year deal. He is staying around, and he is solid. Parsons is playing better this year after the injury, but it is unclear if he will ever be 100%. Memphis just needs to hope for the best that he can soon get back to playing all the games. There is no way they are trading his contract. At least he has proven he can be a useful bench player.
Harrison is an intriguing young wing. He can defend, but stinks on offense, but is getting better. Harrison is on a friendly deal and worth keeping around. He has future as a rotation wing. Finally Brandan Wright. Wright is 30 and still a solid back up, but he is in the last year of his deal. He needs to go at the end of the season. That will open up more room more young big Deyonta Davis. Who buy the way is good and very intriguing.
That wraps up the roster. These are tough decisions to make, but necessary ones for the Grizzlies. The Grit and Grind era is over, and Memphis needs to create a new era. They are short on young assets and draft picks, and the only way out of it is by trading both of their stars. As for J.B Bickerstaff, Memphis needs to use this season to evaluate him and then make a decision. Memphis is 8-19, things are not working, and they need to make changes fast, or they will have a lot more losing season ahead of them. Losing seasons without hope. These trades and roster moves will give them hope and most importantly a fresh start.