30 Teams In 30 Days: Memphis Grizzlies

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30 Teams In 30 Days: Memphis Grizzlies

2007-2008 In Review

Record: 22-60
Western Conference Seed:
14

 

Summer Of 2008

Key Additions

O.J. Mayo (via draft), Darrell Arthur (via draft), Marc Gasol (via trade), Marko Jaric (via trade), Antoine Walker (via trade), Greg Buckner (via trade), Quinton Ross (via free agency), Hamed Haddadi (via free agency).

 

Key Losses

Mike Miller (via trade), Juan Carlos Navarro (via free agency – left for Europe), Kwame Brown (via free agency), Jason Collins (via trade), Casey Jacobsen (via free agency – left for Europe), Brian Cardinal (via trade).

 

As a long-time Celtics fan, I’ve felt it very difficult to praise the decision making skills of Chris Wallace. Not because I have it in for him, but because he simply makes himself so hard to side with.

However, I’ve got nothing but applause and a pat on the back for the trade he pulled off abruptly following the 2008 NBA Draft: Mike Miller, Jason Collins, Brian Cardinal, and the draft rights to Kevin Love (5th overall) to Minnesota in exchange for Antoine Walker (expiring contract), Marko Jaric, Greg Buckner, and the draft rights to O.J. Mayo (3rd overall).

Now, let me make it clear that I believe in Kevin Love. I think that the old school UCLA product is going to make a terrific pro for a long time, and produce in multiple areas on the court. With that said, I don’t a future star in him.

I do, however, see nothing but stardom in O.J. Mayo’s NBA future. He’s got the athletic ability, the silky jump shot, the defensive intensity, the ball skills of a point guard, a natural scorer’s mentality, the mental toughness, the composure, and most of all, the drive.

No, not his ability to drive to the basket, but the drive to become a great basketball player.

Would Love have filled a bigger hole at the four-spot than Mayo at the two? Sure, but when you’re a rebuilding team like Memphis, you don’t fill holes first and bring in talent later. You build your foundation early on with as much young talent as possible, and then fill your gaps when the team is ready to take it to the next level.

That’s exactly what Chris Wallace is doing, and as awkward as it is for a die-hard Celtics fan to give him credit, I tip my hat to him.

Another positive aspect of Memphis’ offseason was the addition of two promising young big men, Darrell Arthur and Marc Gasol. Arthur, recently touted as a late lottery selection, ended up slipping all the way down to the late first round on account of false (according to Arthur’s camp) health reports regarding his kidneys.

New Orleans snatched him up at 27th overall, then ended up landing in Memphis after having his rights dealt three times in a matter of hours.

Regardless of his abysmal draft experience, the former Kansas Jayhawk is prepared to make multiple NBA executives pay for allowing him to drop in the draft. All rookie camp incidents aside, Arthur’s length, beautiful shooting touch, and respectable defensive activity give him all of the tools to become the latest “I told you so” NBA Draft story.

Marc Gasol may very well turn out to be a big time steal, as well. Ironically enough, the brother of Pau was involved in the package that pulled off the shocking blockbuster deal with the Lakers this past season, which sent the better of the two to Los Angeles.

However, despite Pau’s superiority on the basketball court, Marc has advantages on the defensive end in particular, that may make him a valuable asset to Memphis for a long time. The rumor out of Grizzlies training camp is that the 2007 second round draft pick has surprised in camp, and may even cut into Darko Milicic’s playing time in ‘09.

Mike Miller and Juan Carlos Navarro (who joined the popular act of leaving the NBA for Europe) will be missed, but the Grizzlies absolutely put together a terrific overall offseason and have set themselves up beautifully for the future.

It will undoubtedly take time to mesh, but I can assure you this: all 48 Grizzlies fans finally have something to cheer about again.

 

Depth Chart

C: Darko Milicic / Marc Gasol / Hamed Haddadi
PF: Hakim Warrick / Darrell Arthur / Andre Brown
SF: Rudy Gay / Antoine Walker
SG: O.J. Mayo / Mayo Jaric / Quinton Ross / Greg Buckner
PG: Mike Conley / Kyle Lowry / Javaris Crittenton

 

Biggest Strength

Athleticism

From Rudy Gay to O.J. Mayo, Mike Conley to Kyle Lowry, Hakim Warrick to Javaris Crittenton, and so on, the Grizz have one of the most athletic young groups in the league. They can do damage out in the open floor, and Marc Iavaroni’s up-tempo style complements those physical advantages to the fullest.

 

Biggest Weakness

Interior Presence

Rookie Marc Gasol looks to be a promising center on both ends of the floor, but all in all, Memphis is in dire need of a post presence. The athleticism of guys like Warrick and Darrell Arthur, as well as the length of Darko Milicic, allow them to make plays on the defensive end, but nobody is going to hold their ground against the elite offensive bigs in the league.

On the offensive end from Memphis’ point of view, there is nobody to dump the ball down to on the blocks and expect production from.

In order to take the next step, once the core of this team matures, the interior vacancy is going to have to be filled.

 

X-Factor

Mike Conley

If Mike Conley can bounce back from his injury plagued and slightly disappointing rookie campaign, and put together a more tasteful sophomore season, the Grizzlies will be in good shape moving forward. With terrific wing scorers in Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo at the helm, all that is needed is a stable floor general to orchestrate an efficient offense.

Those were the expectations of Conley when Memphis selected him fourth overall in last year’s draft, and at just 20 years of age, he’s got all the potential in the world to become one of the league’s best point guards within the next few years. Let’s hope the long-time friend of Greg Oden can take a big step forward in 2009.

 

What to Expect In 2008-2009

As far as upside is concerned, the Grizzlies are one of the most promising young clubs in the league. However, with youth comes mistakes and growing pains. Expect a lot of excitement at the FedEx Forum this coming season, but don’t expect many wins for another couple years.

2008-2009 Predictions
23-59
5th in Southwest Division
14th in Western Conference

Tomorrow: Miami Heat

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