Memphis Grizzlies: 5 Issues for the Grizz to Address This Offseason
The Memphis Grizzlies made huge strides this season. A franchise that was previously 0-12 in three playoffs series and hadn't been back since 2006 not only won its first playoff game, but the No. 8 Grizz knocked off the No. 1 San Antonio Spurs then took the No. 4 Oklahoma City Thunder to the brink in the second round.
The Grizz still showed some signs of inconsistency, i.e. losing at Cleveland, Charlotte and at Sacramento after blowing a huge lead in the fourth. And losing at home and away to the New Jersey Nets before they had Deron Williams is inexcusable, but coach Lionel Hollins made sure his charges made up for it in the playoffs.
One thing the Grizzlies really don't have to worry about this offseason is the draft. The Grizzlies have just one pick, No. 49, in the first two rounds. And that's a good thing because the Grizz haven't been the best drafters (but Hasheem Thabeet is Houston's problem now, so all is forgotten).
The Grizzlies are a young team with a great coach and have showed that they can be a force in the Western Conference for years to come.
They just have a few tasks to see to this summer...
1. Re-sign Marc Gasol
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Marc Gasol is a restricted free agent this summer and coming out of the playoffs, is one of the hottest centers on the market. He averaged 15 points and 11 rebounds per game during the playoffs and his inside presence got better with each game.
Plenty of smaller teams or aging teams would love to have Gasol, but Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley said re-signing him was very likely. In truth, it should also be relatively easy.
Why? Because Marc loves Memphis. He's been here since high school when his brother Pau was drafted by the Grizz in their first season in Memphis and Marc was even offered a scholarship to play at the University of Memphis but decided to go to Spain instead.
His parents still live here as well. His younger brother goes to the same high school Marc graduated from and his mother volunteers with St. Jude.
When Pau left Memphis (in the trade that gave Marc's draft rights to Memphis), it was because he and the club weren't going anywhere. That's just not the case anymore. Memphis is definitely on the up, and Lionel Hollins plays to Marc's strengths.
Gasol wants to stay in Memphis and given the contracts Heisley handed out to Mike Conley, Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph earlier this season, Gasol shouldn't have to accept less to stick around. He'll be in Memphis for a long time.
2. Keep Shane Battier, If There Are No Big Offers
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Shane Battier was originally drafted by Memphis in 2001 and was with the team when it won 50 games under Hubie Brown in 2003-04 and for all three playoff sweeps. He went to Houston in 2006 with Houston's No. 8 pick that year, Rudy Gay, coming the other way and did relatively well for himself.
This past February, Memphis somehow tricked Houston into taking Hasheem Thabeet (and a first-round pick, but whatever you can do to get rid of Thabeet) in exchange for Battier. Memphis was delighted to have the former Duke standout back.
He provided some playoff experience and much-needed maturity to a very young lineup, and he filled his defensive role off the bench very well. He also scored the game-winning three-pointer in Game 1 in San Antonio to give the Grizz their first-ever playoff victory. Quite poetic.
Plenty of teams would love to have Battier, an unrestricted free agent, for the same reasons Memphis wanted him back. But like Gasol, Memphis is Battier's first choice, meaning he wouldn't shake down Michael Heisley for a ridiculous contract.
When the season ended, Battier said he likes Memphis and would like to stay. Given his age and the fact that his shot has abandoned him for the most part, he's not the priority, so if a desperate team comes up with a ridiculous offer (like the one Houston made in the first place five years ago), the Grizz shouldn't be afraid to cash in.
He's a fan favorite who everyone would love to see again next season, but we can't be too nostalgic here.
3. Shop Around OJ Mayo
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If the Grizzlies are looking to trade someone, OJ Mayo is the guy. He almost went to Indiana in February, but the deal fell through at the last second. Memphis didn't mind though because he performed well enough in the playoffs.
Mayo came to Memphis through a trade on draft day in 2008 that sent the Grizzlies' No. 5 pick Kevin Love to Minnesota, and Mayo will be a restricted free agent next summer.
He's a quick shooting guard, but too often his shot just abandons him and he can fall behind on defense because he gambles on the steal. He can frequently miss easy layups because he tries to make them too difficult, but toward the end of Memphis' playoff run, he started hitting the outside shot with more consistency.
If Memphis kept him, no one would be disappointed because he's adapted quite well to coming off the bench and Memphis will have Rudy Gay (more in a minute) and Xavier Henry coming back from injury to take care of a lot of the outside scoring.
Because he's only 23, Mayo is likely to garner much more trade attention than Battier and would therefore get Memphis more in return.
If Memphis wants a first-round pick next month, trading OJ Mayo is the way to go. But how badly does Memphis really want a first-round pick in this year's draft? Mayo is definitely a player to shop around a bit, but if no one is making any serious offers, bring him back and make sure his ego isn't too bruised.
4. Get Rudy Gay Back in the Swing of Things
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Before he dislocated his shoulder in February, Rudy Gay was averaging 20 points per game from the outside and Zach Randolph was equaling that and pulling down all the rebounds in the paint. When Gay went down for the season, few people thought Memphis would be able to stay in the playoff hunt, let alone beat the No. 1 San Antonio Spurs.
But Lionel Hollins changed his offense to go through his big man inside, and it worked so well that many people think Gay is liable to be traded this summer.
Truth is, though, if Gay had been healthy, the Grizzlies could've gotten a higher seed (though no one is complaining about that) and could've even swept the Spurs. Neither of the Spurs wins were by a large amount and both were in large part due to clutch, outside shooting from the likes of Manu Ginobili and Gary Neal.
Because of Randolph and Marc Gasol dominating the paint and the Grizzlies' youthful quickness tiring out the older Spurs, Gay wasn't too missed, but he was extremely missed against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Grizzlies just didn't have a consistent outside shooter to match Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Owner Michael Heisley has said they will not trade Gay, who signed a five-year contract worth $82 million last summer—and they have no reason to. He's a very valuable commodity to the Grizz, and he's better than anyone they could get in the draft this year.
He's coming off a tough injury and the Grizzlies will have to make sure he rehabs well and doesn't rush himself because they need his shooting to continue their assault of the Western Conference.
5. Keep Up with the Memphis Tigers
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Memphis has long been a basketball city. The only thing is that it's usually been the Memphis Tigers that get all the attention. Each of the Grizzlies' postseason games sold out quicker than the one before, but the Tigers sell out every one of their regular-season games pretty much the day they go on sale.
The Grizzlies are catching up though. Season ticket sales have shot up for next season, and everyone in Memphis is loving the Grizz right now. They need to keep it like that.
With their youth and Lionel Hollins at the helm, the Grizzlies can become a powerhouse in the Western Conference, but they can't slow down now. The losses against teams like the Cavaliers and Nets, at home or away, have to end, and they have to keep up the wins at FedExForum. The Grizz were 30-11 at home in the regular season and 5-1 in the playoffs last season.
The Grizzlies really don't need to make many changes this offseason. They obviously need a solid outside shooter and for someone—anyone—to just knock down a three-point shot every once in a while but overall, the team is set.
Everyone in Memphis believes in the Grizzlies right now and can't wait for next season, and there's no reason to think the Grizz won't just get better.