Biggest Offseason Priorities and Targets for Memphis Grizzlies

Josh Martin@@JoshMartinNBANBA Lead WriterApril 28, 2017

Biggest Offseason Priorities and Targets for Memphis Grizzlies

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    Brandon Dill/Associated Press

    It wasn't another M.A.S.H. unit sweep at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs, but for the Memphis Grizzlies, two first-round wins won't likely feel much better this year than none did in 2016. Either way, the Grizzlies are out of the NBA playoffs early again, facing another long offseason full of critical decisions.

    Mike Conley Jr. will be back, after putting together a career year from the opening tip of the regular season to the final buzzer of Memphis' short postseason push. So will Marc Gasol, who had a brilliant campaign of his own after missing 30 games with a foot injury in 2015-16. David Fizdale, in his first year as a head coach at any level, established not only his own bona fides, but also an organizational culture and style of play that fit beautifully with the Grizzlies' Grit-N-Grind while pushing the franchise into the future.

    Those three comprise the foundation. The rest could be in flux this summer. Here's a look at what comes next in Memphis.

Gutcheck Time for Grit-N-Grind

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    It's no coincidence that the Grizzlies' seven-year playoff streak—a franchise record—began when Tony Allen came to town. He and Zach Randolph, who was traded to Memphis a year prior in 2009, have combined to comprise the heart and soul of the team's long-time Grit-N-Grind identity.

    Both of those grizzled veterans will be free agents this summer. It's possible that either (or both) doesn't return.

    Between the two, Z-Bo is probably the safer bet to come back. He settled in as an effective sixth man during the regular season (14.1 points, 8.2 assists) and readily stepped back into a starting role during the playoffs for head coach David Fizdale.

    Randolph turns 36 in July, but he should have plenty of shelf life left. He's never been reliant on speed or athleticism, and his comfort in a reserve role will allow Memphis to manage his minutes as needed.

    Allen, on the other hand, may be a more difficult sell, pending the price tag. He's still plenty effective as a perimeter defender, especially for a 35-year-old, but for how long can he retain his value on that end when—not if—his body breaks down?

    A right leg injury kept him out of this year's postseason, and if Allen's body won't hold up, he may have a tough time remaining relevant in the league on account of his perpetually poor perimeter shooting (27.8 percent from three this season, 28.0 percent for his career).

    Allen and Randolph are both capable of filling critical roles on and off the court for the Grizzlies going forward, but at what cost to a cap-crunched club?

The End of Vinsanity?

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    Brandon Dill/Associated Press

    Like Z-Bo, Vince Carter enjoyed a minor renaissance in this year's playoffs. He replaced Allen as one of Memphis' starting wings for the entirety of the series and came up with four double-digit scoring efforts while averaging more than 32 minutes a night.

    Whether he can keep this going into his 40s, and whether he would want to do so in the River City, is another story. According to The Vertical's Michael Lee, Vinsanity has his sights set on playing a 20th season in 2017-18 and, perhaps, beyond that.

    "I'm still standing," Carter told Lee. "I'm still competing, playing at this level, doing what I need to do to still be here. I still have a burning desire to compete and be around."

    But would the Grizzlies, who paid him upwards of $4 million for this season, want to spend a similar slice of their shrinking cap space on the NBA's oldest player? Or would it make more sense for a squad that's trying to skew younger to save what little scratch it has for fresher legs on the perimeter?

Bring Back JaMychal Green

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Chief among Memphis' youth movement is JaMychal Green.

    Not that Green, at 26, is all that young by the standards of today's NBA, which is flooded with teenagers year after year.

    But the third-year forward is approaching his athletic prime, and he proved this season that he can be an effective fit for the Grizzlies' evolution of Grit-N-Grind on both ends. He shot 38.2 percent from three while logging 75 starts during the regular season, and he hit 7-of-16 (43.8 percent) from beyond the arc in the playoffs, albeit while ceding his starting spot to Randolph.

    Memphis' ownership may have to dig deep into its pockets to keep Green. Two-way stretch 4s of his caliber don't exactly grow on trees, so he should have no shortage of suitors ready to spend when he hits free agency this summer.

    The good news for the Grizzlies: He'll be restricted, so Memphis will have the right to match any offer that comes Green's way in July. How the team handles his situation will say plenty about their long-term priorities, both stylistically and financially.

Seek out Shooters

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    Brandon Dill/Associated Press

    The Grizzlies covered tons of ground this season in their ongoing quest to catch up to the modern NBA. They went from regularly ranking as one of the league's five worst and most reluctant long-range shooting teams to finishing 15th in three-point makes (9.4), 14th in attempts (26.5) and 17th in accuracy (35.4 percent).

    Marc Gasol's emergence as a deep threat (38.8 percent on 3.6 attempts) played a part in that climb. So did Mike Conley's career highs in makes (2.5), attempts (6.1) and percentage (40.7 percent).

    But going from good to great in that department will require more than growth from within, be it courtesy of the team's cornerstones or newer role players like Troy Daniels, James Ennis and Green. Finding more shooters in free agency would help to extend that rocket ride up the ranks.

    And there will be some mid-market marksmen available, from Ersan Ilyasova and Kyle Korver to Bojan Bogdanovic and Joe Ingles.

    Trouble is, Memphis might not have enough financial flexibility to truly pursue options of even that caliber. Instead, the onus will likely be on general manager Chris Wallace and his front-office staff to unearth more gems through less obvious means, just as they have to date.

A Healthy Knee for Chandler Parsons

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    Brandon Dill/Associated Press

    The Grizzlies might not have to search so far and wide for wing help if Chandler Parsons finally gets healthy. The 28-year-old averaged 6.2 points on 33.8 percent shooting (26.9 percent from three) in 19.9 minutes across 34 appearances before undergoing yet another procedure on his troublesome left knee.

    The hope in Memphis was that Parsons would be part of a bridge to the team's next era, albeit one still built around Conley and Gasol. Not since Rudy Gay was last a Grizzly had the squad employed a dynamic wing who could shoot, score and make plays for others off the bounce.

    Unfortunately for all involved, Parsons wasn't able to prove his value in those aspects of the game. The Grizzlies certainly hope (and maybe expect) that he will at some point before his four-year, $94 million deal expires.

    The sooner Parsons gets his knee—and the rest of his body—in shape, the better able Memphis will be to not only push the West's best, but actually compete with them on a more level playing field during deep playoff runs.

    All stats via NBA.com and Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted. 

    Josh Martin covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on TwitterInstagram and Facebook, and listen to his Hollywood Hoops podcast with B/R Lakers lead writer Eric Pincus.

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