After years of Grit-and-Grind Memphis Grizzlies basketball and multiple playoff appearances, that era for the franchise is now over. Marc Gasol, one of Memphis’ pillars for the last 10 years, got traded midway through last season, and Mike Conley, the team’s floor general for more than a decade, got shipped away this summer.
Moving on from that could prove difficult, but a long-term future with promise thanks to some of their most recent draft picks and acquisitions.
So although 2019-20 should be a rough one record-wise for Memphis, the future doesn’t look half-bad, as long as they’re able to develop their youth and patiently continue on with the rebuild process.
STAYING: Kyle Anderson, Dillon Brooks, Bruno Caboclo, Jaren Jackson Jr, Ivan Rabb, Jonas Valanciunas and Yuta Watanabe.
ADDED: Grayson Allen (Utah), Brandon Clarke (Gonzaga), Jae Crowder (Utah), Marko Guduric (Fenerbahce), Solomon Hill (New Orleans), Andre Iguodala (Golden State), Josh Jackson (Phoenix), Tyus Jones (Minnesota), John Konchar (Purdue-Fort Wayne), De’Anthony Melton (Phoenix), Matt Mooney (Texas Tech), Ja Morant (Murray State) and Miles Plumlee (Atlanta).
GONE: Avery Bradley (LA Lakers), Jevon Carter (Phoenix), Mike Conley (Utah), Tyler Dorsey (Maccabi Tel Aviv), Justin Holiday (Indiana), CJ Miles (Washington), Joakim Noah, Chandler Parsons (Atlanta), Julian Washburn, Delon Wright (Dallas) and Tyler Zeller (Denver).
STRENGTHS: They have an extremely impressive young core … Jaren Jackson, Ja Morant and Brandon Clarke all have huge upside … Jackson is the prototypical modern big man who can shoot it, dribble, distribute and protect the paint … Morant is an explosive ball-handler with magnificent passing ability … And Clarke is a bouncy hybrid forward with a smooth outside stroke and ridiculous defensive versatility … If they all pan out, and they’ll get every chance to find their footing this year, they could help form the next great Grizzlies team … They also have other young prospects, like Grayson Allen, Tyus Jones and De’Anthony Melton, who have the chance to become good role players … At small forward, you can do a lot worse than Kyle Anderson and Jae Crowder, the former a playmaking supersized wing with defensive versatility and the latter a veteran 3-and-D wing … Jonas Valanciunas is another good player, a big man capable of filling a multitude of roles and producing in them … Another positive for Memphis is that it’s a starting project in every sense … Front office, coaching staff and most of the players are new to the NBA (at least in their current roles), so the pressure is off; they don’t have anything to lose this season …
WEAKNESSES: They have a roster chock full of upside, but pretty lacking in proven talent outside of a few players … In the loaded Western Conference, that won’t be enough to get close to sniffing the playoffs … Their new head coach, Taylor Jenkins, hired after spending the last two seasons as an assistant with the Milwaukee Bucks, is completely unproven … They were the sixth-worst shooting team last season, and that doesn’t project to get much better in 2019-20 … If anything, it’ll get worse … Their frontcourt depth outside of Jackson and Valanciunas is quite weak, even with Clarke’s upside … Bruno Caboclo and Miles Plumlee will likely get huge minutes … To be fair, their backcourt depth isn’t great either, with Dillon Brooks set to start at the 2 and the still-unproven Allen backing him up, or vice versa … At least Morant and Jones should be a decent 1-2 punch at the lead-guard spot … All in all, the Grizzlies should be a scrappy bunch, but odds are, they’ll be one of the worst teams in the league … This season is all about developing good habits among their young core and letting Morant and Jackson shine.
PREDICTION: 5th in the Southwest Division, 15th in the Western Conference.