The Memphis Grizzlies have been known as one of the better mediocre teams in the NBA for the majority of the last decade. Memphis have made the playoffs seven out of the last ten seasons, only reaching the Western Conference Finals once back in 2013.
Memphis’ success has been directly linked to the outstanding play of Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. The recent upheaval of super teams dominating the NBA has led Memphis to quietly stockpile young prospects while still competing for a playoff spot.
General Manager Chris Wallace and the Grizzlies kick-started this new philosophy back in 2016. During the 2016 NBA Draft, Memphis drafted Wade Baldwin and Wang Zhelin with their original draft picks. After projected lottery pick DeYonta Davis fell all the way to the second round, Wallace decided to pull the trigger on a trade that sent the Boston Celtics a top-eight-protected, 2019 first round pick, while receiving the 31st and 35th picks in the 2016 NBA Draft. With these newly acquired picks, Memphis selected the aforementioned DeYonta Davis and then recently signed Rade Zagorac.
— Memphis Grizzlies (@memgrizz) July 17, 2017
These prospects were obviously not ready to contribute right away. Because of this, Memphis decided to sign forward, Chandler Parsons to a maximum contract worth 94 million dollars over the span of four years. As we now know, Parsons’ contract has since become among the worst in the league after his devastating injury luck.
On top of this, Memphis was headed into a loaded 2017 Draft without any picks. Much like the previous draft, they traded for more draft picks. Wallace shipped off a future second-round pick to Orlando to select Ivan Rabb, whom many believed was a top-20 prospect with the 35th pick. He also traded a future second-round pick to Houston in exchange for the 45th pick, which they used to draft Oregon swingman, Dillon Brooks.
— Memphis Grizzlies (@memgrizz) June 23, 2017
Following the draft, they then signed the former five-star recruit Kobi Simmons to a two-way contract. Other notable prospects on the Grizzlies’ roster include Wayne Selden Jr, Andrew Harrison, Jarell Martin, and the newly acquired, Ben McLemore. The Grizzlies also own their 2018 first-round draft pick, meaning if they miss the playoffs like many fans anticipate, they would only add another lottery talent to their core.
As rumors continue to brew, there has been speculation that the Boston Celtics could attempt to acquire Gasol in order to make a run at sealing a championship. A trade surrounding Gasol for Memphis’ original pick along with another pick or prospect could be enough for Memphis to officially start their rebuild. Thus, solidifying themselves as one of the best young cores in the NBA.
The Grizzlies would likely not be able to move Conley due to his lucrative, lengthy contract. Keeping Mike Conley eliminates Memphis from fully embracing the tanking approach, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A lot of the time, changing losing habits to winning habits can take years, even with a talented team.
With the surplus of young talent held by Memphis, their future looks very promising. The young guns will get a chance to grow together and get a feel for what their roles will be moving forward. Memphis fans have nothing to worry about, Chris Wallace has quietly put together one of the youngest teams while still staying competitive.