I already kind of started this post when I discussed the Allen Iverson signing. Before I delve into what the Grizzlies are going to look like with AI in the fold, let’s have a look at how they fared last season.
Here are the numbers: 28 wins, 54 losses. 28th in offense. 21st in defense. 30th in attendance.
Not pretty, that. This team struggled mightily under both Marc Iavaroni and Lionel Hollins. Still, there were some positives – rookies O.J. Mayo and Marc Gasol (and to a lesser extent, Darrell Arthur and Hamed Haddadi) were impressive. You had to figure that if their young guys improving, they took advantage of their #2 pick in the draft and used their cap flexibility intelligently, they’d be able to win a few more games in 2009-2010.
Well, they didn’t use their draft pick or their cap flexibility wisely. I haven’t the slightest clue how this team is supposed to function next season. With the #2 pick in the draft, they selected 7’3 Hasheem Thabeet even though they already had a very capable starting center in Marc Gasol. With their cap flexibility, they acquired two volume scorers in Zach Randolph (because his contract is shorter than David Lee’s or Paul Millsap’s would be) and Allen Iverson (because he would accept a one-year deal worth $3.5 million and, presumably, sell some jerseys).
Thabeet performed so badly in the Las Vegas summer league that some would say he won’t even be Memphis’s best rookie this season, with DeMarre Carroll and Sam Young on the roster. The man failed to establish position inside, failed to score efficiently even at close range, and had more fouls than rebounds. Hamed Haddadi, the stat-geek darling who put up great per-minute numbers in very limited time last season, looked much more impressive. To say Grizzlies fans are worried about their #2 pick would be an understatement bigger than Thabeet’s wingspan.
The addition of Randolph and Iverson (along with the departure of Hakim Warrick) makes the Grizzlies a much different team than they were last season. Last year, they were better on the defensive end than on the offensive end. You know that Z-Bo and AI aren’t going to get stops next season, so expect the team’s defensive efficiency to slip down a bit. You also know that these guys need the ball in their hands on offense to be effective. This is a big problem – last season, as much as the Grizz sucked, you knew that O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay were going to be their main scorers. You also knew, by the end of the season at least, that Marc Gasol deserved to get some touches in the post. Lionel Hollins is going to have to work some magic if he intends to keep all of these scorers happy in the locker room.
It would seem that the Grizzlies’ management has overlooked chemacterility when making their decisions this off-season. This team has added players whose skill-sets don’t match its specific needs. I’m looking forward to using this team in NBA 2K10, but if I was Lionel Hollins I wouldn’t be looking forward to managing playing time and assigning roles. I can’t blame GM Chris Wallace too much for this, as owner Michael Heisley is the one really calling the shots in Memphis. In any event, if you’re a Grizzlies fan, you’re looking at a roster that doesn’t make much sense. Like the Warriors, they have a ton of scorers and only one real distributor (Mike Conley). They don’t have the personnel to be a quality defensive team and they are going to have to make some major decisions about what kind of offensive sets to run. You can draw some pretty good parallels here to the Isiah Thomas-era Knicks, and Memphis fans will be lucky if this team pulls together and manages to be more successful than those ones were.