With Monday’s loss to the Spurs, the Grizzlies season has come to a close. It was by far the best season in franchise history: a record 56 wins, playoff series wins over the Clippers and Thunder, and a trip to the Western Conference finals. Now the question is “Where do we go from here?” Here is a look at some of the biggest storylines for the coming offseason.
The Future of Lionel Hollins
It has been my contention all year that the new ownership group decided to give Lionel Hollins enough rope to hang himself or pull himself to safety. Not only has he saved himself but he took that rope and woven a stylish hemp belt. He drives me absolutely insane at times. His substitution patterns and steadfast refusal to give younger players minutes, and his “veteran” point guard obsession send me in to fits of rage. His sour attitude with the media and even some of his players (more on that coming up) sometimes move past “surly taskmaster” into “fucking asshole” range. But it is hard to argue with results. Hollins has more than earned his extension and some other teams (Brooklyn, Milwaukee, and the Clippers) are about to come knocking. But, according to reports, the front office is working hard to lock Lionel up before his contract expires on June 30th.
(Sidenote: If something does happen and Hollins jumps ship, put me firmly in the “Hire lead assistant Dave Joerger” camp)
Resigning Tony Allen
If the coaching situation is priority 1A for the front office, then resigning Tony Allen should be 1B. You know what you’re going to get from Tony every night: tough defense, a few bonehead plays, and 100% balls-to-the-wall” intensity. No one goes harder. This intensity can probably be blamed for his offensive issues. Sometimes he just tries to do too much. However, with a guy like TA, you can sacrifice a few lost possessions on offense for the opportunities he generates because of his defense. He is arguably the best perimeter defender in the league… one of a few guys you can throw on Chris Paul or Kevin Durant and have a legitimate chance of slowing them down. Plus he’s the heart and soul of this team.
Like with Lionel, Tony is going to have his suitors. Lock-down defenders are a prized commodity in the league right now. The Grizzlies must and most likely will lock him him up quickly. Take it from the man himself: “All I know is I'm a Grizzly and I believe I'm going to be a Grizzly when it's over with.”
Finding Some Outside Shooting
Something that has been plaguing the Grizzlies for years… Things improved slightly with the signing of Jerryd Bayless (35% from 3), the emergence of Quincy Pondexter as a threat from the corner (39.5% from 3, 45% in the playoffs), and Mike Conley taking more shots (36% but taking over 3 a game now) but not nearly enough. This issues from outside were magnified greatly in the Spurs series as they clogged the paint and dared Memphis to beat them from outside. Shots just didn’t fall. Tayshaun Prince was supposed to bring some help. He did finish 40% from outside for the season but shot barely one a game and looked absolutely petrified of the shot in the playoffs. They must find more production from the outside. The ideal signing would be someone like Kyle Korver, Dorell Wright, or Anthony Morrow but it remains to be seen if the team will have enough cap flexibility after resigning Allen to make a run at a player of that caliber. Players such as Alan Anderson, Matt Barnes (puke), or the oft-injured Chase Budinger could be more affordable options.
The Youth Movement
The organization must find out what they can get from Ed Davis and Tony Wroten. Davis, the centerpiece of the Rudy Gay trade, saw a decreased role after his move from Toronto and basically found himself out of the rotation in the playoffs. When he did play, especially early in the Clippers series, he looked overwhelmed by the moment. Despite these troubles, Davis has shown he can be a solid contributer. He was averaging 10 points and 7 rebounds in 24 minutes a game in Toronto, getting time at both the 4 and the 5 spot. With a full offseason to learn the Grizzlies system and earn Hollins trust, Davis should be a major part of the rotation next season.
Tony Wroten was another victim of Lionel Hollins’ rookie destruction machine. Instead of being allowed to play, adapt to the league, and get prepared for the playoffs, Wroten spent most of the season flying back and forth between Reno and the end of the bench. When he was allowed to play, he showed flashes of brilliant court vision and great ability to get to the rim (finishing once he got there is another matter). His defense needs some work and his jump shot is a work in progress (translation: terrible) but there is no doubt in my mine he can be a player in this league. Hopefully Lionel will let him play a little more now that he’s not a rookie.
Austin Daye (due a $4.1 million qualifying offer) and Jon Leuer (due a $1.1 qualifying offer) most likely aren’t in the franchise’s long-term plans. Goodnight, Sweet Whitesnake.
Oh, after shipping out Josh Selby, Wroten is the only player on the team drafted by the Grizzlies since 2008.
The Jerryd Bayless Undercurrent
Jerryd Bayless is the kind of player this organization has been looking for quite a while. He was able to come off the bench and provide and offensive spark; he was able to competently (for the most part) backup Mike Conley at point guard; and, when paired in the backcourt with Conley, was able to let Mike work off the ball. But Bayless has never really meshed fully with Coach Hollins. Earlier in the season, Bayless hit a game winning shot to beat Cleveland but was criticized harshly by Hollins for running the wrong direction on the play. It all culminated in the final minutes of Game 4 when Hollins was caught on national television shoving Bayless to the bench (remember that “fucking asshole” mood I mentioned earlier?).
Bayless was back in the game at the next timeout but the point remains: the relationship between the two is contentious at best. Bayless has a $2.9 million player option for next season but does he want to play another season for Lionel Hollins? In yesterday’s end of the year meeting with the media, he did say "I want to be somewhere I'm happy and I'm happy in Memphis” so maybe I’m making something out of nothing. We’ll see.
What to Do at the 3…
Tayshaun Prince did a few things quite well since coming over in the Rudy Gay trade. He fit right in with the team’s defensive philosophy. He drilled one of the biggest shots of the playoff run, the dagger 3 in Game 5 against the Clippers. During the Thunder series, he chased Kevin Durant around for 3 quarters every night, made him work for nearly every basket, and eventually wore him down. But in the Spurs series, he totally disappeared. Prince has never been a volume shooter or scorer but his averages decreased with each series from 8.5 and 40.4 percent against the Clippers; to 6.2 and 29.5 percent against the Thunder; to 5.8 and 36 percent. At times he looked absolutely petrified to shoot, especially the corner 3. On the other hand, Quincy Pondexter broke out big time against the Spurs, averaging 15.3 points and shot 48% from 3. For a team desperately in need of perimeter scoring, Pondexter showed he is more than capable of knocking down shots. His role was already going to be expanded next season but the Grizzlies should seriously consider giving him the starting spot.
The Grizzly in the Room
I don’t want to write about this. I don’t like thinking about it. I’m going to have to take a shower because I feel dirty. But smart organizations have to seriously look out for the long-term future of the franchise and not just right now.
Is it time for the Grizzlies to trade Zach Randolph? He will be 32 at the start of next season, he’s got $34 million remaining on his contract over the next two years, and his scoring numbers saw a drastic dip this season. Is this the start of a massive decline? Several teams showed interest in Randolph before the trade deadline. He’s a piece that could bring in a multiple rotation players and the shooters the team desperately needs.
All that being said, when he’s locked in, Z-Bo is still a force. After the first two games against the Clippers, he pulled off a scoring-rebounding stretch of 27-11, 24-9, 25-11, 23-5, 18-10, 15-8, 8-10, 28-14, and 23-12 until the Spurs game-planned him onto the golf course. Watching Deandre Jordan, Blake Griffin, Serge Ibaka, or Kendrick Perkins try to guard him was like watching an adult play against a child. He just mauled them.
My view on Zach is he’s hit the point of his career Kevin Garnett had been at in Boston where he gets through the regular season and saves another gear for the playoffs.
So while trading Randolph must be at least considered, it’s not time to make that move just yet.