This past offseason for the Memphis Grizzlies can best be described as blurry. After a season of tanking, which felt more like an eternity, nobody was quite sure what to expect of this team in the near future. While the return of Mike Conley certainly gave some promise, a shallow level of trust in the Grizzlies front office to make the necessary offseason moves left an uneasy feeling in the stomach of fans. Memphians have been skeptical of general manager Chris Wallace for years now, especially with high draft picks in his hands. One could quickly note the names of Hashem Thabeet and OJ Mayo, amongst many more, and recall the draft night nightmares. Free Agent signings have not been much better either, with the $100 million guaranteed to Chandler Parsons being a more recent sting we can all relate to. These scars led to questioning of every single move made this offseason by the Grizzlies.
It started with the selection of Jaren Jackson Jr. I cannot act as if the Fedex Forum wasn’t half filled with boos upon his selection. Even though the prospect of JJJ sounded nice, nobody wanted to trust Wallace. I can certainly sympathize with the moment because we all wanted the likes of Luka Doncic or Marvin Bagley; after spending a year as the worst team in the league, not getting your biggest desires in the draft sucks. Then an hour passed before the addition of Jevon Carter and suddenly we all left that night with a clear understanding of the message from management- a hunger to get back to GNG defense raved. A bit of the confusion faded, but still a lack of trust in management to properly act on this plan existed. A month later the signings of Casspi, Mack, and Anderson further instilled this focus around defensive-minded and high IQ players. At the time, most were unsure of the possible effect these offseason moves could have in the immediate future.
Nearly a month into the season now, I hope everyone’s questions have been answered. Besides the injured Carter, every single acquisition has already made a significant impact on this basketball team: Jackson quickly emerged as our best draft pick since Conley, Mack looks to be the best backup PG in recent history, and Anderson/ Casspi have made big contributions. The time has come to recognize the strides made by this team’s management. We all spent a few years bashing this Front Office, but their ability to quickly put us back into relevancy proves an accomplish worth noting. Granted nearly all of this team’s success relies on the health of Conley and Gasol, J.B. Bickerstaff has been another sneaky move that will inhibit stable success for this franchise. The reason a lot of these new additions have thrived has been due to Bickerstaff’s ability to properly manage their styles. I really do believe he has the leadership to put us in position for the playoffs. This team will continue to impress as the season unfolds, and we should be very appreciative- sustained relevancy in this league has become a tall task.
A lack of chemistry has shown in sputters early, most clearly during the Suns comeback, but one would figure this patches up as the season progresses. Many of the players on this team have not played significant minutes together, an important aspect in a league filled with such skilled athletes. Jaren Jackson alone has shown the potential to anchor this team for years to come, and we haven’t even seen his offensive ability flourish yet. His prowess on the defensive end to block shots has me drooling during games. He may not possess the same bully style of past Grizzlies, but his defensive play ranks right up there with his predecessors. Jackson centers a foundation this management has created, and I for one believe we are in the right direction.