NBA Season Wrap Up: Memphis Grizzlies
This season will forever be separated into two parts: BRT and ART. Before the Rudy trade and after the Rudy trade. The Grizz got a mixture of praise and criticism for parting with their go-to wing player but now, in retrospect, the move has to be seen as a success.
The BRT Grizzlies were a good team that went 29-15 (.659). The ART Grizzlies went 27-11 (.710) and fully embraced "going big" on their way to the most successful season in franchise history. Besides the post players, the player that benefited the most from the move was Mike Conley Jr.
After the trade, his minutes, fg%, fga, 3p%, 3pa, rebounds, assists, ast%, ppg, TS%, Usage%, and Offensive Rating all went up with his increased role. Between January 30, when the deal with the Raptors was struck, and the beginning of the playoffs, Conley averaged 16 points on 45% shooting and 6.4 assists per game.
While Conley and Grizz improved ART, their playoff loss to the Spurs exposed a weakness that the trade opened up. It revealed a shortage of talent deeper down the roster. Quincy Pondexter and Jerryd Bayless were given opportunities and produced in spurts and Darrell Arthur and his pick-and-pop game was, surprisingly, one of the most effective scoring options for Memphis. But besides those guys, the Grizz didn't pose any danger from outside. Conley shot only 28% from three and Randolph couldn't hit a jumper down the stretch, which forced the undermanned bench to provide the perimeter punch.
Moving forward, the Grizz are in good shape. Marc Gasol is 28 and one of the best all-around players in the NBA and Conley is still only 25. They have their big three (Gasol, Randolph, and Conley) under contract for the next two years and the rest of the roster is expendable. They don't need to add much, just a little bit more fire power.
The Spurs series ended up being a sweep but two games went to overtime and they were competitive in three of the four games. A few more points here or there and the Grizzlies would be a legitimate championship contender.
Next year, Pondexter, with his ability to spread the floor, will have a bigger role and the Grizz may go after another bench scorer or two. JJ Redick, Matt Barnes, Francisco Garcia, Marco Belinelli, and Kyle Korver are all free agents that could spread out opposing defenses a little bit without jeopardizing the "ground and pound" strategy. None of those guys would demand a huge role in the offense but would open things up for Zach and Marc, who looked suffocated at times against the Spurs swarming defense.