The Grizzlies were one of my favorite teams to watch this season. Not just because they employed my main man Zach Randolph and helped him get his first All-Star nod, but because I like seeing a young team begin to realize its potential.
While the Grizzlies ultimately fell short of the playoffs after hanging in there with the best in the West most of the season, their 40 wins was the most they’ve had since 2006, when Pau Gasol was the face of the franchise and Mike Fratello was the coach. The Oklahoma City Thunder occupied the spot as the NBA’s shiny new toy this year, but the Grizzlies were the silver medalists.
Going into the ’10-11 season, making the playoffs is a reasonable goal. While a couple of Memphis’ key players will be free agents this summer, they can still improve with a few smart moves:
1. Don’t be afraid to let Rudy Gay go
It’s nothing against Rudy, who has been a good solider through the rough times and continues to get better every year, but he may have played himself out of the Grizzlies’ price range. And rather than put themselves in a financial bind and risk turning Rudy into the next Andre Iguodala with an excessive contract, Memphis should be prepared to lose their most talented player. They have enough solid pieces to their foundation — led by O.J. Mayo, Z-Bo and Marc Gasol — to withstand losing Rudy and still field a competitive squad. And with the 12th pick in the Draft, there will be some good small forwards available (e.g. Gordon Hayward, Damion James, Luke Babbitt, Paul George, and maybe Al-Farouq Aminu if he slips) to get a serviceable replacement.
2. Trade draft picks for a veteran
The Grizzlies have three first-round picks (12, 25, 28), and should be able to flip at least two of them for a vet who’s ready to contribute right away. A point guard with playoff experience to complement Mike Conley would be an option, as would another scorer who can create his own shot, or another forward for frontcourt depth.
3. Don’t leave Hasheem Thabeet to his own devices
This has nothing to do with the rumored Tanzanian nightclub fight a couple weeks ago where Thabeet allegedly knocked out an R&B singer. Coming off a rookie year where he played just 13 minutes per game in the 68 appearances he did make — along with a couple D-League stints — you don’t want Thabeet doubting his ability and losing confidence over a long summer. Hire a coach to work with him; maybe Hakeem Olajuwon or Dikembe Mutombo or Memphis native Lorenzen Wright. Assure him he’s still a big part of your future. Otherwise Thabeet might turn into another Darko and psychologically sink his own career before it has a chance to get off the ground.
What do you think the Grizzlies have to do this offseason?