In 2007, the Memphis Grizzlies started a rebuild that has now produced a substantial amount of postseason success. As the franchise is in prime contention of appearing in the playoffs once again for the sixth straight season. It’s a stat that doesn’t receive an overwhelming amount of publicity.
To be brutally honest, the impressive feat doesn’t draw the vast recognition as it should, due to the depth that the NBA has posed during the last five years. Since 2011, there has been four different NBA Champions, and three have come from the Western Conference. When you add in that the Los Angeles Clippers’ prolific run has gone no farther than the Conference Semifinals, this shows the deep factors within the conference.
Last year’s Western Conference Semifinal loss to the NBA’s best Golden State Warriors might be the beginning of the end for the defensive specialists out of Memphis. With timeless Vince Carter approaching age 40, grinder Zach Randolph 34, defensive stopper Tony Allen 34, Marc Gasol 31, and sharp shooter Courtney Lee 30. The core players of Memphis’ run of success are aging quickly, and it doesn’t appear as if a title is in the near future.
As of now, the Grizzlies stand at 30-21 and are slotted 5th in the conference. This is not a bad record, but considering the constant offensive struggles, improvement should always be top priority. When glancing at this year’s roster, there isn’t a major player that the Grizzlies can lean on to take them to an NBA Finals. Sure, the core of the team still has what it takes to get past the first round. But in all likelihood Memphis doesn’t have the play makers to overcome a Golden State, San Antonio, or even an Oklahoma City in a seven game series.
Furthermore, the continuous finishes in the middle rounds of the playoffs won’t award the Grizzlies an opportunity to snag a quality draft pick. To complicate matters, in years’ past, before the prior moves of locking up Zach Randolph and Tony Allen were made. Memphis ignored the future and perhaps development of young stars Rudy Gay, Quincy Pondexter, O.J. Mayo, and Tony Wroten. Now, are seen as costly moves by not holding onto them. Right now all of them are no older than 29 and might have been pieces on the roster that the Grizzlies could have built around.
It’s understandable that outside of Gay, none of those players are All-Stars, but that’s not the point. A few of them were good basketball players that had the potential to learn from the veterans (like Vince Carter and Zach Randolph) and force Memphis to have a much more versatile team.
Now, it seems like it’s too late to re-tool their playing style as there’s very little trade bait available on the roster. The mere fact that Memphis is a small market team delivers a harder chance of attracting top free agents to lead them to glory.
Based on those points, the three ways that a front office builds a team are all going to be a challenge. For example, the last player to make an impact on the Grizzlies’ roster for a long period of time has been Mike Conley, Jr. which was back in 2007. Since then, the players that Memphis have drafted either didn’t pan out or were later dealt away.
This puts the Grizzlies in a very tough position to maintain their playoff streak going into next year and beyond. The window is closing fast as far as a championship is concerned and the rebuild could be a long and hard one unless they get lucky in the lottery. If GM Chris Wallace is able to keep the team in the playoffs consistently for the next few years, then there’s still hope for promise…if it’s not already vanished by that point in time.