Grizzlies Could Be Playoff Team or Bound for Rebuild Based on One Factor

    Chandler Parsons finally looked promising as a member of the Memphis Grizzlies. It was just a preseason game, but Parsons put up 12 points and five

    October 4, 2018

    Chandler Parsons finally looked promising as a member of the Memphis Grizzlies.

    It was just a preseason game, but Parsons put up 12 points and five rebounds in 20 minutes while missing just one shot. Memphis fans can be optimistic about his production this coming season. Since signing a four-year, $94 million deal in the 2016 offseason, Parsons has appeared in just 70 games over two seasons for the Grizzlies.

    In a loaded Western conference, health might be the biggest hurdle for the Grizzlies. In the last three seasons, aging stars Mike Conley and Marc Gasol have missed a combined 156 games. Add Parsons to that group and you’re looking at 250 combined missed games. The Grizzlies need their three highest-paid players to show up this season if they want to compete.

    Season 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
    Conley Games Played 82 80 81 62 80 73 70 56 69 12
    Gasol Games Played 82 69 81 65 80 59 81 52 74 73
    Wins 24 40 46 41 56 50 55 42 43 22
    Playoffs No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No

     

    Aside from the growing pains in their first two seasons together, Conley and Gasol have been instrumental in the Grizzlies having perennial success. Since 2010, the Grizzlies have averaged 48.5 wins when each guy plays at least 59 games. Despite showing signs of decline in the last few seasons, Conley and Gasol showing up on the court will be enough to keep the Grizzlies in the playoff mix.

    Memphis had a rare opportunity in the 2018 draft. As a contending team who happened to have a disastrous 2017 season, they were able to snag a potential franchise player. After back-to-back first round exits, the Grizzlies recognized their “grit and grind” style would need to evolve.

    Memphis was uncharacteristically bad last season in areas where the team excelled for almost a decade. The Grizzlies ranked 13th in opponent points per game, 29th in total rebounds and 26th in defensive rating. Their attempt to become a better shooting team didn’t translate either; Memphis ranked 25th in three-point percentage.

    Jaren Jackson Jr. might be the solution to all of Memphis’ problems. The Michigan State freshman showcased his all-around ability with 10.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game in his lone season in East Lansing. Jackson Jr. shot 39.6 percent from three-point range, making him the ideal big man to pair with Gasol and eventually anchor the frontcourt when he decides to hang up the jersey for good. And if Summer League play is indicative of anything, Jackson Jr. is going to be a favorite to win Rookie of the Year.

     

    The guy did everything in Summer League. He averaged 15.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game in his three Utah games and continued to roll in Vegas with 11.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.8 blocks per game. Jackson showcased his shooting ability and rim protection skills regularly and should be an immediate starter in Memphis. After years of bullying opponents in the post with Zach Randolph and Gasol, the Grizzlies will have now showcase two modern NBA big men who can space the floor and protect the paint.

    Memphis also added shooting and playmaking on the perimeter, something it has lacked for a long time. Kyle Anderson brings playmaking skills to the wing positions, but his floor-spacing ability remains relatively unknown. He should see open looks with Gasol and Conley drawing most of the attention. Garrett Temple shot 38 percent from deep over the last two seasons and brings a steady presence beside Conley in the backcourt. Parsons will likely be limited to the bench during the beginning of the season, but still has the ability to space the floor; he shot 42 percent from behind the arc last year.

    This season will define what the Grizzlies do in the summer. Gasol has a player option and will have the ability to leave should the team fall short of expectations. If he bolts, expect Memphis to go for a full reset and explore options to dump Parsons’ expiring contract and Conley’s mega-deal.

    The team may not have a first-round pick to attach as sweeteners in any salary dump, so Memphis might have to settle for big expiring contracts in return. On the flip side, the Grizzlies could re-discover their form and make the postseason. Jackson Jr. could emerge as a star and the role players might provide enough shooting to allow Memphis to push one of the West’s top teams in the playoffs.

    Everything hinges on the health of Conley and Gasol. The stars were good enough on their own to keep the Grizzlies in playoff contention and have plenty of support this time around. Even if Memphis has to limit their minutes to keep them on the court, it will be worth the payoff.

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