That’s right everybody, it’s back. Your favorite day of the week here on Beale Street Bears has finally made it’s triumphant (if not completely tardy) return. It’s Mailbag Friday and in the true spirit of Black Friday and holiday shopping, you get a two for one here today at BSB.
If you read this entire column, you will not only get my thoughts on the awesome questions that I’ve gotten from fans of the site and team alike, but also our Detroit Pistons game preview. See if the folks over at PippenAintEasy can offer a deal like that. Only your old pal Chuck can offer you Christmas savings like that. Let’s get a move on!!!
How did the Grizzlies go from the second overall pick in the draft (in 2009) to having the best record in the NBA just three and a half years later?
I’m not gonna lie, I’d like to tell you that the front office made a lot of shrewd moves and forward thinking and that’s what led them to this nice new perch for the Grizzlies. That’s not to say that the front office didn’t make some good moves, but there were about three (3) franchise altering moves made in Memphis since 2008 and only four. There were other moves of course, but only these three actually moved the needle for the Grizzlies one way or the other.
1.) Got Marc Gasol back in the Pau Gasol trade.
This one is self-explanatory. Pau was an All-Star at the time of his trade and even though he made a ton of money, he was worth it to a contending team. The Lakers were and the Grizzlies weren’t.
Conventional NBA thinking would have seen the Grizzlies keep Pau and try and build around his salary as he killed himself for a series of 35 win team, but this was an area where the Grizzlies decided to burn the building down so that they could build a better one some day.
The craziest part of the story is the Lakers’ supposed reluctance to include Marc in the deal. “What? This expiring contract, project point guard and terrible first round picks aren’t enough for one of the 13-16 best players in the game? You’re joshin’ me, right?!”
That’s never been confirmed, but Chris Wallace definitely said that Marc was one of the key pieces in the actual deal. Once the Lakers agreed to send him to Memphis, the Grizzlies thought they got enough for Pau.
Pau became Kobe Bryant’s second banana on the way to three straight Western Conference championships and two World Championships, and the Grizzlies began their rebuild. That was painful at the time, but at this moment, you may look back and wonder why the Lakers gave up so much for Pau. That’s what happens when Pau starts to age and Marc becomes an All-Star center.
2.) Traded Quentin Richardson for Zach Randolph.
Another no-brainer. Not only was Randolph a double-double machine (granted with some off-the-court problems) but Richardson was redundant on a team that was planning on building around Rudy Gay. Likewise, the Clippers needed a wing and were planning on building around Blake Griffin around the time of the 2009 NBA Draft.
You obviously know that Zach has turned into a franchise player, All-Star and is currently eying the throne of Pau Gasol for the title of “All-Time Greatest Memphis Grizzlie.” By any account, this was a deal that was brilliant at the time and gets better as the years pass.
3.) Select Hasheem Thabeet over…. anyone else in the 2009 NBA Draft.
Yeah. I know. Man. What can you even say?
Look at this list. How far down did you have to scroll before you found someone that you would have taken over Thabeet? Be honest.
Even if you want to be fair and look at Thabeet in college and assume that he will improve when he joins the NBA (he has, by the way) weren’t there at least four to five other options that were better?
Now consider all of that, and also consider that the Grizzlies already had Marc Gasol on their roster!! Just over a year before this draft, Marc was an important part of the Pau Gasol trade and now the Grizzlies are drafting another center? What goes on?!
For the record, I would have taken Thabeet over Jonny Flynn at the time and definitely now. As bad as Thabeet has been and as much of a punchline he has become, it could be argued that he’s had a far more productive career than Flynn has and even if everything was the same, a 7’3 center is nothing to sneeze at.
After that, I wouldn’t have taken Thabeet until the mid-teens and if I’m the Grizzlies I’m not even looking at him at all BECAUSE I ALREADY HAD MARC GASOL ON MY ROSTER!!!!
I would have probably taken Tyreke Evans with the second pick. At the time it looked like he was going to be a destructive presence off the dribble (turned out to be true) with the potential to become a great defender (eh) and played his year of college at Memphis to boot. With so many people crazy about the Tigers, then he would have been worth tons of ticket sales as well.
You could argue that jumping the gun with Mike Conley Jr. and Rudy Gay’s contract extensions overpaid them by a bit and hit the Grizzlies’ cap figure for the next few seasons. To be fair, while the extensions were pretty rich for those two guys at the time (Conley especially) they’ve improved since the signing of the contract and both are playing at a high level this season.
Letting O.J. Mayo walk is a popular pick, and while he has been pretty great in Dallas, the Grizzlies’ record and bench performance pretty much speaks for itself. Mayo was a big name but routinely found himself in Lionel Hollins’ doghouse and with the Grizzlies perpetually finding themselves needing a backup point guard, the writing was on the wall. Jerryd Bayless has been good for the Grizzlies and Mayo has blown up in Dallas. It’s one of those rare occurrences where both sides benefited from the change of scenery.
That brings us up to speed and looking at tonight’s game against the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons are coming off their best performance of the season on Wednesday night as they scored 117 points against the Phoenix Suns.
The Pistons made a move for their future over the summer when they traded Ben Gordon to the Charlotte Bobcats, with a future draft pick in an attempt to clear his salary from their books. I automatically assumed that they would amnesty Charlie Villanueva, but they kept him around and he’s shot the ball well this season.
The Pistons are just 5-11 but have won five of their last eight as their team has jelled and second year point guard Brandon Knight has matured.
That said, the Grizzlies are always tough at home and know that they have a true five-star matchup on Saturday as they travel to San Antonio to play the Spurs. I think the Grizzlies will want to put the Pistons away early and save their legs for an early season Southwest Conference tango.