Here’s a list of decisions made by the Grizzlies front office over the last few years that were either derided at the time, or look poor in retrospect:
-Trading Pau Gasol for Marc Gasol and Kwame Brown
-Drafting Kevin Love and proceeding to trade him for O.J. Mayo
-Drafting Hasheem Thabeet
-Giving Mike Conley a 5-year $45 million contract
-Trading Greivis Vasquez for Quincy Pondexter
-Trading alleged star Rudy Gay while in the midst of a title run
All of these moves gotten flak at one point or another. Some look good – or at the very least defensible – while others were undeniably the wrong choice to be make. So, if this team made so many wrong front office decisions in recent years, how did they manage to build one of the toughest team in the league?
Partly because some of the initially poor-looking decisions look a lot better in retrospect. The Pau-for-Marc trade was heavily derided at the time, but now it seems completely reasonable. If Pau was still on the Grizzlies, they’d have an aging, past-his-prime player. Instead, they have one of the best centers in the game.
The Conley contract looks a lot better now than it did back in 2010, too. This was a situation where the front office was heavily underestimated, and turned out they knew what they were doing the whole time. These days, Conley’s contract seems like a bargain, as he continues to play a greater role in the offense, and demonstrate his value on a nightly basis.
Some of these moves are undeniably bad, but the had the unintended side effect of leading to other, great moves later on. Like the decision to trade Love. It’s clear that swapping Kevin Love for O.J. Mayo was the wrong decision, and if the Grizzlies had kept him, they would likely have a brighter future. Still, the may have a brighter present as a result of the move. At the end of the 2009 season, the Grizzlies sorely needed a power forward. After losing out on the Blake Griffin lottery, Chris Wallace made the smartest move of his tenure as General Manager, trading Quentin Richardson for Zach Randolph, who had become expendable with Griffin arriving in Los Angeles. Z-Bo has gone onto become arguably the greatest Grizzly of all-time, as well as the franchise’s first All-Star.
Now, in the long run, the Grizzlies would probably be better off with Love, since he has so many more years ahead of him than Randolph, who is already in his 12th season in the league. In that sense, shipping Love for Mayo was still the wrong choice, but the Grizzlies find a way to keep it from being a franchise-killing error, adding an excellent player who has become perhaps the biggest part of the Grizzlies identity. The team’s ability to create good things from terrible situations is unmatched by any other NBA team.
Trading Rudy Gay in the middle of this season was viewed as a wrong move because it allegedly killed their title chances. So far, the opposite has appeared to be true, as the Grizzlies have played considerably better since Gay’s departure from the lineup. Much like the Conley signing, it was a questionable move, but also a situation were the front office probably deserved the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes, the moves that appear to make the least amount of sense wide up helping the team the most.
There are still a few undeniable misses in there. Drafting Hasheem Thabeet will always a notoriously dubious move. Of course, in retrospect it seems obvious that James Harden was the player to take, but at that point, O.J. Mayo was coming off a season where he looked like one of the best young shooting guards in the league. Most would’ve expected him to have had a better career than Harden at that point in time. Maybe they should’ve taken Stephen Curry, made him a 2-guard, and teamed up with Conley to create a super back court.
Actually, that probably would have been amazing, but what’s done is done, and while the Grizzlies didn’t always make the right moves, they made a lot of sneaky-good ones, and the result is that they’ve built an incredibly strong team, one that’s poised to make a strong run int he upcoming playoffs. Even if not every move made by the front office is going to work out, it’s become clear they generally know what their doing, since they’ve spent the last five years turning a perpetual cellar dweller into one of the scariest team in the league. For that, they have earned out trust. Next time I hear about the Grizzlies make a trade that appears catastrophic, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, and you should, too.