Embrace the Unexpected Grind Squad: Memphis Grizzlies Week in Review and Three Takeaways

The Memphis Grizzlies acquired some assets and some toughness at the trade deadline and may remain in the playoff picture. Here’s a look back at a very active week, plus three key takeaways.

The Memphis Grizzlies were some busy bears last week. It wouldn’t be accurate to say the Grizz made some noise at the trade deadline last week, because if someone right now were to roll by your house with Three 6 blasting“We gon’ hit ‘em with the left, hit ‘em with the right” and the bumping sound waves  violently rattled the glass in your window panes and rumbled and shook your home’s foundation, you would likely describe the event as something more than mere noise.

Following Marc Gasol’s injury, and trades that dealt away Jeff Green and Courtney Lee, the Grizzlies do not have any bonafide title aspirations for this season, and let’s be real, they didn’t before Gasol’s foot injury or the trades. However, what they do have is a team that is still capable of fighting, perhaps quite literally, to maintain a spot in the playoffs, and they’ve added a few assets (draft picks, potential salary cap flexibility) that better position the franchise for a productive summer.

The rest of this season does not appear to be a journey to the NBA Finals, but it has the look of a very entertaining ride to somewhere.

If the Golden State Warriors are currently orchestrating a beautiful season that will stand as an historical magnum opus of NBA basketball, bravo, that’s their business, but the Grizz gang will be over here disturbing the peace while partying to their own trap music. Grind forth, Grizzlies, grind forth.

The Grizzlies weathered an interesting and eventful week, so, without further ado, here’s the latest edition of the Memphis Grizzlies Week in Review and Three Takeaways.

February 16: Grizzlies Trade Courtney Lee

In a three-team trade with the Charlotte Hornets and the Miami Heat, the Memphis Grizzlies sent Lee to the Hornets, and in return, obtained second-year guard P.J. Hairston, veteran bigman Chris “Birdman” Andersen, and four second draft picks. This past week we at Beale Street Bears discussed the trade, and said a proper “goodbye” to C-Lee.

Andersen helps the Grizzlies pick up some of the slack at center while Gasol is sidelined. Hairston is still working to consistently find his shot in his young NBA career, currently holding a mediocre slash line of .341/.304/.833, but the former Tar Heel shot 40 percent from beyond the arc in his final season at North Carolina and recorded a more impressive slash line of .458/.358/.870 during his time in the D-League. He’s an excellent free-throw shooter and has good shooting form on long range shots, so there’s still a legitimate argument to make that Hairston has the potential to further develop and continue to improve as a scorer at the NBA level.

Three of the second rounders will be useful for future drafts or transactions, and here’s a helpful resource for reviewing the various protections and implications of future draft picks possessed by the Grizz and other teams around the Association.

February 18: Grizzlies Trade Jeff Green

Green certainly did his part to boost his trade stock by playing lights-out basketball over the past few weeks, and the Grizz made an offer the Los Angeles Clippers and Doc Rivers tabled initially rebuffed according to Ronald Tillery of the Commercial, then accepted right at the trade deadline.

In return, Memphis  got Lance Stephenson aka “Born Ready,” and most importantly, a protected future first-round pick from the Clips. Stephenson has had a rough go of it over the last season and a half since leaving the Indiana Pacers, but he’s more than a throw-in on this deal and will be expected to contribute to the Grizzlies cause for at least the remainder of this season.

February 19: Grizzlies vs Minnesota Timberwolves

Before the dust settled from the Grizzlies’ trade deadline frenzy, Memphis, including new Grizzlies Chris Andersen and P.J. Hairston, faced off against the Timberwolves on Friday night in a 109-104 win at FedExForum.

Mike Conley rose to the occasion and played one of his best games of the season, and the Grizzlies needed every ounce of his 25-point, seven-assist effort to fend off a T-Wolves group that made all 31 of its free-throw attempts.

All eleven Grizzlies who played got involved in the scoring action of this one, with seven different players reaching or exceeding the nine-point mark including Tony Allen who scored nine points despite having to leave the game early with a knee injury, and JaMychal Green who scored nine while starting for a second straight game.  Here’s the complete box score. 

Vince Carter, who finished with 15 points, provided the play of the game and probably one of the top plays of the season. With the Grizzlies trailing by eight at the end of the quarter, Carter launched and nailed a 73-foot shot to beat the buzzer. The play undoubtedly helped the Grizzlies recapture some momentum, and the guys in Memphis Sounds uniforms once again looked unbeatable during the fourth quarter.

February 21: Grizzlies vs Toronto Raptors

Losing by 13 points after only trailing by three at the half is never good, but considering the Grizzlies’ current roster only played together for one practice prior to this game, we can forgive them for losing on the road to a superb Toronto squad on an home winning streak now at 8 games. Mike Conley and Matt Barnes shot poorly and the Raptors pulled away in the third quarter; you can catch the full box score here.

It’s too soon to start disparaging this makeshift crew or speculating that they will drop lower than 8th in the West, though that is within the realm of possible outcomes. They’ll have time to learn to play together, and we’ll see how it plays out this spring.

Three Takeaways

1.The past week’s trades make the Grizzlies a better team in the long run

For many fans it will be tough to see Lee and Green leave. They both provided us plenty of entertaining and memorable ball during their time with Memphis and the last month or so was the best stretch of Green’s tenure as Grizzly. Given that both players are on expiring deals, and that it could be expensive to sign either to new deals this summer, both trades are huge wins for the Grizzlies as opposed to letting them walk for nothing. As many have pointed out, the Grizzlies essentially got a refund on Jeff Green, bringing back a first round pick after giving up one to acquire Green last season. For more on how both trades bode well for the Grizzlies, here’s a great podcast from the Memphis Commercial Appeal on the team’s recent moves at the deadline.

  1. The Grizzlies don’t need to implode or tank to build for the future

The Grizzlies can still make the playoffs this season, they seem intent on keeping Mike Conley, and mid-sized market teams like Memphis do well to gradually improve through nickle and dime deals like this rather than making futile attempts at wooing a highly sought after superstar free agent (by all means, go after Kevin Durant this season if you want but don’t hold your breath) or tanking in hopes of eventually hitting a home run in the Draft Lottery by winning a top pick and then correctly choosing a healthy franchise maker with the pick. The Grizzlies are where they need to be to keep building while still being competitive enough to hold the attention of a passionate fanbase.

  1. The Grizzlies embrace the new “Goon Squad” identity, and so should you

Already emboldened by an imposing cast of I.B.Y.A. all-stars like Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, and Mario Chalmers, the Grizzlies improbably added even more muscle and mercurial madness with the acquisitions of Chris Andersen, Lance Stephenson, and P.J. Hairston.

Following Friday night’s victory over the T-Wolves, Mike Conley stated that “This team that we have now, we call ourselves the Goon Squad.” Conley went on to say “We play hard, play together, rely on each other and have fun.” If nothing else, this is an entertaining group of players, and it will be fun to watch through whatever peaks and valleys lay ahead. 

And One:

Grizzlies Grannies and Grandpas at it again, doing what they do.

Who got next?

The Grizzlies welcome Kobe Bryant to FedExForum one final time as the Los Angeles Lakers come to town on February 24th. Be sure to turn out and support the Grizzlies, because there’s bound to be lots of Kobe stans making their way to the game to gush over their idol.