Memphis Grizzlies: Chris Wallace the Greatest GM in Franchise History, Part II

MEMPHIS, TN - JULY 14: General Manager Chris Wallace of the Memphis Grizzlies addresses the media on July 14, 2016 at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, TN - JULY 14: General Manager Chris Wallace of the Memphis Grizzlies addresses the media on July 14, 2016 at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Memphis Grizzlies General Manager, Chris Wallace, receives a lot of criticism, but he is the best GM the franchise has seen.

Last week, Beale Street Bears broke down the meat & potatoes of Chris Wallace’s career as General Manager of the Memphis Grizzlies from 2007 to 2009. Here, we will now examine 2010 to the team’s present state. Before we do, let’s address one more move during Wallace’s regime in 2009 with the help of for exact dates on transactions.

The Allen Iverson-Memphis Saga

I was at the Allen Iverson press conference. So were Mike Conley, Marcus Williams, and several other Grizzly players. I can never forget hearing fans who attended the press conference (rare at the time) yelling out, “Now we got a REAL point guard!” This was awkward, being as I stood right next to Conley, who was also less than three feet away from said fan.

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Iverson may have had the right intentions, but the wrong mentality for THAT team right out of the gate. It showed in his commitment to the team right off the bat. Allen Iverson’s camp was not the most pleasant to deal with as there were always demands to be fulfilled. AI was banged up and Grizz Nation was lucky to get him to the three games and practices that he lasted. Iverson wanted to start in Memphis. He did not care who had to take the hit. The problem was Allen Iverson was never a true point guard, and during his time with the Memphis Grizzlies, he was definitely not the 2001 MVP version of himself either.

Some will ask why did Chris Wallace sign Iverson with all of this mess factoring in? Well, Wallace really did not want the Iverson move to happen. In fact, most members within the organization did not, aside from Michael Heisley.

Heisley was a Georgetown alum, which is also where Allen Iverson attended college. Michael Heisley was always an Iverson fan, and once Lionel Hollins, Heisley, and Wallace had dinner with Iverson the weekend prior to the announcement, it was evident that Heisley was going to make it happen.

The Grizzlies’ Chris Wallace simply got the paperwork done on Iverson in Memphis. Iverson was a Heisley move 100% — not Chris Wallace’s.

Memphis Grizzlies in 2010

The Memphis Grizzlies’ first trade of 2010 was a future (2011) first round Draft pick for Ronnie Brewer. In theory, Brewer was a great prospect on the wing at 6’8″ and 230 pounds. Plus, he was a local Razorback product that defended well with versatility. The problem with Ronnie Brewer was he was injured a lot and was simply not nearly as good as he sounded in concept. Overall, it became a bad trade for Chris Wallace’s regime.

The 2010 NBA Draft came along, and with the 12th overall pick, the Memphis Grizzlies selected Xavier Henry. He fit the Kansas/All-American criteria that Chris Wallace has commonly preferred, but Henry was also the preference of Lionel Hollins.

Henry ended up being injury prone. He was out of the league by his fourth year. Memphis passed on Eric Bledsoe and Avery Bradley in the process. They also had the 28th overall pick, which was used to select 6’7″ point guard Greivis Vasquez.

Greivis, despite being unathletic, was heralded coming out of Maryland as clutch, crafty, and skilled. He proved such in giving us some great moments before Lionel Hollins gave up on him in the lineup. I was happy with our draft that night.

Then, Wallace follows up “The Ronnie Brewer Sewer” with what is certainly another top-five all-time franchise transaction. This was the move that changed the city of Memphis forever. It was the signing of “The Grindfather” himself, Tony Allen.

At the time, Allen was regarded as a defensive specialist, who gave Kobe Bryant a hard time in the NBA Finals matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics. He ended up providing identity to not only the Memphis Grizzlies for the first time in team history, but also a universal term everyone could identify the city of Memphis with — Grit ‘N’ Grind. This was a home run for Chris Wallace.

Grit ‘N’ Grind was born. It became a thing throughout the sports world with Chris Wallace’s acquisitions being all four components of the infamous Core Four.

Wallace doubled down on Mike Conley being his guy and signed No. 11 to a deal of five years for $40 million. At the time, the general consensus was that this was THE worst deal in all of sports. Conley was barely a starter in most eyes (including myself).

By the last year of the deal, the Memphis Grizzlies were getting cheap labor out of Conley compared to the progression he had made throughout the deal. It was clear Wallace made yet another mastermind move by re-signing Conley instead of trading him or letting him hit the open market in NBA Free Agency.

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The next move came when Wallace traded off the failed project known as Hasheem Thabeet along with DeMarre Carroll in exchange for a local favorite’s return to the 901. It was the return of Shane Battier. Shane played for the Memphis Grizzlies for only one more year. He was not in his prime, but he gave big contributions to the 2011 playoff team. Overall, it was a successful clean-up move in hindsight by Chris Wallace after Thabeet was forced on him.

The 2012 NBA Draft arrived and the Memphis Grizzlies owned the 25th overall pick. Chris Wallace drafts Tony Wroten, another former All-American, at this point in time. Wroten was full with raw talent, so nobody was mad at the choice. Though all of M-Town wanted University of Memphis product Will Barton, it seemed like a valuable pick. Looking back, this turned out to be another bad Draft Night for Wallace and the Memphis Grizzlies. Wroten never received much of a chance to shine in the NBA.

In 2013, the year of the sale of the Memphis Grizzlies to Robert Pera is featured. Pera brought in a team essentially spearheaded by the vision of Jason Levien. Robert Pera has the pockets and the dream. Levien would run the day-to-day while Pera focuses on conquering the WiFi evolution. Also with the pair of Pera and Levien came ESPN basketball analyst John Hollinger as another Front Office cog to usher in the “money ball” movement.

When Levien came in, it immediately gave the feeling like when Killmonger took over Wakanda in the new and already-classic film “Black Panther.” John Hollinger is W’Kabi.

Here, Levien phases Chris Wallace completely out of the picture, to the point Wallace was still employed but had no contact with the team at all for over a year, as he would later reveal.

It was during this time away for Wallace that Levien and Hollinger traded away Wayne Ellington, Marreese Speights, and a future first round pick, which ended up being Harry Giles. In return, the Memphis Grizzlies received Jon Leuer. This was another transaction Chris Wallace had nothing to do with.

One week later, Levien doubles down and trades Rudy Gay right before the cusp of his prime for Austin Daye, a raw and unproven talent. Memphis also received a 34-year-old Tayshaun Prince, Jamaal Franklin (who lasted one season), and a journeyman big in Ed Davis. “Money Ball” was closing Memphis’ championship window right before our eyes.

Then, at the pinnacle of Grit ‘N’ Grind, Levien convinces Pera to can the old school-minded Lionel Hollins (which was not very hard with Hollins’ scrutiny of ownership in the media). &

Promoted was Dave Joerger, a more “money ball” and metrics-friendly head coach.

Being as the Hollins regime was the last time we have sniffed the Western Conference Finals, this was also a bad decision — on paper at least.

Jason Levien, one to never quit on an idea or plan, then doubled down on the Jon Leuer project by re-signing the Wisconsin product. Levien finally makes his only decent moves in signing James Johnson and Beno Udrih, while stealing Courtney Lee away from Boston in exchange for Jerryd Bayless. This took place prior to Levien’s exit.

Be on the lookout for the Part III explanation of why Chris Wallace is the Memphis Grizzlies’ greatest General Manager in franchise history.