Memphis Grizzlies: You Cannot Blame Chris Wallace, Part III

Since 2014, there have been a handful of poor trades, NBA Draft selections, and free-agent signings by the Memphis Grizzlies, but you cannot entirely blame Chris Wallace.

In a continuation from Part II, at this particular point in time, Memphis Grizzlies majority owner Robert Pera was realizing he still has a competent General Manager still on payroll. Pera calls up Chris Wallace. He returns him from the team’s cemetery as the lead decision maker of day-to-day basketball operations, but not total autonomy.

The 2014 NBA Draft comes along next. Somehow, the Grizzlies’ 22nd overall pick was still decided by John Hollinger, who selected Jordan Adams out of UCLA. I was furiated with the pick even on Draft Night, but Hollinger swore by the pick. He referred to Adams as a Metrics Darling who he had ranked as the sixth-best player in the Draft along such lines. Hollinger and his money ball followers had the audacity to sell Jordan Adams as a poor man’s James Harden.

Needless to say, Jordan Adams did not last the length of his rookie deal. Due to serious knee issues, he is no longer being considered an NBA prospect. This was another Memphis Grizzlies pick that could have been used on starting-quality guys like Rodney Hood & Kyle Anderson. It was flushed down the toilet.

Add all of this with the fact the Grizzlies wasted the second round pick that they traded for. Jarnell Stokes was the selection — a talented but outdated big in this era. Stokes was the pick when Memphis could have drafted the likes of Nikola Jokic or Jordan Clarkson in the second round. Chris Wallace’s return looks like a disaster to the naked eye, but again, John Hollinger made those moves. It was not Wallace. However, Chris took the hit while Hollinger returned to his stats lab, possibly located in his parents’ basement.

Chris Wallace cleans things up a little bit by signing Vince Carter away from Dallas in the summer of 2014. Carter stayed in Memphis for three seasons and contributed to three playoff berths before leaving for the Sacramento Kings.

Folks miss out on Wallace bringing in Hassan Whiteside twice on minimum deals that season, but Head Coach Dave Joerger did not give the kid much of a chance. Eventually, as histor has it, Whiteside took off in Miami and made the Grizzlies look bad.

Chris Wallace follows up in 2015 by trading Tayshaun Prince and a future pick for Jeff Green. At the time, let’s be real, we all had hope that Jeff Green could be the answer to the Grizzlies’ wing drought. The problem was this: Jeff did not care to be the answer, nor was he built for such. He lacked the motivation, the drive. Before it was all said and done, the team along with the fans were ready for the end of Jeff Green in Memphis. Therefore, Wallace had made another botched move, but again, most of Grizz Nation shared some of the same hope as Wallace on Green.

Wallace made up for the lost pick (stemming from the Jeff Green deal) grabs JaMychal Green from the NBA’s developmental league. JaMychal ended up being a steal from the bargain bin.

Then comes the 2015 NBA Draft. With the Memphis Grizzlies’ 25th overall pick, Chris Wallace selects Jarell Martin, who, looking back at the Draft today, was not the worst prospect available at 25th. This was not a great pick for Wallace and the Grizzlies, but not much else prospered after 25 that year. Regardless, Wallace somehow finessed Jon Leuer to Phoenix for the rights to Andrew Harrison. The latter move is already a base hit win for Wallace, despite Harrsion still TBD career-wise.

Wallace also finessed Charlotte out of Matt Barnes for Luke Ridnour‘s expiring contract. Barnes ended up being very valuable his lone season under the coverage of Beale Street Bears.

Everyone is so quick to point to Chandler Parsons signing a four-year contract for $94 million as a huge Chris Wallace blunder. Oh it was a blunder, but most do not realize this move, like so many others, was virtually out of Wallace’s control.

Mike Conley was an unrestricted free-agent that same summer. He had already hinted publicly that Memphis needed to sign a big fish to convince him they were serious enough about competing in order for him to re-sign long-term. This was despite Conley already assuring Marc Gasol he would re-sign if Marc did the same in the previous summer.

The problem here is that Mike Conley subsequently lobbied for the Memphis Grizzlies to sign Chandler Parsons. Being as they had already started developing a new core, Conley felt this was a piece to get them over the hump. This way of thinking had some validity. Parsons was coming off of back-to-back season-ending knee surgeries and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban himself, who was best friends with Parsons at the time, publicly told Parsons he was damaged goods by refusing an extension. This dared Chandler to prove him wrong by “opting in.”

Cuban has since been proven prophetic, but I do not blame the Memphis Grizzlies’ Chris Wallace totally for this debacle because he was essentially under pressure from the team’s franchise player to sign a maximum salary free-agent that summer. Chandler Parsons, already being a new buddy of Conley’s, was willing and he fit the needs. I blame Mike Conley just as much, if not mostly for “Chancun.”

Over the past two years, a handful of other decisions have flopped. Deyonta Davis and Wade Baldwin were busts, but Andrew Harrison and Wayne Selden evened things out. Ben McLemore was a David Fizdale wish list item, so “take that for data!” Dillon Brooks is another pretty feather in Chris Wallace’s Hat.

Two Memphis Grizzlies legends — Zach Randolph and Tony Allen — were phased out of core roles by the former. Zach being offered big dawg money in Sacramento made it impossible to re-sign him. I cannot blame Chris Wallace for the law of averages.

This summer, Wallace goes against the consensus locally (myself included) and drafted Jaren Jackson Jr. with the fourth overall pick. So far, that decision is looking like another home run. “Triple-J” destroyed the opposition in Summer League action.

Kyle Anderson may not exceed value, but he surely will not fall short either. My money says Kyle will be a steal, as will Garrett Temple and rookie Jevon Carter, for the Memphis Grizzlies.

Sure, Chris Wallace is not an innovative General Manager like Magic Johnson. Nor is he title-ambitious as say the Houston Rockets’ Daryl Morey. However, he is our Henry Kissenger if nothing else and that is not a bad thing to have in Memphis. Chris Wallace has never truly had a shot as the sole shot-caller.

Thus, most of the moves Chris Wallace did make are the ones that gave Memphis a millennial identity as well as NBA relevance and respect over the course of the past decade. He is not perfect, but he deserves more credit than he receives from the fan base.