Why the Memphis Grizzlies will need a midseason trade

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

The Memphis Grizzlies made a lot of strides to improving their team this summer, but if they want to make it to the next level, they’ll need a trade.

Back at the start of the 2017-2018 season, hopes were fairly low for the Memphis Grizzlies. Most had them pinned as a team on the outside looking in come May, and if they did manage to sneak in a playoff run, it would be as an eighth seed in an absolutely stacked Western Conference. When you were comparing your team to the likes of the Houston Rockets, the Golden State Warriors, and the Oklahoma City Thunder, there was little to no hope. And, true to form, the Grizzlies found themselves as the 14th seed, nearly dead last.

The struggles continued through to the 2018-2019 season. Again, in a stacked Conference that included all the teams above, plus the Denver Nuggets and the Utah Jazz, hopes seemed even worse. Though Memphis did fare better last season, they still ended up as the 12th seed without a single game in May.

Then, something happened. Memphis had arguably one of the best offseasons in a summer full of great moves. They got rid of Chandler Parsons’ horrid contract, dumped old veterans like Mike Conley, Joakim Noah, and Dwight Howard; and then they went and acquired some promising young talent in Tyus Jones, Brandon Clarke, and Miles Plumlee, as well as making sure that Jonas Valanciunas comes back to Memphis.

This new Memphis team, at least on paper, looks really promising. Not only that, but they’ll probably inject some life into the fanbase as well:

With all the promise on a team like this, there’s a temptation to just sit back and wait a year to see how everything plays out. You’ll want to see if the team makes the playoffs, if they don’t, you’ll want to see how far out they are, and you’ll want to watch the development of young players like Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Tyus Jones. However, this might not be the best thing to do for the team in the long run.

In this first season, there’s a good chance that the young squad will be able to find a route to the playoffs, which is the most realistic expectation to set for this team in 2019-2020. There’s even a little more hope for this, after the Grizzlies won the 2019 Summer League Tournament:

However, keeping this team the same could be bad for the Grizzlies in the future. In fact, the longer there isn’t another piece added to this team, the worst that their future will be.

Right now, the Grizzlies are a middle of the road team. They’re not the worst team in the conference by a long ways, but they’re also a long way away from being the best team. Right now, Memphis is looking at multiple years of being a seventh or eighth seed in the playoffs, which might not sound so bad right now, but that also means that they’ll find themselves in the middle of the draft, not bad enough to get a lottery pick, but not good enough to be a contender.

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That being said, what route do the Grizzlies need to take? One option they have is to spend the next couple of years developing their young talent at the expense of a playoff run, get a lottery pick, and then build an even younger team up to be a contender. Though, in the end, that would probably just be a two to three year long journey to end up right where Memphis is now.

The other option that Memphis can take is building through trades. This will get them either a first-round lottery pick that could advance the team, or get you a key role player that will help make the Grizzlies a contender in the next few years. Either way, this feels like the best option for Memphis right now.

On the one hand, the Grizzlies could trade for a few first-round picks, and continue to build their young roster. If Memphis were to go that route, their best option would be to deal the seasoned veteran Andre Iguodala to one of the bottom teams in the East such as the Charleotte Hornets, Orlando Magic, or New York Knicks. This would give the Grizzlies a lottery pick to be paired with an already playoff-caliber, young squad.

The main problem with this route is that it would take away an veteran leadership from a team that is in desperate need of it. Down another veteran who could help show these young guns the ropes, it may hurt the Grizzlies in the next few years.

So their other option would be to make a midseason trade that will bring another one of those veteran influences to the team. So who are the players that could help Memphis with that?

One potential player is Ricky Rubio. Rubio played in Minnesota with Tyus Jones, and in his time with both the Timberwolves and the Utah Jazz has shown a great ability to find the open man. Sending the Phoenix Suns a package of Kyle Anderson, Grayson Allen, and De’Anthony Melton for Ricky Rubio and a first-round pick could give the Grizzlies a nice balance of young talent and veteran leadership, that would help them find a way into the later rounds of the playoffs.

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Another player that the Grizzlies could target is the Knick’s Marcus Morris. It’s fairly clear that New York is in tank mode right now, so they may be willing to give up a solid talent for a relatively cheap price. A Memphis offer of Solomon Hill and a first-round pick could be enough to sway the Knicks to make the trade.

There are other players that Memphis could target, but the key in any situation is to pick up a player who will not disrupt the current system too much, and who will be able to bring some poise and leadership to a team that may be in desperate need of it down the line.

If the Grizzlies try to work and develop their young talent now without any moves, they will most likely end up picking in the middle of the draft for the next few years, which will push the eventual crowning of Memphis back three or four years at least. Doing this could also make Memphis an unattractive spot for free agents, especially veterans focused on playing for a winner.

If Memphis plays under their ability for the next year or two, slowly procuring lottery picks, the potential that future team will have will most likely equal the potential this current team has now. Because of this, the best chance the the Grizzlies have for a quick road to contention is to make a trade or two after the December 15th mark for new players, and work to put in those final pieces to an incredible interesting Memphis dynasty.