A perennial playoff team in the 2010s, the Memphis Grizzlies have endured two consecutive losing seasons for the first time since 2008-2010. Now, the organization has undergone significant changes in the last year, and the Grizzlies’ rebuild is starting to take shape.
It started when Memphis found itself picking fourth in a loaded 2018 NBA Draft. Everyone was talking about Luka Doncic, the European wunderkind, or DeAndre Ayton, the consensus #1 overall pick. Trae Young had garnered a lot of attention after his phenomenal freshman season at Oklahoma, and Marvin Bagley III had just collected both the ACC Freshman of the Year Award and the ACC Player of the Year Award at Duke.
The Grizzlies didn’t draft any of those guys. They drafted a lanky power forward out of Michigan State, relatively unheralded in comparison to his fellow lottery picks. Jaren Jackson Jr. showed flashes of brilliance during his rookie campaign, but as the Grizzlies continued to lose more and more games, it became clear that some big changes were going to have to be made by the organization.
Big changes they were indeed. In February, the Memphis front office broke the hearts of lifelong Grizzlies fans across the country by trading franchise mainstay Marc Gasol to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for a handful of expiring contracts, including that of Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas. Valanciunas played the remainder of the season like a man possessed, averaging 19.9 points and 10.7 rebounds in the last 19 games of the 2018-2019 season with the Grizzlies.