BDL's 2017-18 Season Previews: Memphis Grizzlies, in search of an identity

The 2017 offseason was the wildest in NBA history. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving are now Eastern Conference rivals. Out West, Chris Paul joined James Harden, while Paul George and Carmelo Anthony united with Russell Westbrook. Ten recent AllStars changed uniforms, and we haven’t even gotten to Kevin Durant’s strange summer, so let’s get to previewing. The 2017-18 NBA season is finally upon us.

Marc Gasol is taking a wait-and-see approach with the Grizzlies. (AP)

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES

2016-17 finish: 43-39, lost in the first round
Offensive rating: 104.7 (19th)
Defensive rating: 104.5 (7th)

Additions: Ben McLemore, Tyreke Evans, Mario Chalmers, Dillon Brooks, Ivan Rabb, Rade Zagorac
Subtractions: Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, Vince Carter, Troy Daniels

Did the summer help at all?

As an NBA prophet once said, Noooope.” The Grizzlies are now a team without an identity, having lost “Grindfather” Tony Allen and grit-daddy Zach Randolph to free agency. Even Carter embodied the grizzled vet mindset that made Memphis so feared during the Grit ‘n’ Grind era (2010-17, rest in peace).

All hope is not lost. They still have Marc Gasol and Mike Conley at the top of the bill. JaMychal Green’s contract saga is nearing a resolution. News of Chandler Parsons’ rehab (stop me if you’ve heard this one before) continues to be promising. And coach David Fizdale somehow dragged a team that started rookies Andrew Harrison and Troy Williams for a stretch to a seventh seed in his first year at the helm.

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But it can’t help to swap the heart and soul of your franchise for two Sacramento Kings castoffs (McLemore and Evans), a 31-year-old point guard who hasn’t played in the NBA since rupturing his Achilles in March 2016 (Chalmers), and three recent second-round picks (Brooks, Rabb and Zagorac).

If Gasol found 43 wins “unacceptable” last year, wait until he runs the Western Conference gauntlet with this roster. The 32-year-old has already said he “may have to revisit things” if the team doesn’t improve, and while the Grizz may consider Gasol “untouchable” now, that could change over the course of the season. Sadly, Memphis has gone from Grit ‘n’ Grind to wait ‘n’ see in one summer.

Grizzlies coach David Fizdale is no longer a rook. (AP)

Best-case scenario: So long as Gasol and Conley are playing at an All-Star level, as they have with little recognition for years now, the Grizzlies will compete. They proved as much with season series splits against the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets and Cleveland Cavaliers last season. And if Parsons can get healthy and productive, Green continues improving, and Fizdale squeezes something out of a sorry two-guard corps, they might not miss Randolph and Allen so much.

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If everything falls apart: Parsons’ contract continues to be an albatross. The vast role-playing contingent falls short of its collective 2016-17 value. Gasol and Conley, both now past 30, begin the descent from their career summit. Memphis is lottery-bound for the first time this decade. Gasol wants out. And a Grizzlies team that just lost $40 million and may be headed for an ownership shakeup waffles on whether it’s wise to stay in the city they’ve called home since 2001.

It’s all on the line.

Best guess at a record: 39-43