Players Lost: Gilbert Arenas (Free Agent), Dante Cunningham (Signed with Minn. Wolves for 3 yrs/7mil.), O.J. Mayo (Signed with Mavs for 2 years/8.5 mil.), Jeremy Pargo (Traded to Cavs),
The only story here is the not surprising decision to decline a qualifying offer to O.J. Mayo as he enters into his fifth NBA season. After his first two years where he averaged 18 PPG, 3 APG, 1 SPG, 38% 3P, and 44% FG, things began to fall apart for O.J. Character issues such as fighting with veteran teammate Tony Allen, being late for practices, and failing a drug test for illegal substances have correlated with a significant decrease in playing time and reduced productivity (12PPG, 2 APG, 1 SGP, 36% 3P, 40 FG%). After starting the first 164 games of his career, Mayo didn’t start a single game this past season and saw his minutes drop from 38 MPG to 26 MPG. With that said, it was time for a change of scenery for both player and team alike. Mayo’s productivity his first two seasons was no fluke, and with a shortage of Two Guards in the league who can shoot and pass with decent size (6’4”, 210LB) Mayo is a valuable commodity that no longer fit on a talented Memphis roster.
However, in an NBA where teams are strapped for cap room and always looking for picks, letting a valuable commodity like Mayo go for nothing can never be applauded (ahem Knicks). It is unclear what due diligence the Grizzlies did to find a sign and trade option for Mayo.
1-10 Players Lost Score: 7
Players Obtained: Jerryd Bayless (FA, 2 yrs, 6 mil.), Wayne Ellington (Traded for D.Cunningham)
With the Grizzlies looking like they were going to boast a backup backcourt consisting of Josh Selby and Tony Wroten, they needed to make a move; that move turned out to be Bayless and Wayne Ellington. Now Bayless may have some talent, but he can hardly be considered as good as Mayo, even with Mayo’s reduced productivity. Even on a team desperate for talent like the Raptors, Bayless was unable to impress—evidenced by the fact they declined his rather affordable option but didn’t hesitate to commit 19 million to the loveable but limited Landry Fields.
Their acquisition of Wayne Ellington for the very expendable and non-descript Dante Cunningham (and a 2nd rounder) doesn’t really do much for their backcourt either. While a talented three point shooter, Ellington is unlikely to develop much more in his fourth season having barely scored above 40% from the field and only 32% on three pointers last season.
1-10 Players Obtained Score: 5
Short Term Outlook: The Grizzlies go into the 2012-13 campaign boasting the same talented roster they had last year with a legitimate shot at beating out the aging Spurs and Mavericks for the best record in the Southwest. Much will hinge on whether Randolph has fully recovered from his knee injury and will be able to return to 2010-11 form. Regardless of Randolph’s injury, the Grizzlies will feature newly minted All-Star Marc Gasol—who looks to be one of the top 5 centers in the NBA. Rudy Gay appears to have hit his ceiling in his NBA career, but that ceiling is plenty high, as long as Gay is healthy, he is an effective wing man that provides an excellent outlet to his big men down below. While winning the division is one thing, Mike Conley must improve upon his mediocre numbers for this team to excel in the playoffs. In a league filled with PG talent, Conley’s acceptable play is not enough—particularly when considering his heavy contract. 2011-12 may come down to the Grizzlies upgrading at the PG position, whether it is bringing in a veteran backup or reshaping their backcourt entirely.
1-10 Short Term Outlook Score: 8
Long Term Outlook: In the movie Sandlot, the Beast supposedly ate 173 guys, meanwhile, neophyte Grizzlies owner Robert Pera Jr. will eat 173 million dollars over the next three seasons as that is what he owes the core of Gasol, Randolph, Gay and Conley. While the young owner may be able to do his best Cuban impression and provide the money to bring a championship team out of his corner stone players, there is also the possibility he will tire of a team without a featured scorer, an overpaid point guard, and a mercurial PF who is turning 32 and coming back from a serious injury.
The talent is there, the team chemistry continues to build, and a cornerstone, young center like Gasol is hard to come by. Despite arguably getting worse this off-season, this Grizzlies team needs to win now, but with proper guidance should be able to transition into a post Randolph team built around Gay and Gasol.
1-10 Long Term Outlook Score: 9
State of the Organization Index: 29 out of 40