Tuesday, May 29, 2007

What Now?

It's been over a month since my last post --mostly because I was extremely busy, but partly because I was ready for a break from the ever-present slide towards morose negativity revolving around the Memphis Grizzlies organization -- but now I'm back to assess what direction the team needs to take from this point forward. It has been one week since the draft lottery, when I joined GrizzMAN, memphis slim and chipc3 for an evening of pontificating and commiserating. In the seven days since that fateful decision was handed out, I have come to accept the results (with much less of a "Chicken Little complex" than many of my fellow fans) and have made a decision on what needs to happen next for the Grizzlies.

Obviously, the first set of things that needs to be taken care of involve the team's infrastructure and front office. The team needs a new owner (or at the very least, an accountable owner), a new GM and a new coaching staff. This is clearly the opening move of a rebuilding of sorts for this team. I've already detailed the people that I think are suitable for these positions (GM's: Presti, Griffin, Vandeweghe; Coaches: Iavaroni, Elie, Carlisle, Van Gundy), so there is no need to rehash that information.

The next step is to address the draft -- most specifically, whether to only select a player with the 4th overall pick or look to make moves to acquire a second (or third) pick, or possibly to move up into the top 2 by grossly overpaying. Over the past week, I've heard every imaginable scenario to do all of these things and here is what I've come up with as a plausible reality.

First, see what interest there is by teams in the lottery looking to move their pick for a future pick or a veteran player -- specifically Boston, Milwaukee, Indiana, Atlanta and Charlotte. There are cases for each of these teams to want to move out of the draft so that they don't have another young player on their roster, but nowhere is that case more evident than in Boston (where they have to placate Paul Pierce almost immediately or risk a situation similiar to the Iverson debacle of last season) or Charlotte (who are very, very long on young talent and very, very short on veteran leadership and consistent scoring). Boston will likely seek an arm, a leg and several key organs to move out of the 5th pick, so I don't know that they are a viable partner unless the team has decided to part ways with Gasol. Charlotte, on the other hand, might be more willing to deal if the Grizzlies are willing to give up Mike Miller, who could instantly provide that scoring and veteran presence to the Bobcats.

Trading Miller leads us to the next part of my analysis: who the Grizzlies should take with the #4 pick. Unless they are absolutely certain that they will be able to pick up a second top 10 pick and that he would be available at that position, I believe that Corey Brewer is the best pick for the organization. Paired with Rudy Gay on the wings for the next 5-10 years, they would provide the Grizz with a formidable combination of defensive intensity, athleticism and scoring. Add in the intensity that Kyle Lowry brought to the table in his brief stint last season, and you could have a trio on the wings very similar to the Pistons' group of Billups/Hamilton/Prince. The only other player I see as a viable choice at that position is Al Horford, who is about .007 behind Brewer in my current draft analysis, but still a few full points ahead of Mike Conley, Brandan Wright and Yi Jianlin. In other words, I'd rank those two players at #3 and #4 at the very worst as of this moment......and might even take Brewer over Durant. *Send all comments about blasphemy through the appropriate channels.*

If the Grizzlies are able to swing a deal with any other teams in the lottery, then select the best player available there, as well. DO NOT DRAFT BASED ON NEED!!! *Rant Warning* I don't want to see a Bowie over Jordan situation at this point, since this is a very critical juncture for the future of this organization. By the same token, don't overanalyze to the point of taking a project (Marvin Williams) over an obviously great player (Chris Paul). Sound like double-speak? It's not. It is actually the same scenario in both cases. In 1984, Jordan was clearly the best player on the board; in 2005, CP3 was clearly the best player on the board. While I hate to play the "hindsight game", this isn't a case of teams passing up players because of perceived weakness (in the Carlos Boozer is too small or Josh Howard can't adapt to NBA defenses model), but because it seems that NBA GM's all want to "discover talent", rather than recognizing it and drafting accordingly. Sometimes playing it safe comes back to haunt you, as the Grizzlies have witnessed with the draft selections of Drew Gooden, Troy Bell and Dahntay Jones. Other times it pays off, as with the recent selections of Hakim Warrick and Rudy Gay.

Ok, back to the present situation. If there was a way to take both Brewer and Horford (both great players who fill needs on the current Grizzlies' roster), then I would welcome it. I don't see it happening, though, so I'd prefer them to take the multi-dimensional Brewer over the solid, Boozer-lite potential and consistency of Horford. The team has done a good job of finagling second-round picks out of teams over the past few seasons, so hopefully they will manage to do that one more time with this being an especially deep draft.

Let me take a step back to address something I think a few fans might question, which is my willingness to so casually part with Mike Miller. That is a decision that has been made with a lot of careful consideration, so don't think of it as a flippant response to my current infatuation with the potential of Corey Brewer. I heard Geoff Calkins on the radio last week with a trade proposal that would have sent Miller to the Nuggets for Marcus Camby and as I contemplated that scenario, I must admit that I grew to like it more and more. Moves like that will need to be made in order for this organization to move forward -- much like the Battier to Houston trade was a necessity, no matter how painful it made this past season or how sorely his presence was missed, both on and off the court.

The last thing I want to address is what to do with Pau Gasol. I have heard both sides of the argument and remain convinced that the team has to keep him through this offseason. If a deal comes up that is beneficial, then I understand why they would want to part with him, but I don't see any teams out there that won't view the Grizzlies as being in a position of weakness at this point. If they wait until the season has started, and perhaps one of the contenders starts off slowly, then they will be in a position of equality at the very worst. There is virtually no way for them to receive anything back that would balance out what they would be losing in trading away Gasol during the offseason. I'll take his boring consistency through the season over a draft pick and a couple of spare parts from another team. And for all the complaints about his wallflower routine in the 4th quarters of several games, he is remarkably consistent. If his scoring goes down, then his rebounding and shot-blocking almost always go up. That's not a bad thing to be in a league where 25 ppg scorers have been known to fall off the face of the earth quite suddenly.

In conclusion, I think it is obvious that this organization needs to start at the top and then work its way down in order to solve all of its issues and problems. Getting the local owners to make a solid bid for the team would be an excellent start in my book. Putting pressure on Heisley to accept that bid would be even better. Installing a GM and coach before the draft would be intelligent moves, too. But what do I know? I'm just the paying customer, after all.

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