Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Checklist

As we draw ever closer to training camp, I'm compelled to look back over this ever-so-short offseason and see what was accomplished. Judging by the majority of the posts on the Grizzlies Messageboard, you would think that the Grizzlies became a worse team than they were this past disappointing season. I think a careful evaluation of the moves that were made will paint a slightly different picture. There were some glaring, obvious needs that the organization needed to address: GM, Coach, Point Guard, Big Man in the Middle, 3-Point Shooting off the bench. Let's see what was done to fill those gaps.

Coach: Marc Iavaroni
The biggest name on the available coaches market found his way to Beale Street and seems genuinely happy to be here. He has been a valuable assistant in three successful systems and was a solid NBA player for 7 seasons. He is regarded as one of the best "big man" coaches in the game, having been associated with legendary instructor and Hall of Fame coach Pete Newell for 22 years. I don't recall having heard one person say anything negative about the hiring of Iavaroni.

Point Guard: Mike Conley, Jr.
Conley was a vital cog in helping his Ohio State team to the championship game of the NCAA tournament. His leadership and clutch play led to him being named to the All Big Ten First Team. He led the Big Ten in assists and showed the ability to take over games when called upon, resulting in him being selected by the Grizzlies with the 4th overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. His consistency from beyond the arc is the biggest question mark for this young man, as he has shown that he can dish and drive at the highest of levels.

Outside Shooting: Casey Jacobsen
One of the most feared shooters in college during his time with Stanford, Jacobsen's talents haven't always translated well to the NBA since he was drafted in 2002 by the Phoenix Suns. A two-time All American in college, Jacobsen spent last season with the Brose Baskets, where he was named Finals MVP after his team won the German Basketball championship. While no one should expect him to suddenly become a lockdown defender or an amazing dunker overnight, there should be no doubt that he is capable of providing the perimeter shooting that the Grizzlies will undoubtedly need in short bursts throughout the season, also allowing for players like Mike Miller to take the occasional game off to avoid fatigue during the grueling NBA regular season.

Big Man: Darko Miličić and Andre Brown
Darko Miličić has been one of the most scrutinized players in the NBA since he was drafted in 2003 after LeBron James and before Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Only 17 when he entered the league, there are many that think his first two years in the league with Detroit were spent in a situation that didn't allow for much evaluation, given that he was behind two perennial All-Stars in Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace. After being traded to Orlando in February 2006, Darko was provided with more playing time to display the potential that led Joe Dumars to select him with the #2 overall pick. At 7'0" tall and a solid 270 lbs., Darko seems to be the prototype for the complementary player that the Grizzlies have been searching for to place beside Pau Gasol for nearly 4 seasons. With the ability to put up double digits in both scoring and rebounding on any given night, he has also proven to be a capable shotblocker, having recorded 2+ blocks in several games last season. At only 22 years old, he is still 4-5 years away from the prime of his career.

Andre Brown is a virtual unknown for many Grizz fans, given that he only appeared in 38 games for Seattle last season, recording double digit minutes in merely 10 of them. By all accounts, he is a solid rebounder with great athleticism and leaping ability who runs the floor exceptionally well. Provided the scouting reports and evaluations are true, then he should fit in with the uptempo system that Coach Iavaroni is reputed to be installing in Memphis.

GM: Chris Wallace
Wallace didn't exactly have a sterling track record, having been part of one of the lowest points in Boston Celtics' history. His relatively short stint as the man in charge with one of the most storied franchises in the NBA didn't inspire a lot of confidence among the already gunshy fanbase in Memphis upon his hiring. So far though, he has managed to fill all the needs that the team had at the time ofhis arrival. Of course, it is easy to be optimistic prior to training camp -- the real answers will come to light during the regular season, when the fans are able to see just how well Conley, Darko, Jacobsen and Brown are able to perform under the bright lights.

All in all, I'd have to say that this has been one of the most successful offseasons in Memphis Grizzlies history, given that every need was filled with one of the best available candidates in each case. There is much reason to be optimistic for the future -- and given the season we all just experienced, that is good news indeed.

No comments: