Friday, February 1, 2008

Still Seeking the Sunshine through the Clouds

Most people say I am a leader of the Sunshine Patrol of Grizzlies fans. I try to always look to the bright side of situations and remind people of the positives no matter what is happening.

I guess it is just part of my character.

While I must admit, at first glance, it is hard to not be depressed by the clouds of this situation. Pau Gasol had his faults but he was the best player ever to don a Memphis Grizzlies uniform. To lose him for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton and two draft picks seems hard to understand, especially when you consider that the draft picks come from one of the top teams in the Western Conference who just got stronger thanks to the trade. Can anyone anticipate great picks coming from that late in the draft?

However my normal state of mind has taken over and I am starting to see the brighter future that this trade provides.

First off, the team isn't going to be dramatically worse this season because of the trade. Memphis was 3-3 this season in games Gasol didn't play in. It doesn't seem likely that the team will fall that much off the pace because we no longer have Gasol or Swift.

Second, the team is free of a definately negative element in re-associating with the fans by not having Gasol on the team. I don't want to belabor this point but the fact is that Gasol was not popular in Memphis. Many fans simply couldn't relate to the team with Gasol on it. I wouldn't be surprised if the attendance doesn't rise for the rest of the season simply because Gasol is gone.

Third, Javaris Crittenton is a seriously good player. The 6-4 swing guard probably rose further up the draft board than any other player from the beginning of the year until the draft. At 6-4 he is taller than Conley, Lowry or Navarro. He has excellent court vision and a lightning fast first step. His defense is questionable but not because he doesn't provide effort. The question has always been about him being too aggressive (how often have you heard that said about a Grizzlies player?). While it may seem excessive to have 4 rookie point guard eligible players Crittenton can play shooting guard without the team suffering a drop in defense that they have had to do with Lowry or Navarro playing there. The main question mark about Javaris Crittenton is his outside shot but the mechanics look good there as well. Don't be surprised to see Mark Price on the sidelines more the rest of this year.

Fourth, defensively the Grizzlies should also be improved in the interior. Kwame Brown, Jason Collins and Darko Milicic are all adequate to superior defenders. While all have limitations on offense this team has plenty of scoring from Gay, Miller, Navarro and the rookie guards. Memphis will not rely so much on interior scoring but all can finish when left alone.

Finally, and this is the most important reason to be optomistic, the team has an excellent talent evaluator in Chris Wallace and free cash to put to use. Chris Wallace is a man who built his reputation on being an excellent judge of players who can play in the NBA. With cap space, draft picks and a very young team Chris is being given a blank canvas to build a team that he wants.

The top 8 players for the Grizzlies will be among the youngest in the league. With Navarro and Miller as the only players over 25 yrs old among the regular rotation the team will be more easily integrated into Iavaroni's system simply because they don't have to unlearn anything. With 5 #1 picks potentially in the next three drafts (Memphis still owes Washington a #1 pick until 2012) the team has a great opportunity to upgrade the talent on the bench.

While it is sad to lose a player of Gasol's quality - and he won't be replaced easily - the team is more able to spread the court now and force teams to guard them all over the court. The players remaining won't be looking to Gasol first so the uptempo offense should be more on display. Defensively the team should be improved after a period of adjustment as well.

So the clouds are still overhead but there is a silver lining and the sun is waiting to shine through. It may not be immediately but better times are on the horizon.

BallHype: hype it up!

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