2011 NBA Offseason: Memphis Grizzlies

Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, David Kay and Peter Christian of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
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Memphis Grizzlies (Last Year: 46-36)

2011 NBA Draft Team Grade:

Josh Selby was one of the big-time drops in the 2011 NBA Draft, so for Memphis to grab an extremely talented, but inexperienced player at No. 49 was well worth the risk and could pay major dividends down the line. There was no more talented player on the board this late so why not roll the dice for the future? (Team Grade: LOVE IT!)

Live 2011 NBA Draft Grades:

49. Josh Selby, PG, Kansas
A major fall for Selby is kind of shocking but not really when you look at his freshman season at Kansas. Considering he was one of the top-recruited freshman in the country, he is worth the gamble for Memphis at No. 49. This is a pure value pick. (Pick Grade: LOVE IT!)

*** 2011 NBA Offseason Needs and Free Agents listed below this comment box. ***

2010-11 Season Summary:
After a solid regular season in which the Grizzlies finished with the third-best record in franchise history, Memphis really hit its stride in the postseason. The eighth seed in the Western Conference, the Griz upset the top-seeded Spurs and then took the Thunder to seven games before bowing out in the second round.

The biggest reason for their success was the emergence of Zach Randolph. Randolph put up similar numbers as recent years but developed a killer instinct which he had been lacking in the past. He also continued to show improved maturity, putting the days of his reputation as a trouble-maker long behind him. That production earned Randolph a 4-year, $71 million contract extension as the Grizzlies did not want Randolph to hit the open market.

His frontcourt partner Marc Gasol had a decent regular season but really stepped up his play in the postseason, which was another huge reason Memphis nearly advanced to the Western Conference Finals.

With Rudy Gay sidelined due to a shoulder injury, the Grizzlies made a trade deadline move by acquiring veteran Shane Battier for super-project big man Hasheem Thabeet and a first-round pick. That acquisition proved to be a steal; not because of Battier’s numbers, but because of the experience and leadership he brought to a relatively young club.

Memphis also received solid production from its backcourt despite the O.J. Mayo/Tony Allen post-card game altercation midway through the season. While Mayo regressed through the most inconsistent season of his career and was nearly traded to Indiana, Allen brought an attitude to the floor and the ability to lock down defensively against opposing team’s wings. Second-year player Sam Young was a key contributor as well and seems to be a steal of a second-round pick. Rookie Xavier Henry was a disappointment and needs more time to develop before he is ready to step into the rotation.

In a crucial fourth year and coming off a contract extension, Mike Conley had his best season as a pro and opened eyes in the playoffs despite not shooting the ball well. Rookie Greivis Vasquez seems like he will have a solid NBA career as a backup, as he added depth at the point.

2011-12 Projected Depth Chart:

C: *Marc Gasol/#Hamed Haddadi

PF: Zach Randolph/Darrell Arthur

SF: Rudy Gay/Sam Young/Xavier Henry

SG: Tony Allen/O.J. Mayo

PG: Mike Conley/Greivis Vasquez/Ishmael Smith/Josh Selby

NBA Free Agents:

SF-Shane Battier (UFA)

PF-Leon Powe (UFA)

*C-Marc Gasol (RFA)

#C-Hamed Haddadi (RFA)

Off-Season Transactions:

Grizzlies pick up team option on G/F Sam Young

2010-11 Team Salary: Approximately $53.4 million

NBA Offseason Needs:

1. Re-sign Gasol: The Grizzlies took care of Randolph with a lengthy extension. After his playoff performance, Marc Gasol is next. He is a restricted free agent and Memphis has the ability to match any offer he signs in the offseason. I cannot imagine a team throwing too much money at Gasol to scare the Grizzlies off, so expect the Spaniard to get paid as Memphis will not want to break up one of the emerging frontcourts in the league.

2. Bring Back Battier: Rudy Gay’s name has already popped up in several trade rumors this offseason but it would be surprising if the Grizzlies ended up dealing him just because he was injured at the end of the season. Even with Gay returning, Memphis needs to bring back Shane Battier because of the intangibles and off-the-court presence he brings to the team. Several teams should be interested in Battier’s services especially since he embraces the defensive end, so the Grizzlies will have to convince the former Dukie to come back.

3. Frontcourt Depth: Even if Gasol is re-signed, the Grizzlies need to find an upgrade in their frontcourt depth. Darrell Arthur is a solid backup to Randolph, but Hammed Haddadi and Leon Powe were the remaining bigs on the roster after Thabeet was dealt. A true center who can play a small role off the bench and bring some physicality to the paint would be a wise investment.

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