The Memphis Grizzlies didn’t make the same kind of news they did last year, when they handed Mike Conley what at the time was the largest contract in NBA history or lured Chandler Parsons away from the Dallas Mavericks.
That’s, in large part, because they didn’t have a whole lot they could do. Over the cap, all they had was the mid-level exception and the bi-annual exception.
They did, however, make some significant changes to the team, with a little less grit and grind, and a little more help from the perimeter. They let Zach Randolph — a significant part of the Grizzlies’ identity over the last several years — walk to the Sacramento Kings on a two-year, $24 million deal. Randolph was a big part of the grit-and-grind attack over the years.
Coincidentally, they added a couple of ex-Kings in Ben McLemore with the MLE and Tyreke Evans with the BAE. Neither of those was really a massive free-agent coup, but they were solid moves that have a chance to pay off bigger than the contract.
McLemore has been something of a bust to this point in his career, averaging 9.4 points 2.6 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 293 games. His player efficiency rating last year was just 9.8. His true shooting percentage was 53.8 percent, and according to ESPN.com, his real plus-minus was minus-4.46, which put him at 455 out of 468 players in the NBA.
The Grizzlies are hoping that is all an issue of having played in a disastrous situation over the years in Sacramento, and that the change in scenery will bring about a change in fortunes. But that might be overly optimistic thinking. There’s “not good” and “downright bad,” and McLemore seems to be more of the latter. He did, however, show some range last year (38.2 percent from deep), so he could help the Grizz with a bit of court stretching.
The Grizzlies are going to have put the McLemore era on hold for a bit, though, as he will be out for 12 weeks with a fractured foot. I’m not holding that against them in their grade, though, because there’s no way they could have seen this coming.
Evans is a former rookie of the year whose one-year, $3.3 million deal might be one of the best of this free-agency period. His 15.5 PER last year was a smidge below his career average, as he was hampered by knee injuries. But it’s still above average. While he struggled with shooting early in his career, he’s been 36.9 percent from deep over the last two years. on 3.1 attempts per game.
That’s not “lights out,” but it’s enough to make defenders think twice about going under on the pick-and-roll.
The Grizzlies also brought back Wayne Seldon and Mario Chalmers. Both are justifiable moves, but neither is a game-changer. Selden was an undrafted rookie last year who played decently in limited minutes. Chalmers didn’t play last season after blowing his Achilles tendon in 2016, but played well (10.8 points, 3.8 assists) with Memphis prior to going down.
In the draft, the Grizzlies didn’t have a first-round pick, but they did a bit of gambling there, too, with a pair of second-round selections. Ivan Rabb (35th pick) had a bad sophomore season at Cal after opting to come back, and that tanked his draft value. They took Dillon Brooks (45) who has a good chance of being on a two-way contract.
Overall, the Grizzlies didn’t have the biggest offseason, so they rolled the dice, looking for players who could out-perform their contracts. Of course, there’s also the chance they could be major busts. And it should be pointed out that they’re hoping Parsons will be healthier this season and less disappointing.
They’re making a gradual turn into a more modern team, and doing it without sacrificing being competitive in the process. They basically did what they could with what they had.