I wanted to make sure and start this week off right with something other than the normal preview/recap loop it's so easy to get stuck in. I spent some time over the weekend thinking about setting goals for the upcoming year—something I do every year, because it's always interesting and enlightening to look back at those goals at the end of the year and see what you accomplished and how your goals changed—and since the new year is approaching for the Grizzlies, too, I figured I should tell the Grizzlies what their goals for 2014 should be.
1. Bring in outside shooting, like, for real this time.
O.J. Mayo provided a little bit of it, but honestly it was more Shane Battier in 2011. Gilbert Arenas provided it for two or three games. Wayne Ellington shot the lights out three or four times and shot pretty poorly up until he got traded with Marreese Speights and Josh "Lionel Was Right About Me" Selby for Jon Leuer.
Mike Miller has certainly made some noise shooting the three-ball, but he's struggled to find his spot in the offense in Memphis, partially because he's still the only "shooter" on the roster (at least until we see what Seth Curry looks like in an actual game) and partially because early this season Dave Joerger used him like a security blanket, playing him 30 minutes a night no matter what.
We've been talking about this for years: the Grizzlies need consistent 3-point shooters, "3 and D" guys, at the wings to cash in all the open shots generated by Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph drawing defenses into the paint. And yet the Grizzlies, under two different front offices now, continue to pass up guys in free agency, presumably because they're too expensive, and hoping somebody scraped off the bottom of the barrel will help (sorry, Wayne).
Let's figure this out. When Quincy Pondexter gets healthy, let's glue his feet to the corner so he can't do anything but shoot from there. Put him in one corner, and Mike Miller in the other one. Or (radical thought) don't start two wings (Tayshaun Prince and Tony Allen) who defenses don't really have to guard. Anyway, I don't want another summer of "The Grizzlies just need a shooter or two." Three is enough.
2. Use that draft pick wisely.
Strangely enough, the Grizzlies actually have the rights to their own first round draft pick this year. They should resolve not to do the following things with it:
3. Be more transparent, to the extent possible.
I talked about this a little bit in an earlier post about the possibility of trading Zach Randolph. The Grizzlies' new ownership group has done some things exceptionally well—regional marketing, revitalizing the "in game experience" (read: food) at FedExForum—and I generally think they've made smart moves basketball-wise, but there's one thing I think they still haven't done a great job with: convincing the average Grizzlies fan that they know what they're doing.
A large part of this is "narrative." The national narrative after the Grizzlies traded Rudy Gay was that they were idiots, that their new ownership group—remember when Adrian Wojnarowski called John Hollinger "a statistician from a cable company"?—was a bunch of cheapos who didn't know how to build an NBA team and was just in it for the money. Whether or not that's true (and honestly, I don't think anybody but the Maloofs buys an NBA team just for the money...) it's the narrative that got circulated through the national media, and it still does on occasion.
But you notice no one said the same thing when the Raptors traded Rudy Gay to Sacramento for an even crappier return package.
The problem here is messaging. I know the Grizzlies aren't going to come out and explain every move they make and why they're making it, but they've clearly got to do something to get the casual fan back on their side (and that "something" could even just be winning basketball games). Until that happens, they're always going to look like a bunch of newcomers who are moving pieces around without a plan, because no one knows what the plan is.
Maybe this whole issue goes away if Marc Gasol doesn't get hurt and the Grizzlies completely right the ship after their 4-0 road trip in November. But, alas, that's not where we are, is it?
4. Figure out the rotations and stick to them.
This is more a resolution for Dave Joerger than for anybody else. But... don't play 12 guys when you don't have to. When a lineup works, go back to it from time to time. Try not to play Jerryd Bayless as the backup point guard as much (Nick Calathes will get better with playing time, I promise—his court vision is too good for him not to).
Most importantly, the Grizzlies are going to have a frontcourt problem when Marc Gasol returns from his injury (possibly as soon as a couple of weeks from now): Zach Randolph, Kosta Koufos, Ed Davis, and Jon Leuer are all playing well, and each appears to have settled into a role on the team and figured out how to be effective within what the Grizzlies are trying to do. When Marc Gasol comes back, he's going to eat up a lot of minutes from some or all of those guys, and something is going to have to shift in the way they're deployed.
It would behoove the Grizzlies to make whatever trades they're going to make as soon as possible after the return of Gasol, because this team needs every extra minute it can get to gel if they're really going to make a push for the 8th playoff spot (they're currently 12th). Get these lineups and rotations figured out. They can't be in flux all year long, can they? Can they?
What resolutions would you make for the Grizzlies for 2014? (Please don't say "Bring back Lionel Hollins.")