Friday, March 30, 2018

2018 NBA Draft: Who Should the Grizzlies Pick?

Posted By on Fri, Mar 30, 2018 at 11:16 AM

Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace
  • Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace

Editor's Note: I've always been a fan of Andrew Ford's work scouting players, even all the way back to my Straight Outta Vancouver SB Nation days. He's got a great basketball mind—he's been on college staffs before—and he's a good writer, and I wanted to give him an opportunity to talk about who the Grizzlies should draft after this horror-show of a season ends. He did not disappoint.

Assuming the Memphis Grizzlies don’t blow a serious tank job with barely more than a handful of games left to play, they will end the season as one of the worst three teams in the league. With any blessing at all from the lottery gods, a poor finish will translate into a top three draft pick in June. That would leave the Grizzlies with their pick of the draft litter.

All the draft options the Grizzlies will be presented with might seem a little overwhelming, but the great thing about the current state of the roster is that it’s extremely moldable. I would posit that the Grizzlies are closer to gaining an all new identity than they are to regaining their long-standing, beloved Grit and Grind identity. That might fire up those who love Grit and Grind a little, but the Grizzlies have clearly been trying to move away from playing in the mud ever since they allowed Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, and Vince Carter to walk in order to develop younger guys for the future. Lack of identity is generally seen as a bad thing in the NBA, but a roster containing very few pieces positioned to play a long-term role places the Grizzlies in an ideal position to be able to choose any number of players in this year’s draft without having to be extremely concerned about how the player fits with current roster pieces.

Continue reading »

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Grizzlies 108, Trail Blazers 103: They Won Again

Posted By on Thu, Mar 29, 2018 at 9:02 AM

Last night needed more of this. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Last night needed more of this.

The Grizzlies can't stop beating Western Conference playoff teams who seem to be sleepwalking through the last couple weeks of the regular season. First it was Minnesota on Monday night, their first road win of the calendar year 2018. They continued the trend—creating an honest-to-God winning streak, something they haven't seen in weeks—on Wednesday at home against a Portland team missing Damian Lillard.

It's just like the Denver game from earlier in the month: team somewhere in the bottom half of the West playoffs bracket (this is before the Nuggets found themselves in 10th place) comes up against a Grizzlies team that, while bad, plays hard, and manages to play with so little intensity of execution that the Grizzlies, with whichever good player happens to show up on that given night, sneak up on them and steal a win out of the jaws of their sojourn in the wilderness.

Look, last night was a fun, exciting basketball game, but we're way too late in the season for this to start being fun. Up until Monday, the Griz were neck-and-neck with the Suns for the league's worst record, but now, two wins later, they're tied for third-worst with Atlanta, and barely hanging on to an edge over Orlando and Sacramento. The Grizzlies were absolute garbage for so long they were practically guaranteed a top-3 pick, but if they keep on winning, it's entirely possible that they'll have spent an entire season in the depths of misery only to fail to reap the (Ayton/Bagley/Doncic-sized) reward.

But, fear not. There's a solution to this mess, he's already under contract (no, not MarShon Brooks, who came in on a 10-day straight from China and scored 21 off the bench, including 14 in the 4th quarter alone), and he's guaranteed to be making $10M of the Grizzlies' money through the end of next year: play Ben McLemore 40 minutes in every remaining game.

This is not the McLemore the Grizzlies need in order to lose their remaining games. It is, however, a Memphis classic, in the same way a top 3 Grizzlies pick would be.
  • This is not the McLemore the Grizzlies need in order to lose their remaining games. It is, however, a Memphis classic, in the same way a top 3 Grizzlies pick would be.

I can't believe I'm actually putting forth a solution like this; one doesn't normally choose to subject oneself to the basketball equivalent of waterboarding (apologies to the 2012 Bobcats, whom I may have also called "basketball waterboarding"), but McLemore has been uniquely well-suited to torpedoing any chance the Grizzlies have at winning this year.

I bring this solution up—really, the solution the Griz have deployed all season long when trying to lose on purpose—because McLemore didn't play at all against Portland and only played 8 minutes against the Wolves. He's so bad, so bad, that he's got to be on the court for the rest of the season.

A top-3 pick, which, let's be honest, is the only acceptable outcome of a season this craptacular if you're a Grizzlies fan, is well within the Grizzlies' reach, even now, after these wins. But they can't win again. The stakes are too high. To avert their eyes from the utter darkness of the Tank at the last second would be to undo the one thing bringing hope to so many the whole time they're been going on multiple double-digit losing streaks: the chance that the Grizzlies might actually get the #1 pick in the NBA Draft. The later the pick, the bigger the chance that the Grizzlies will pick badly. This is what they've been losing for all season long. The young kids are good, or at least better than they have any right to be—this much we know.

Now keep losing. Time is tight.

Tweet of the Night

Up Next

Road games in Utah, Portland, and New Orleans, and then the last two home games of the season on Friday and Sunday against Sacramento (a must-lose if I ever saw one) and the Pistons.

They need to lose out. Whether that's actually what happens, we will see. I’ve got an interesting guest post lined up that will tackle what the Grizzlies should do with whichever pick they actually end up with (feels destined to be, like, fifth, doesn't it?) so stay tuned.

Friday, March 23, 2018

The Hustle Dispatch: Week 19

Posted By on Fri, Mar 23, 2018 at 4:57 PM


The Hustle ride a winning wave as the season winds down

There have been long stretches of trouble during this inaugural season in the G-League, but the Hustle’s past few performances have given fans hope that the team can push on stronger for next year. With two wins in the bag from gameweek 19, the Hustle can look to make it five on the bounce to close out the season against the South Bay Lakers and Texas Legends. Before that, though, Memphis had to blow past the Windy City Bulls and then square up to the number one seed in the West, the Austin Spurs.

Another day, another Marquis Teague clutch play to seal a victory. The contest wasn’t always tight, however. The Bulls secured the first quarter with a 30-20 lead, but the Hustle didn’t let that faze it. The game stayed close until the third quarter when, at 62-60 in favor of Windy City, the Bulls embarked on a 19-0 run to put clear daylight between the two teams. Memphis refused to lie down and steadily chipped away at the lead, with Myke Henry coming up with some key baskets, including a three-pointer to take the lead at 103-102. Henry’s layup also tied the score at the end of regulation, sending the game into what would be a double overtime.

In a series of personal escalating contributions, Henry pulled out another key layup at the buzzer for the first overtime period, tying the game at 117-117. The Bulls took the lead again in double overtime, but after Windy City’s C.J. fair missed a free throw with 8.9 seconds left, the Hustle refused to call time out. Teague attempted a 21-foot jump shot and drained it as time ran out, giving Memphis its first overtime win.

Throughout the game, the Hustle had the edge in the paint, with Memphis out rebounding the Bulls 52-37 and winning the second-chance points matchup 17-7. In the fourth quarter, Memphis also took better advantage of possession changes, turning four Bulls turnovers into 10 points, while Windy City failed to capitalize on Memphis’ mistakes.

Four of the Hustle starters scored in double digits, with Marquis Teague leading the team with 28 on 13-26 shooting, all while adding eight assists. Chance Comanche scored 24 on 11-14 shooting, while Dusty Hannahs nailed four three’s and made three free throws to snag 15. Omari Johnson added 18 points with nine rebounds.

Victory over the Bulls was impressive, but the Austin Spurs would provide a much sterner test. Austin towered over the Western conference with a 31-17 record, but Memphis came out guns blazing, erecting a defensive wall that held Austin to just 18 points in the first quarter while Memphis put up 29.

The Spurs, however, showed their high-profile pedigree and eased their way back into the game, closing the deficit over the course of the second quarter and built up to a healthy lead at 75-66 in the third. Not to be outdone, the Hustle strung together a 20-3 run to garner an eight point lead, but Austin again made a comeback attempt. With the Hustle’s lead cut to one, Marquis Teague stepped up yet again with an and1 that ultimately put the game out of reach for the Spurs. Memphis’ win meant they took the season series against the West’s best team 2-1.

The Hustle was good value for its win. While many of the points were spread around the team, Omari Johnson led with 25 points, while Myke Henry and Marquis Teague provided 21 and 17 points, respectively.

The win against Austin made it three wins in a row for the Hustle, who have a chance to end the season on a five-game win streak. That would make their final record more respectable, as well as give a sense of accomplishment to the young franchise. Next up, the Hustle play their final home game against the South Bay Lakers before closing the season in Frisco, TX, against the Texas Legends.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Grizzlies 101, Nuggets 94: Finally, a Win!

Posted By on Sun, Mar 18, 2018 at 8:23 AM

JaMychal Green dunks it on his *own* head for a change. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • JaMychal Green dunks it on his *own* head for a change.

The Grizzlies’ unrelenting torrent of misery finally, well, relented on Saturday night, as they won (seriously!) (like, I’m not making this up—according to the official National Basketball Association scorer’s report they finished with more points than their opponent) (seriously!) for the first time since January 29th. Denver is a playoff team, or at least they would be if they didn’t keep losing to teams like the Grizzlies, but then that’s why they play the games.

The Grizzlies came out swinging in this one, but one facet of the game stuck out to me above others, and it was something we haven’t seen from this Griz team in quite a while: offensive rebounding. The Griz didn’t even get more ORebs than Denver (they had 14 to the Nuggets’ 17) but when they did, they made them count. These weren’t just tips off something missed under the basket (looking at you, Zach Randolph’s career rebounding numbers); on multiple occasions the Grizzlies used offensive rebounds to bring the ball back out, settle in, set up a new play, and try again. They made the most of the possession, and then when they got an opportunity to set up for another one, they took it.

That’s not something the Grizzlies have been doing, not even back in January when they were still occasionally winning games. It was a new look for them, and one that signals that maybe in all this losing, little things are starting to improve. Things are being learned on some level.The other uncomfortable truth about Saturday night’s win? $30 million worth of salary got a DNP-CD and spent then night watching from the bench. Ben McLemore didn’t play, and neither did Chandler Parsons. McLemore has been playing heavy minutes through this stretch of losses (even though they’re ostensibly trying to win and trying to develop players). Parsons has been trying to shake some rust off while still on a heavy minutes restriction.

Wayne Selden soaked up a lot of minutes last night, and shot well. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Wayne Selden soaked up a lot of minutes last night, and shot well.

Neither has been good. In fact, Parsons has been at best neutral, and McLemore has been the worst player on the team by a pretty wide margin. That’s not a great sign, even in a season as bad as this one. McLemore was signed really early in the free agency window for more money than it seemed was necessary to get a player of his caliber, and Parsons, well, let’s not even go there right now. But when these guys sit and Tyreke Evans doesn’t, the Grizzlies can win. When they play, and especially when they play and Evans doesn’t, the Grizzlies are (apparently) the worst team in the league.

Which is fine. The Grizzlies sit at 19 wins now, and I would be shocked if they make it to 22. The season is almost over—13 games left, luckily enough—and there’s absolutely no incentive for them to go on a win streak this late in the game. If they play McLemore enough, apparently it won’t be possible at any rate.

Even if they don’t win another game this season (watch for Parsons to get shut down first, if he’s liable to start drawing DNP’s anyway), this win over the Nuggets, tank or not, was probably a necessary breather for the hapless hometown team. They were clearly distraught after the Chicago game, having come so close to finally breaking the losing streak and yet fallen so short at the end. That stuff matters. There’s bad, and then there’s “bad and cranky,” and they were trending that direction. One can only hope they can now manage to scrape the bottom of the barrel with smiles on their faces.

Gasol had his way with whichever Plumlee this is. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Gasol had his way with whichever Plumlee this is.

Tweet of the Night

Not really related to the win, but maybe not necessarily so unrelated, given how important St. Jude is to both of the Gasol brothers:

Up Next

Road games against the Nets, 76ers, and Hornets, each of them winnable in their own way. But. The Grizzlies have yet to win a road game in the calendar year 2018, and they’re abysmal against Eastern Conference teams this year, so unless this Denver win sparks a newfound confidence and a shortened rotation from JB Bickerstaff (though, let’s be honest, he knows better than to do that the whole rest of the season, right?), the trip eastward will probably be less than rewarding.

The next home game is in a week, against the Lakers.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Bucks 121, Grizzlies 103: Game Notes

Posted By on Tue, Mar 13, 2018 at 9:00 AM

Ben McLemore actually had a good game against Milwaukee, but it wasn't enough for a win. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Ben McLemore actually had a good game against Milwaukee, but it wasn't enough for a win.

The Memphis Grizzlies fell 121-103 to the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday night, extending their losing streak to 18 games. The Griz last won a basketball game on January 29 at home against Phoenix, and since that point, everything has come completely unglued for them. Some of this is by design—they're very nearly bad enough to actually get the #1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft—and some of it is because they've suffered a lot of injuries and weren't that good in the first place. No matter how much of the misery is self-inflicted, it's still miserable

What, then, can one say about a game like the one last night? The Grizzlies actually had a decent first quarter against the Bucks (currently sitting in the Eastern Conference's last playoff spot) in which they led by as many as eight points, but before the end of the quarter, lineups changed and so did the tenor of the game. This wasn't a blowout, not for most of its 48 minutes. The Grizzlies made runs, and the Bucks responded, and the Grizzlies never seemed to push over the edge and make it a competitive game. (Which, let's be honest, is not exactly a surprising development.)

"Coach, clearly the better Fleetwood Mac album is 'Tusk.' You're only saying 'Mirage' because you keep playing 'Gypsy' in the weight room." - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • "Coach, clearly the better Fleetwood Mac album is 'Tusk.' You're only saying 'Mirage' because you keep playing 'Gypsy' in the weight room."

I'm not really sure what else to say about this game. The upside of tanking is supposed to be player development, but playing these players in these situations with these personnel groupings isn't helping them develop, not really. As Matt Hrdlicka wrote about recently on his Patreon-backed blog, that's one way the Grizzlies are tanking that is not actually helping them get better for some hypothetical brighter future (beyond just getting minutes for some of these guys).

This season has been taxing to watch, taxing to talk about, taxing to consider in the larger context and, most certainly, taxing for the players stuck on a team that can't seem to put together a win to save its life. There's not much of it left, but what remains promises to be a slog. How do they win a game from here? Where do they find the execution to actually carry some of these runs over into a lead, and then keep it? Can it be done?

We'll find out. In the meantime, the plummet continues.

Tweet of the Night

Speaking of Hrdlicka, Jarell Martin started at small forward last night, and while it wasn't a total disaster, he was clearly playing out of position and struggling to keep up. For all of Martin's nascent skill, recently starting to blossom into "real NBA player" potential, he is still much worse at one end of the floor than he is the other:

Up Next

JaMychal Green is having a great stretch run, one of the Grizzlies' only bright spots. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • JaMychal Green is having a great stretch run, one of the Grizzlies' only bright spots.

Thursday night, the Grizzlies play the Bulls, who were recently scolded by the league powers-that-be for resting too many healthy players. (This is why Tyreke Evans is still "injured" and why Chandler Parsons had such a long, lingering "illness" and if you don't believe that I have a couple bridges to sell you, one vaguely shaped like an "M".) It will be vaguely interesting to see which team can try harder to lose, but the novelty has worn off of that like the basketball version of a Radio Shack Super Armatron, and if the weekend's Mavs game is any indication, the Grizzlies are the best team in the league at trying to lose.

Saturday brings the Nuggets, that almost-suitor for Tyreke Evans (though given what they offered, I'm glad that deal didn't go down). The most that can be said for the rest of the season is that they will (technically) be basketball contests held between two professional teams. So it goes.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Beyond the Arc Podcast #95: Three Things We've Learned

Posted By on Fri, Mar 9, 2018 at 9:18 AM


This week on the show, Kevin and Phil talk about:

  • The Grizzlies have lost fifteen (15!) games in a row.
  • The pro-tanking and anti-tanking factions of Grizzlies fandom keep fighting for no reason
  • Three things Kevin and Phil have learned about the Grizzlies this year (yes, it's still possible).
  • Who should coach the Grizzlies next year? Steve Clifford? Becky Hammon? What about JB Bickerstaff?
  • Should Chris Wallace go? Should Gasol and Conley?
  • Three things Kevin and Phil have learned about the NBA this year (content warning: scorching hot takes)

The Beyond the Arc podcast is available on iTunes, so you can subscribe there! It'd be great if you could rate and review the show while you're there. You can also find and listen to the show on Stitcher and on PlayerFM.

You can call our Google Voice number and leave us a voicemail, and we might talk about your question on the next show: 234-738-3394

You can download the show here or listen below:

Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Hustle Dispatch: Week 16

Posted By on Sat, Mar 3, 2018 at 6:59 PM


Only two matchups this gameweek as the Hustle splits results.

Reno came to town at the perfect time. Not to be outdone by their NBA counterparts, the Memphis Hustle were mired in the midst of a five game losing streak when The Bighorns came to Southaven. The newest episode of The Late Show with Marquis Teague aired on Saturday with two big free throws to give Memphis the win. While the subsequent loss against the South Bay Lakers brought any hint of momentum to a stop, the madcap, crazy, and chaotic bout against the Bighorns showed the fight this team still has in it.

Throughout the course of the game, the Hustle and the Bighorns ceded no ground to each other. When the dust settled, there had been 20 lead changes and 16 ties, while neither team ever led by more than seven points. With the Reno frontcourt duo of Jack Cooley and Jakarr Sampson putting out mammoth performances, the Hustle needed to put on a team clinic to stay competitive, and that’s exactly what they did. Each member of the starting lineup scored at least 14 points, allowing Memphis to fight through Reno’s domination in the paint and keep pace with Cooley and Sampson’s offensive efficiency.

Teague led the Hustle again with 24 points on 11-19 shooting, with the final two go-ahead buckets coming with just 3.1 seconds remaining in the game. Omari Johnson nabbed his 5th double-double of the season with 19 points and 11 rebounds, while Dusty Hannahs had an all-around performance with 14 points, four assists, and four rebounds. Austin Nichols pulled eight rebounds to go with his 17 points, and Jeremy Morgan had an efficient shooting game with 19 points from eight of his 12 shots. Off the bench, J.J. Frazier had his best performance in a Hustle uniform with 10 points and five rebounds. This game was a throwback to the early Hustle season, where the team would consistently churn out incredibly close, nail-biting results.

Against the South Bay Lakers, regular Hustle shortcomings reemerged. Throughout the season, Memphis hasn’t really quite been able to manage a game when taking a large lead, and that’s exactly what happened here. The Hustle blazed out of the blocks, building a 15-point lead and ending the first quarter at 34-21. Chance Comanche led the charge early, scoring nine points off the bench in the first frame. However, offensive production fell in the second quarter. South Bay consistently hit its shots, ending the quarter at 62-55. From there, the Lakers really got into their stride, pulling away in the third quarter to seize a 101-85 lead. In the final frame, the Lakers hit several threes to ultimately put the game out of reach for the Hustle at 125-116.
For the second game in a row, Marquis Teague did his best to keep the Hustle competitive by claiming a double-double with 28 points and 10 assists. Omari Johnson also gave a stellar performance with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Chance Comanche ended up with 17 points off the bench, while Jeremy Morgan scored 13. Beyond that, however, there wasn’t enough depth to make a dent in the Lakers’ lead.

At 16-26, the Hustle will end the season with a losing record. There are only eight games left, so now's a good time to end on a high and provide some building blocks for next year, when the players and the organization will have more experience under their belts. In terms of roster news, the Hustle recently signed Kuran Iverson, who played two seasons of college basketball at University of Memphis, via waiver claim. Kuran's most recent G-League experience came earlier this season with the Raptors 905. Next up for Memphis is an away game in Prescott Valley, Arizona, against the Northern Arizona Suns.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Beyond the Arc Podcast #94: Why Keep Watching the Grizzlies?

Posted By on Wed, Feb 28, 2018 at 10:28 AM


This week on the show, Kevin and Phil talk about:

  • Phil wants to trade Marc Gasol, but Kevin has a better idea
  • Do the Grizzlies think they'll make the playoffs next year?
  • Kevin's Memphis Flyer cover story about reasons to keep watching the Grizzlies
  • Phil's work on the DFS portion of the Lenny Melnick fantasy baseball draft guide
  • David Fizdale's ESPN gig—will he ever coach again?
  • How should the league handle dirty plays and players like Zaza Pachulia?
  • Can the Thunder actually beat the Warriors in a playoff series? (Spoiler: probably not)
  • The Grizzlies and Suns' Wednesday night game with both teams coming off double-digit losing streaks

The Beyond the Arc podcast is available on iTunes, so you can subscribe there! It'd be great if you could rate and review the show while you're there. You can also find and listen to the show on Stitcher and on PlayerFM.

You can call our Google Voice number and leave us a voicemail, and we might talk about your question on the next show: 234-738-3394

You can download the show here or listen below:

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Beyond the Arc Podcast #93: Rising Stars, Raging Refs

Posted By on Wed, Feb 21, 2018 at 9:32 AM


This week on the show, Kevin and Phil talk about:

  • Dillon Brooks on Team World in the Rising Stars Challenge
  • Was the Grizzlies' decision to keep Tyreke Evans the right one?
  • How bad will the Grizzlies be for the rest of the year?
  • Andrew Harrison's big night and big dumb ejection
  • The problems with the refs this season
  • Should the Griz bring back TA and Z-Bo since the Heat brought back Wade?

The Beyond the Arc podcast is available on iTunes, so you can subscribe there! It'd be great if you could rate and review the show while you're there. You can also find and listen to the show on Stitcher and on PlayerFM.

You can call our Google Voice number and leave us a voicemail, and we might talk about your question on the next show: 234-738-3394

You can download the show here or listen below:

Friday, February 9, 2018

The Hustle Dispatch: Week 14

Posted By on Fri, Feb 9, 2018 at 4:40 PM


To start, let’s say goodbye to a Hustle player that’s served the team well over the course of the season so far. Yesterday, the Hustle waived forward Trahson Burrell, who had averaged 13.3 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. On the other side, Memphis acquired JJ Frazier all the way from JDA Dijon Basket in the French LNB Pro A, where he averaged 8.2 points, 2.6 assists, and 2.3 rebounds per game. Frazier started his basketball career with four years playing collegiate basketball at Georgia.

In terms of game news, the week started off strong with the Hustle riding their momentum from last weekend’s Marquis Teague-led win over the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Up next after Rio was the Austin Spurs, a game which on paper looked like a challenge with Austin sitting pretty atop the Western Conference standings. The game, however, wasn’t easy coasting. The Hustle struggled to contain the Spurs early on, with the Texans shooting 57.4 percent from the field in the first half. However, Memphis’ 19-8 run with the clock winding down to halftime closed the gap to a 70-61 scoreline in favor of Austin. The Hustle slowly gained ground over the course of the third quarter until pulling ahead at the very end at 90-89.

The Hustle maintained the lead for most of the fourth quarter until Austin pulled ahead at 111-110. Memphis, not to be deterred, went on a 10-0 run sponsored by two quick Jeremy Morgan three’s to restamp their authority on the game, closing out the score at 120-115. The victory was the result of a total team effort; eight Hustle players scored in double digits, with Burrell leading the charge with 21 points accompanied by nine rebounds and five assists. Chance Comanche pulled a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds, while Morgan, Shaquille Thomas, Durand Scott, and Dusty Hannahs all combined for 43 points. The collaborative scoring helped the team overcome what was as large as a 22-point gap.

Having turned the tables on the leading Western team, surely the Hustle would kick on and come out of the blocks quickly in the following matchup? Instead, the Hustle dug another hole, this one even deeper with a deficit standing at 24 points against the Wisconsin Herd. More remarkably, the Hustle went on to win the game by 19 points. That’s an incredible 43 point turnaround, one not hinted at by the 26.7% Hustle shooting from the first quarter. The second quarter didn’t fare much better, but the second half was where the Hustle finally came alive. This matchup saw the return of Memphis’ paint domination, with the team pulling down 16 offensive rebounds, and outscoring the Herd 26-10 in second chance points and 60-42 in the paint.

Marquis Teague scored 25 points and added five assists and five rebounds to his all-around performance, while Austin Nichols got a double-double off the bench with 20 points and ten rebounds. Burrell snagged his tenth double-double of the season with 16 points and 11 rebounds. The victory against the Herd meant that Memphis earned its third straight victory, each having seen the team come from at least 16 points down at one point. That right there is fighting spirit, and with the end of the season looming, it’s a great way to end on a high.

It’s probably too much of an ask to keep asking for huge comebacks, and thus the Hustle couldn’t pull out another one after falling to an early lead against the Iowa Wolves. This lead was the largest the Hustle faced in this stretch, standing at a whopping 26 points. Warning signs flashed early. With the Hustle trailing by one midway through the first quarter, the Wolves hunted down efficient scoring opportunities and rampaged through an 18-0 run. The Hustle did claw its way back to just a six-point deficit during the fourth, but that was as good as it got. The Wolves took this contest 108-98.

On his last game for the team, Burrell put up a meager six points on 2-8 shooting. Omari Johnson and Thomas did their best to buck up the Hustle, scoring 25 and 22 points respectively (a career high for Thomas). Two wins out of three, though, is a darn good return for the tough teams the Hustle had to play against. The fighting spirit is still there, so some more top teams might struggle when coming up against Memphis. For now, the Hustle have returned home to play Agua Caliente Clippers tonight in Southaven.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Grizzlies keep Tyreke Evans at the trade deadline

Posted By on Thu, Feb 8, 2018 at 3:06 PM

  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Tyreke back!

Despite sitting him out since before last week's game at Indiana while they pursued deals, the NBA's trade deadline came and went with Evans still on the Memphis roster. The Grizzlies apparently remained engaged with several Eastern Conference teams throughout the day, but they decided that trying to re-sign Evans this summer since they'd have his early Bird rights after one more year was worth more than whatever was being offered by these teams, none of whom seemed to be willing to part with a first round pick.

I don't think it was that they wanted to get a deal done and couldn't; I think it was a calculated gamble that the Grizzlies felt was worth taking. I disagree.

If the Grizzlies win more games as a result of having Evans on the team between now and the end of the season, and move from the 5th pick to the 9th pick, and then lose Evans this summer anyway, the failure to trade him for a pick and/or young player is bad. If the Grizzlies pick 9th instead of 5th but keep Evans this summer—and I'm sure they wouldn't have rolled with the idea of keeping him at the deadline unless they thought he might want to return—and then he returns to being injured and plays 25 games, that's still the same level of failure.

It comes down to this: do I legitimately think the Grizzlies will be good enough next year to need Evans as a key piece of scoring on a good/playoff team? I think it's possible, but I also think given their injury history over the last 3 years it's unlikely. In that situation, I'd rather have young talent to evaluate the rest of this year, and still have the full mid-level exception to throw at Evans or whoever else this summer. If keeping him at the deadline was the only way to guarantee keeping him in free agency, I still would have traded him, probably. Let him find the money if it's there, or return for the MLE if it's not.

As it stands—optics aside, and the optics are extremely bad, just like they were extremely bad when the Grizzlies fired David Fizdale hours after he had a public spat with Marc Gasol—I'm just not sure hanging on to Evans is a gamble that was worth taking. It looks like a failure to capitalize on a good decision and turn it into future potential. The second another team (and the Kings proved today there are still teams making bad decisions) overpays Evans this summer, and he takes the money, the Grizzlies have gotten nothing at all for a 20-point-a-game scorer on an expiring deal, and that's extreme malfeasance (almost like trying to trade OJ Mayo but turning it in too late). Even if that doesn't happen, I'm just not sold that it was the right call.

There's another side of this, too. Is the 27th pick in the draft worth not winning a playoff series? For a team like Boston or Philadelphia, where Evans' scoring could be the difference between missing the playoffs and a 6 seed, why the reluctance to give up more? Money is tight for free agency, so picks and young players on rookie deals are worth even more, but it's frustrating to see the Grizzlies, who can't win this year, worry more about winning than about assets, while playoff teams who need a player like Evans are more worried about assets than about winning. This was a strange trade deadline—and the Clippers' extension of Lou Williams may have been a signal that this summer is going to be just as jammed up.

If Evans is back on the Grizzlies, wins 6th Man of the Year, and they're good, I will come back to this reaction and admit I was wrong. But this is not the path I would have chosen, were I the one making the decisions.

Grizzlies trade James Ennis to Detroit for Brice Johnson, pick

Posted By on Thu, Feb 8, 2018 at 11:39 AM

James Ennis has had a breakout year for the Grizzlies after being cut last year. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • James Ennis has had a breakout year for the Grizzlies after being cut last year.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Grizzlies have traded forward James Ennis to the Detroit Pistons for Brice Johnson and a second-round pick:

More on this as it develops. Ennis has been inconsistent but also underutilized since coming to the Grizzlies for the second time under David Fizdale (after not playing at all under Dave Joerger before being cut so the team could sign Ryan Hollins for the fourteenth time). I like this pickup for the Grizzlies if they'd decided to move on from Ennis: it gives him a shot to impress another team and maybe help them make the playoffs, and the Grizzlies get an asset back instead of losing him.

No word yet on other trades brewing for the Grizzlies, but rest assured, the phone lines are busy league-wide.

NBA Trade Deadline: What are the Grizzlies doing?

Posted By on Thu, Feb 8, 2018 at 7:36 AM

  • Joe Murphy (NBAE/Getty Images)
  • Tyreke Evans

The Grizzlies did not beat the Utah Jazz Wednesday, but compared to the beatdown they caught the previous night after a long layover in Atlanta (certainly not the first team to meet that fate), last night's effort was much better. Utah is better than Atlanta, and the Griz barely fell short of beating them. But that’s not really what matters this morning: today is the NBA trade deadline.

The Grizzlies have already kept Tyreke Evans off the court since last Wednesday’s game at Indiana—an unusually long “don’t get hurt before we can trade you” sabbatical but not an unreasonable one. Reports continue to trickle out that Boston, Philadelphia, and Denver are all interested in Evans but don’t want to part with a first round pick. So what can we expect to see from the Grizzlies between now and 2PM Central, when it’s pencils down for the whole league?

There's a path for the Grizzlies to keep Tyreke, but they shouldn't settle. The extension Lou Williams signed with the Clippers shows how tight the free agency market will be this summer. The main reason the Griz have been so reluctant to take back additional salary for next year in an Evans deal is that they want to keep the full Mid-Level Exception open for next season, allowing them to sign a player somewhere in that $8M range. Evans came to the Griz with no Bird Rights, meaning Memphis is unable to go over the cap to sign him this summer, but they'd be available again if he signed for a two year deal or the "early Bird rights" would be available after only one more year. (So, for example, a two year deal with a player option after next season.)

All that is to say, if the Grizzlies think Evans will be available at the MLE this summer, keeping him isn't crazy.

But. All it takes is a team with a better offer and he's gone for nothing. Or, if he does have to take the MLE, which is certainly possible, there could be a team offering the same salary that he might rather play for. Keeping him at the deadline is by no means a sure way to keep him in free agency. So, assuming talks progress to the point that one of these teams (I think the Sixers and Nuggets seem more likely than the Celtics, and there may be other teams entering the fray today) is actually willing to return a first rounder and/or a second rounder and a good young player (Emmanuel Mudiay from Denver, for example, or Luwawu-Cabarrot from Philly), the Grizzlies should take that deal. They'll still have the MLE to offer Tyreke this summer no matter what they do.

The Grizzlies have a storied history of letting guys walk for nothing. I’d hate to see that be what happens here, again, but after all this talk about how it’s imperative that they trade Evans, this Williams deal with the Clippers may have changed the thinking a little.

Brandan Wright is almost certainly gone if someone offers an asset. Wright has fallen out of the rotation, because the young guys need minutes. The Wright experiment in Memphis was a great idea at the time, but he’s been so hampered by injuries while here that it’s hard to say it’s been anything approaching a success.

The second someone offers a second round pick, or a young player, or a really nice set of encyclopedias, I expect Wright to be on his way out of Memphis. He can add value to another team needing frontcourt depth, and it would clarify the depth chart here—a win-win for the player and the team.

My assumption is the Grizzlies would like to do more than two deals. Evans and Wright are the obvious trade bait, but the Griz have other players that might interest playoff teams looking to add depth. What if the right offer comes in for JaMychal Green? Or if someone offers a late second for Jarell Martin? I expect the Griz to pursue those sorts of things, and also to see what it would cost them to move Ben McLemore (though I think they’ll probably be stuck with him, realistically).

All in all, this is an interesting day for the Grizzlies. How they handle the Evans situation will tell us quite a bit about how they think this summer will go, and if they can manage to pull off these other ancillary deals without giving up anything else of value, they'll be in a much better spot flexibility-wise heading into next season. We can only hope that, unlike the fabled OJ Mayo-to-Indiana trade that was turned in to the league too late to go through, this time, the fax machines are working properly.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Beyond the Arc Podcast #92: Watching the Unwatchable

Posted By on Wed, Feb 7, 2018 at 10:28 AM


This week on the show, Kevin and Phil talk about:

  • Watching the unwatchable loss to the Hawks, for some reason
  • Rookie year inconsistency from Wayne Selden—worth keeping an eye on
  • Losing lots of post-2011 fans who have only known the Grizzlies to be good
  • The Trade Deadline, the decision to sit Tyreke Evans, and where he might end up
  • Will JB Bickerstaff be the Grizzlies' coach next year? Phil throws out an interesting name
  • The upcoming week of (probably not great) games

The Beyond the Arc podcast is available on iTunes, so you can subscribe there! It'd be great if you could rate and review the show while you're there. You can also find and listen to the show on Stitcher and on PlayerFM.

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Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Hustle Dispatch: Week 13

Posted By on Thu, Feb 1, 2018 at 3:51 PM


Marquis Teague has the final say on the Hustle’s 1-2 week

Gameweek 13 for the Hustle ended up as a promising one: Memphis finished with 1-2 record in the three-game home series, but capped it off with Marquis Teague’s buzzer beating layup against the Rio Grande Valley Vipers yesterday. In other news, Kobi Simmons had himself a week with a stellar point haul in one game and notable contributions in others, while Chance Comanche also stepped up to the plate with consistent performances. All in all, a decent week with some decent performances despite two losses.

To kick off a three-game series of home games, the Hustle relied on a big three to provide scoring. While the players stepped up to the plate, some extra points from unusual sources may have helped push the game across the line. But, ultimately, the Hustle fell 118-112 against the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. To be honest, the game could have been much worse, with Fort Wayne using the 2nd quarter to catapult itself into a 16-point lead on the back of 40 points. In the fourth quarter, the Hustle outscored the Mad Ants 44-25, but that wasn’t enough to make up the deficit.

Impressively, both Chance Comanche and Kobi Simmons had career nights. Comanche scored 33 points on an astounding 15-16 shooting. Those 15 made field goals are also the most buckets made by a Hustle player this season, so hats off to Comanche. Trying not to be outdone, Kobi Simmons chipped in with 32 points of his own while adding eight rebounds, while Durand Scott contributed 16 points, with the complete trio providing 81 of Memphis’ 112 points. While it’s great that some of the players are putting up huge numbers, if the bench can’t keep up, then these heroic efforts will only be in vain. However, a six-point deficit is something that can be overcome, so with more star performances like this, and a little push from the bench, then the Hustle should be ok.

The Hustle’s next game, a 117-106 loss to the Texas Legends, was another close affair, with the game going back and forth for much of the first half. Indeed, the lead changed 15 times as the teams tustled to bring out a greater lead. At the start of the third, the Hustle stayed competitive before Texas scored 10 unanswered points to create a lead that couldn’t be torn down.

Chance Comanche had another good game, with 19 points and six rebounds to show for his efforts, but Omari Johnson led the team this time with a double-double; the forward scored 21 points and grabbed ten rebounds. Marquis Teague, meanwhile, added 20 points and seven assists. The scoring was spread more evenly across the board this time, with Durand Scott and Austin Nichols scoring 13 and 11 points, respectively, but Texas just had too much in the locker.

Luckily for the Hustle, Marquis Teague was on hand to round out the series with a 127-125 win over the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, tossing up a heavily contested layup as the buzzer sounded to seal the victory. However, the Hustle had to work hard to get to that moment.

The Vipers started out as the superior team, making 10 of their first 15 shots and quickly amassing a 16-point lead in the first quarter. However, the Hustle embarked on a run of its own in the second quarter, outscoring Rio Grande 18-5, and eventually Memphis pulled ahead to take an advantage into halftime. The Vipers pulled ahead once again and held a 125-123 late in the fourth quarter. At that point, the Hustle’s defense shut up tight and didn’t let Rio Grande score any more points. Chance Comanche made a putback layup with 36 seconds left to tie the game before Teague’s late-game heroics.

All five starters scored in double figures for the Hustle’s win, with Teague the most impressive with 31 points on 12-24 shooting. Kobi Simmons and Omari Johnson both scored 17 points, while Trahson Burrell contributed 20 points off the bench on 7-12 shooting.

This may not have been the Hustle’s best week, but it sure saw some big performances from key players. If Kobi Simmons and Marquis Teague continue to put out game-winning performances and the bench steps up, then the Hustle could be well-poised to end its inaugural season on a winning note.

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