The Memphis Grizzlies left it all on the court on Thursday night. It just wasn't enough, as the San Antonio Spurs eliminated Marc Gasol & Co. 4-2 in the first round of the 2017 NBA plaofffs.
Every year around this time, we wonder whether the "Grit 'n' Grind" era has come to a close. And every year, the Grizzlies come back and surprise us once again in October.
Will this offseason be any different? Not if Memphis follows our advice for how to make a deep playoff run next year in three simple steps.
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Don't blow it up; instead, lean into "Grit 'n' Grind"
Grizzlies critics will tell you this era has ended. They will tell you the team needs to rebuild around Mike Conley, jettisoning everyone else.
They are wrong — mostly because Memphis doesn't really have any way to blow this team up. The Grizzlies have more than 70 percent of their cap locked up in Conley, Marc Gasol and Chandler Parsons.
Moreover, the entire NBA is going away from Memphis' style of basketball in an effort to emulate the Golden State Warriors. The Grizzlies, though, have proved they can hang with Stephen Curry & Co. by crashing the offensive glass, mucking up the game and going big.
So bring back Zach Randolph (on a bit of a hometown discount, hopefully), scour the free agent market for cheap bigs who can play defense and rebound, and forget what everyone else is doing. When they zig, you zag.
Understand that Chandler Parsons is a lost cause
If the Grizzlies get any production out of Parsons over the next three seasons, they should consider themselves lucky.
Memphis can't can't count on Parsons moving forward. That fact has to inform everything the Grizzlies do, from managing the salary cap to adding players on the wing who can shoot 3s, defend and create off the dribble.
The team can give him one more year to try to get healthy, but that's it. If he's still a non-factor in the summer of 2018, the Grizzlies need to consider using the stretch provision on this onerous contract to give themselves a modicum of flexibility.
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Try to sign the perfect, low-priced free agent
As we mentioned earlier, the Grizzlies have very little cap space this offseason. There's only one player who fits in Memphis and might be available at the right price: P.J. Tucker.
The Toronto Raptors wing did an outstanding job of defending Giannis Antetokounmpo in the first round of the playoffs, and he can knock down open 3s from the corner when he has a point guard to set him up.
Most importantly, there's no grittier, grindier player in the NBA than Tucker. He's always been a member of the Memphis Grizzlies in his heart. Let's make that an on-court reality and see how this team fares next season.