FLANNERY: Last year at this time, both of us praised the Grizzlies' consistency and stability. In an uncertain world, at least we could count on Grit ‘N Grind. Now the Grizz have added Chandler Parsons to that black hole of a small forward position and re-upped Mike Conley for a ton of dough.
Both moves look good on paper, but Tom, I'm worried about Memphis. It's not any one thing that concerns me, but lots and lots of small things that add up over time. You share my feeling of angst, or are you on board with the Good Ship Grizz?
ZILLER: I find myself back in favor of the Grizzlies. I think the Parsons pickup is big for them -- he adds some speed, some shooting, some versatility as the team transitions to a new era. Marc Gasol will be back, and Memphis has consistently been awesome when Gasol and Conley are healthy. Marc doesn't have a huge number of NBA miles on his odometer and I think Conley will be eager to show he's worth the richest NBA contract ever. Conley and Parsons can give the Grizzlies a dimension they've lacked if David Fizdale lets them run. That doesn't totally suit Gasol or Zach Randolph, but it's a different look I'm excited to see.
The ages of Z-Bo and Tony Allen are somewhat concerning, but we saw Dave Joerger successfully transition the team away from them a bit, and Fizdale could continue that (albeit without the services of Matt Barnes and Lance Stephenson). Jordan Adams and JaMychal Green are solid young players, and I feel like Wade Baldwin could be this year's Cameron Payne — lots of promise while backing up a stud point guard, lots of infuriating moments.
Memphis probably needs a trade or two to find proper roster balance, and a big shooter like Ryan Anderson or Mirza Teletovic would have been nice in free agency. But altogether, I'm feeling this team more than I have in the last couple of years. The Gasol-Conley-Parsons core feels solid to me.
Are you concerned about their playoff hopes? What's your sense of how Fizdale will change their style?
FLANNERY: That's an incredibly optimistic portrait of their roster, so let me throw some cynicism your way. Gasol is coming off a major injury. Conley is coming off a serious injury. Parsons has had major injury issues in the not so recent past. That's your core and you're paying them over $70 million per for the next three years. Gulp. Even in this cash-soaked cap era, that's pretty extreme.
I'll accept the notion that JaMychal Green is an interesting prospect, but there's no reliable evidence that Adams can play at this level. Baldwin's a rookie. And, there's still not enough shooting. If everything falls into place and if all those can stay healthy, then sure, this is a playoff team. I'm going to remain skeptical.
I'm curious to see how they look under Fizdale. I'm a big fan of his and I'm happy he's getting a shot with a veteran team instead of a massive rebuild. I think he'll be great, but it's not really up to him.
ZILLER: Fair points, especially on the injuries. To that I'll say that neither Conley nor Gasol's issues seem chronic or serious enough to legitimately impact this season. Parsons is a different story; hopefully things are squared away.
But injuries are massively unpredictable for all teams. Trying to ascertain what impact injuries will have before the injuries start piling up is a fool's errand. One thing I like to do before the season is lay out win estimates for all 30 teams, basically using the prior year as a baseline and adjusting for roster changes and injury recoveries. There are 1,230 wins available in a season. The first draft of these estimates invariably ends up with 1,300 or so wins assigned. Before the season, we're more optimistic about everyone, not just our personal rooting interests. We can imagine what success would look like.
So to get to 1,230, you adjust everything downward — a 60-win team becomes a 57-win team, a 33-win goes down to 29 or 30.
But in actuality, some of those teams will hit the rosiest projections. The team you thought could win 60 actually does. The rising team actually wins 35. But injuries crush other teams, leaving them 10 wins under where reasonable analysts had them. Because of the lottery, this issue is sometimes exacerbated: consider the Suns last season, who elected to "play for the future" once January hit and they were deep out of the race.
This is a long digression with little to do about the Grizzlies. But we can't really know how injuries will affect Memphis or any team, so I'm not nervous about expecting the Grizzlies to be fine. In fact, given that last year's squad still made the playoffs despite the injuries because they ran up such a good early record, that makes me feel a little better.
The long-term future of the roster is a more serious question mark to me.
FLANNERY: Go on.
ZILLER: I mean, Z-Bo is 35 and looks it (I say this as someone turning 35 soon). Marc is 31. I'm bullish on Gasol's ability to perform at a high level this season, but he will degrade. It happens to all big centers, often around this time. Allen is getting up there. All of this team's top five players will be 28 or older by opening night. While I do think Green (and to a lesser extent Adams and Baldwin) can contribute, there is not a future star under the age of 25 on this roster. The Grizzlies' draft pick ledger is in solid shape, but I don't expect them to be picking high until and if the wheels come off.