By Michael Wallace
Grind City Media
MEMPHIS – What’s next for the Memphis Grizzlies?
Who stays? Who goes?
How will the Grit’N’Grind era continue to evolve?
Those questions and more face the Grizzlies as they embark on an offseason destined for change after their seventh consecutive playoff trip ended in a six-game series loss to the Spurs in the opening round. There’s plenty of optimism moving forward. There’s also clearly something most fans, players, coaches and executives agree on: 43 wins, a No. 7 seed in the playoffs and a first-round exit aren’t good enough.
Over a stretch of 17 weekdays, we’ll dive into our ‘Offseason Outlook’ series that breaks down my personal analysis as to where each player on the Grizzlies’ roster stands, in addition to coach David Fizdale and general manager Chris Wallace, entering a potentially pivotal offseason.
Player: Marc Gasol, 32
Measurables: 7-1, 255 – 9th NBA season
2016-17 Stats: 19.5 ppg (career high), 6.2 rpg, 4.6 apg (career high), 104 made 3-pointers (career high).
Status: Due $22.6 million for 2017-18 salary in third year of five-year deal.
Set career highs in several categories, including scoring, assists, three-pointers made and attempted and single-game scoring (42pts). He fell one block shy of joining Karl Anthony Towns as the only true centers in NBA history to finish a season with at least 200 assists, 100 threes and 100 blocks.
Inconsistent. (We) couldn’t accomplish the things I wanted to accomplish as a team, and that frustrated me very much, especially the second part of the season – couldn’t really take the team to the level that I thought I could as a unit. So that really took a toll on me. I don’t look at numbers. The only number I look at is the 43 wins, which is way too low to be the team that I envisioned us being. Forty-three wins is not acceptable. It’s (about) trying to make this team … a championship contender, not just a team that’s going to come in here and fight you and compete.
Offensively, Gasol had the best season of his career at age 32 and nearly a decade into his NBA tenure. The first half of the season, Big Spain carried the Grizzlies amid a rash of injuries that left the roster with only nine available players. Gasol delivered his best, most versatile performances during a mid-December stretch and was named Western Conference player of the week for the second time in his career after averaging 27.3 points, 10 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.5 blocks. Gasol’s game should age gracefully because of his ability to adapt and stretch his repertoire beyond the three-point line, where he essentially reinvented himself this season. But the most impressive aspect of Gasol’s season was his durability. He did all of this just months removed from season-ending foot surgery in February of 2016.
For as much as Gasol performed at a near MVP-level through the first three months of the season, there was a disturbing drop-off in his impact over the final three months after he made his third career All-Star appearance. Gasol denied that fatigue was a factor, and would later point to inconsistencies in the team’s approach, structure and playing style. In either case, Gasol wasn’t quite the same consistently dominant presence over the second half of the season as point guard Mike Conley returned from a back injury and gradually become a larger focal point of the offense. Defensively, Gasol’s rebounding and level of deterrence at the rim slipped from the standards he established as the 2013 NBA defensive player of the year. The overall inconsistencies frustrated the Grizzlies’ team captain.
No one was more perturbed with the overall performance this season than Gasol. That speaks to his level of expectations for the franchise. Gasol is rarely satisfied. But he’s also one-half of the NBA’s most versatile and productive point guard-center combination. Gasol and Conley will get back to what made them a magical duo, but they need a consistent supporting cast to push this team to its peak. Like Conley, Gasol delivered a career season and it strangely equated to 43 wins and a first-round playoff exit. Gasol is right for feeling something didn’t add up. The franchise center clearly points out the issues and concerns that left plenty to be desired this season. Now, Gasol needs to be just as consistently precise in leading the way to a solution as the player most capable of smoothly calibrating these Grizzlies.
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Michael Wallace are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.