I actually left an unfinished draft of this article on my personal blog-site before the season started. It was going to be a an article that explained why, in a transitional season like this one was scheduled to be for the Memphis Grizzlies, having players like Mike Conley and Marc Gasol was so vital. It was meant to outline, while the best years for both Gasol and Conley were behind them, how it would be the best idea to still base the team’s immediate future around them.
It seemed like a solid way of thinking at the time but, just like the real life product on the court, I never got around to actually finishing what I started. It was good in theory but the actual follow-through was left incomplete.
Conley and Gasol pick-and-rolls have been as much as a staple of the franchise for Grizz fans as growl towels, close wins, bad draft picks, and blowing big leads. The two veterans have had a chemistry that has made them one of the winningest active tandems in recent history. Whether it’s been under the leadership of Lionel Hollins, Dave Joerger, David Fizdale, or JB Bickerstaff, when all else fails, some good ol’ Mike-and-Marc magic has seemed to always save the day — or at the very least, make the Grizzlies a team that can compete and play above the talent level of the sum of its collective parts.
The duo is 361-288 (55.6 percent) playing together over their careers, which is impressive. But they are only 57-56 as a duo since the 2016-2017 season, which also lines up with the departure of fellow “Core Four” members Zach Randolph and Tony Allen.
The Grizzlies are currently 18-21, and have gone 6-16 after starting the season with a 12-5 record. Conley leads the team in scoring but the offense has been abysmal lately, especially with Gasol being inconsistent and limited, either physically or emotionally. It’s also fair to say to say that Conley and Gasol have done a poor job in trying to look for rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. more in the offense.
Trading the last two members of the core four that captured the city’s heart is always a possibility, and honestly, as a media member who is also a fan and a Memphian, I can see both sides. It’s an interesting dilemma, because you know that trading one or both will ultimately send the team into rebuilding mode, immediately.
I took a hard stance against tanking this season, due to the fact that the Grizzlies still owe their 2019 draft pick to Boston if it lands outside of the top eight picks, but as the season and reality progress, I have found myself not as “10 toes down” as before.
The two core vets were supposed to be the guys who would help hand the franchise over to the new era, led by Jackson Jr. This looked to be the case early in the season, but lately, it seems like they are simply denying the inevitable change that has to come. You can’t help but wonder if it would be better for Jackson — and the team — if Gasol and Conley would defer to him more, to allow him to be the focal point of the offense while they still do “Marc and Mike stuff.” It would be something similar to the way that they still deferred to Zach Randolph, even while at the height of their careers. It’s frustrating and confusing. It seems like it should be much simpler than what we're seeing on the court. The two established leaders should be benefitting to the young players and helping them grow, which should ultimately lead to wins.
But it simply isn’t happening.