Sid Meier’s Civilization is a game that is near and dear to my heart. Not a minute of those countless hours spent playing were wasted. So good. So much fun. Anyways, the basic premise of the game is to build a civilization from scratch. You start out with a small group of settlers and survey the land to establish a permanent home. From there, you ascertain resources, knowledge, and provide infrastructure so that the colony can advance intellectually and grow in physical number. All of this leads to the ultimate goal of world conquest. In my pursuit of global domination, I’d often over-extend myself and be susceptible to counter attack, which would force me to retreat and build up my forces once again. This is how I view the Memphis/Vancouver Grizzlies. Founded in 1995, the team was a fledgling outfit, winning fewer than 20 games each of the first four years in existence. Then progress happened over the next four years, as the team won 22, 23, 23, and 28 games. In 2003, Hubie Brown led the team to a 50-win season and first playoff appearance in franchise history. After two more playoff appearances, the team went back to the 20-win Dark Ages for three seasons. But that was just a brief retreat, as it set up a 7-year Golden Age in which the team made the playoffs every season. It all came crashing down last year, though, as injuries decimated the squad. Are we heading back to the Dark Ages or was last season just a blip on the radar?
2017 record: 22-60
David Fizdale is coaching in New York now, so JB Bickerstaff mans the ship. He’s been on the staff for three years and has coached 63 games during that span, so not much should change philosophically. Everything revolves around the health of Mike Conley, who played in only 12 games last season. Without their floor general, the team was discombobulated and a ton of young guys played much more than they should have. There was an infusion of young talent via the draft and free agency, so there should be a marked improvement. Vegas has the win total set at 33.5. Conley and Gasol are both older, and the Western Conference is absolutely stacked, but let’s not forget that this team was winning high-40 to mid-50 games a season during the Golden Age. A possible sleeper team to keep an eye on.
Mike Conley, Shelvin Mack, Andrew Harrison, and Jevon Carter. At 30 years old, Conley is the $30 million man. Damn, $32 million next year and $34 million in 2020. Whether you think he’s overrated or not, Conley is a vital cog for this team. He directs the offense and soaks up a 26% usage rate. Conley will provide close to 6 dimes, score in the upper double-digits with a couple threeecolas, grab a few boards, and get his 211 on. The shooting percentages are good all around as well. Just don’t expect blocks and there’s always the threat of injury. Mack should be the primary backup. Not much to get excited about, especially since he won’t get too many minutes. He can run an offense, make the open J, dish out a few dimes, and not get bullied on D, but there’s little creation ability in his game. Harrison is young (23 years old) and played some significant minutes last season due to injury. You could easily flip flop Harrison and Mack and the results probably be similar. Carter is the 1st round selection of the Grizzlies in the 2018 NBA Draft. A four-year starter at WVU, Carter fits the “Grit and Grind” style due to his hustle and defensive prowess. As the season progresses, I could see him surpassing both Mack and Harrison on the depth chart.
Dillon Brooks, MarShon Brooks, and Wayne Selden. What a mess this position is. I have all three players splitting time equally. There’s also the chance that Garrett Temple soaks up some minutes. Anyways, all three can shoot and score, but Brooks has the most upside, as he is the most microwave-esque. I do like Selden alot, but don’t think he gets significant run.
Kyle Anderson, Omri Casspi, and Garrett Temple. Anderson is the newly minted, 4-year $37 million player the Grizzlies signed in the offseason. He is a unique player, in that he is 6′ 9″ but possesses point guard abilities. He is super long as well, which allows him to be a plus contributer in rebounds, steals, and blocks. Just don’t expect many threeecolas from him. Casspi can play both the small and power forward positions, but his main value comes from spacing the floor and knocking down shots from behind the arc (37% career). I just don’t have him down for too many minutes. Temple should get plenty of minutes and provide threeecolas and some steals.
JaMychal Green and Chandler Parsons. Green is a very good rebounder. Last season, he was tied for 32nd in double-dubs with 16 (points and rebounds). He will also chip in a threeecola here and there, and the free throw percentage is more than palatable. Just don’t expect many D stats or dimes. Parsons is….he’s still in the league? Only 29 years old, Parsons had a rough time with injuries the past couple years. In his prime, he was a 15/5/4 player with a steal and a couple threeecolas. Now, being on the court is an accomplishment. He has looked good in preseason action and there are some minutes available on the depth chart, but he is not someone I’d draft. On the speed dial, though.
Marc Gasol and Jaren Jackson Jr. Gasol is 33 years old, so he’s getting up there in age, but he can still ball. With the return of Conley and the infusion of young talent, he should be rejuvenated this season. Points, rebounds, assists, blocks, threeecolas, and excellent percentages all around. Muy bueno. He will even chip in some steals. Could be underrated this season. If so, pounce. JJJ is the rookie who balled out in the Summer League. He showed off the range from outside and should contribute in points, rebounds, and block. As with Gasol, the shooting percentages are nice to get from a big man.