Well… sure as hell didn’t see this coming. After busting out an Ozymandias quote to write a Grizzlies retrospective and predicting Mike Conley would sign with Chicago, this publication was absolutely certain that the Grit and Grind era was over and that Memphis would be in the lottery. Nope. Next year’s group might be better than ever.
If you could build the perfect player for the Grit and Grind Grizzlies from scratch you’d come up with Chandler Parsons. He’s exactly what they need, a small forward who can shoot three’s, act as a secondary ball-handler, move without the ball and play at least neutral defense. Now that they have that guy, the Grizzlies can suddenly contend again.
Their offense actually has something of an identity now, and it’s one built around actual ball movement. Marc Gasol is one of the best passing centers in basketball, and when he has the ball in the high post he now has a cutter in Parsons who can then flip the ball to the corner for an open three, make the layup himself or deliver it back to one of the bigs for a layup of their own. They can run devastating 1-3 pick-and-pops between him and Mike Conley, as both shoot well enough that they have to be guarded, but Parsons also spaces the more traditional Conley-Gasol pick-and-roll more than any Grizzly has since this group has been together. Parsons shot almost 44% on catch-and-shoot three’s last year. That’s one of the best marks in basketball.
It gives Memphis someone who can actually lead their bench unit. For years the offense died when Conley sat, and last year was no exception. Without Conley on the floor their offensive rating dropped from over 105 to 100.6. But Parsons is an actual ball-handler who can lead secondary units while Conley sits and handle the scoring load for short stretches. Heck, he can even play some power forward in a pinch if the Grizzlies wanted to experiment more with small-ball lineups.
And it makes Tony Allen playable! The last time the Grizzlies were relevant was in their series against Golden State in 2015, where the Warriors chose to defend Allen with Andrew Bogut effectively neutering the Memphis offense. But that rover strategy doesn’t work nearly as well when the other four players are legitimate offensive threats. Now they are. Parsons provides enough spacing to keep Allen’s defense on the floor, bad news for Klay Thompson, who still has nightmares about the things Allen did to him early in that series.
There are inherent risks involved in signing Parsons. His history of knee injuries is particularly troubling especially when you consider the injury problems Gasol and Conley are currently going through and how old Zach Randolph is getting. Memphis staying healthy is a long shot, but if it happens, this is suddenly one of the four best teams in the Western Conference and a team that can beat just about anyone in a short series. Remember, this core has been to a Western Conference Finals. They’ve given Oklahoma City and Golden State all they could handle. And now they’ve added the biggest free agent in franchise history, the one player tailor made to fit their specific team.
Grit and Grind is officially back. Or maybe it just never left. Either way, the Parsons addition was one of the biggest of the offseason.