2019 NBA Draft Marks the Beginning of a New Era in Memphis
The 2019 NBA Draft was top heavy. You had a prospect the likes of which we haven’t seen in a long time ago at #1 overall to the New Orleans Pelicans. But, outside of those first few picks, it’s a lot of uncertainty. While history may come to know it as “the Zion Williamson draft,” it marks a pivotal moment in the history of the Memphis Grizzlies. You can exclude them from that uncertainty. The Grizz took Murray State PG Ja Morant at #2 overall and Gonzaga PF Brandon Clarke at #21 (acquired via trade from Oklahoma City). Factor in Jaren Jackson Jr. coming off a solid rookie campaign and the addition of Taylor Jenkins at the head coaching position, and this team now has its core moving forward.
This is the foundation of the future of Grizzlies basketball. But it didn’t come without at least a little bit of a reflective pause from Grizzlies fans.
The team traded Mike Conley to the Utah Jazz last week. Really, good for Mike – he has a legitimate shot of winning in Utah like he never really did in Memphis. But it’s going to be weird not seeing him in a Grizzlies uniform next season. More so, he was the last remaining relic from the glory days of Grizzlies basketball. That Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Tony Allen, “Grit and Grind” class.
Looking back on some of those teams, I don’t know how they didn’t win more than they did. Maybe it had to do with sharing a division with the vaunted San Antonio Spurs dynasty. Outside of a run in 2013 that saw the Grizzlies knock off the top seeded Oklahoma City Thunder before losing to the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals, that team didn’t make a whole lot of noise in the playoffs. Namely, because the Grizzlies just couldn’t seem to get the draft picks right. Those teams weren’t exactly known for developing young players. So, when the Grit and Grind Boys came off the court, the team suffered.
So, props to the Grizzlies organization for recognizing that and going after Jenkins. Throughout his time with the Milwaukee Bucks, Jenkins became known for a penchant for developing young guys into contributors. Now that the Grizzlies are resetting, they’re identifying where things went wrong the last time they went through a rebuild.
Sure, there’s still free agency to address. They’ll add some pieces. But this team is about the draft. Now, just because there’s optimism in Memphis doesn’t mean the needle has moved. The Phoenix Suns are still the only team in the NBA with longer odds to win the NBA Championship next year. But, given this overhaul of the Grizzlies, I might consider hitting up USALegalBetting.com to find myself a site to take those odds.
Morant is the point guard of the future. The kid can facilitate unlike anyone else in the 2019 NBA Draft. He’s aggressive, explosive, and has been described as being capable of being the engine of a team. Clarke is a freakish athlete with incredible size. He figures to be a solid rebounder and all-around stalwart on defense (I admit – I saw this pick and thought, “that’s Grit and Grind” baby!). And, of course, that’s not including JJJ, who’s shown a ton of promise in his own right.
This young nucleus should be fun to watch. Maybe ‘Grit and Grind’ is behind us. Or, maybe these guys will become a sort of ‘Grit and Grind 2.0’ along the way. Regardless, it’s their show to run now.
Stoney Keeley is the Editor in Chief of The SoBros Network. He is a strong supporter of Team GSD and #BeBetter. “Big Natural” covers the Tennessee Titans, Alabama Crimson Tide football, the WWE, and a whole wealth of nonsense. Follow on Twitter @StoneyKeeley