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Why the Grizzlies Should Never Tank

Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace said Marc Gasol and Mike Conley will not be traded, and the Grizz have no plans to blow everything up and rebuild.

There has been a ton of talk about the Grizzlies needing to punt on the season, and tank for a draft pick.  The Grizz are in the midst of a nine game losing streak, and they have to face the Spurs again Friday night.  Things are not going well in Memphis, but it is not even close to time to tank.

Even with nine straight losses, Memphis is only 2.5 games out of the playoffs right now.  Mike Conley should return in the next 2-3 weeks, and they have a pretty solid team when everyone is healthy.  

The team quit on David Fizdale, but give them a chance to show signs of life now that he is gone.  They all looked more energized last night in San Antonio, and kept things close throughout the game despite being down 5 guys.  Andrew Harrison and James Ennis both had good games for the first time in a month, and they were the two guys that seemed to be hurt the most by Fizdale’s wacky rotations.  

Before people in Memphis seriously start talking about tanking, think back to 2006-2009.  Remember how awful it was to watch your team only win 20 games a season?  Remember when our goal was to lose by less than 10 points instead of winning the game?  Even with having lottery picks, Memphis did not draft their way out of trouble.  Yes, they drafted O.J. Mayo and Mike Conley, but O.J. is not exactly a franchise player.  The Grizzlies rebuilt through trades, and signing free agents like Zach Randolph and Tony Allen.  

Look at teams around the league who were stuck in a hole too deep to get out of.  Philadelphia was awful for the better part of a decade, and they just now are starting to be relevant again.  Look at the Los Angeles Clippers, they have been trash the entire time they have been in L.A. until Chris Paul got there.  The Orlando Magic have only won 30 games or more one time since Dwight Howard screwed them over.There is just too much evidence that proves tanking is way too risky unless you just absolutely have no other options.

Even if the Grizzlies did tank and got a lottery pick, how has that gone in the past for Memphis?  Think of how terrible the draft history has been for this franchise.  In 2008, Memphis drafted Kevin Love, and turned around and traded him for O.J. Mayo.  The Grizzlies taking Hasheem Thabeet with the number 2 overall pick in 2009 might be the worst pick in the history of the NBA draft.  The Grizz selected Thabeet over James Harden, Steph Curry, DeMar DeRozan, and Jrue Holiday.  Finally in 2010, Chris Wallace picked Xavier Henry 12th overall, while Eric Bledsoe, Avery Bradley, and Hassan Whiteside were all still on the board.

The only high draft pick Memphis has hit on in recent memory is Mike Conley.  Even picking Conley was heavily scrutinized because Memphis had just drafted Kyle Lowry the year before.  

Even though Memphis has a lot of true fans that will stick with the Grizz through the darkest days, Memphis is just too small of a market to ever tank on purpose.  Add the small market size to the fact that Memphis has not had the Grizzlies very long, and there is a real chance that the franchise would have to move out of Memphis.  

I know that sounds crazy but hear me out.  Lifelong Grizzlies fans are not even old enough to legally buy alcohol yet.  The vast majority of Grizzlies fans can remember life before the Grizzlies, and a good number of them probably have a team they used to cheer for.  

Let’s just look at the Tigers for a minute.  Memphis has loved Tiger basketball for decades, but have you seen their attendance lately?  They’re struggling to halfway fill the FedExForum.  It was not long ago that a Tuesday night game against Rice would have been a tough ticket, and now they can’t even give tickets away.  If a fan base can be that apathetic about a team the city has loved for that long, they could absolutely do it to the Grizzlies too.    

The difference is the Tigers are not ever going anywhere, but the Grizzlies can leave in a heartbeat.  Memphis was on the verge of losing the Grizzlies before their streak of playoff appearances, but the success of the team stabilized the fan support.  If the Grizzlies have two or three season in a row with a half-empty arena every night, you better believe they will look for a new city.  I know there are a lot of fans in Seattle that would do anything for a second chance to get a NBA franchise.

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