Michael Heisley and Chris Wallace made no secret that keeping Marc Gasol in a Memphis uniform was the most important thing that needed to get done before the season started.
Well, Gasol broke the news via twitter last night that he has reached a tentative agreement with the Grizzlies that will keep the emerging center in Memphis via a four-year, max contract offer.
Here’s Gasol’s (@marcgasol) tweet:
I’m proud to say that we have reached a tentative agreement with my team @memgrizz , can’t wait to get on the court with all my teammates!
This was crucial for the Grizzlies, as Gasol was rated as the No. 1 free agent available this offseason by SBNation. After signing Josh Selby and Jeremy Pargo earlier this week to add depth, it now remains to be seen what the franchise will do to further bolster its frontcourt depth. Memphis has submitted a $2 million qualifying offer to Haddadi, but there are issues with him getting back into the country - issues which stem from an off-the-court domestic incident during last season.
This morning, the Commercial Appeal’s Grizzlies blog broke the news that the proposed Mayo-McRoberts deal is officially dead and that Mayo has been informed he will remain in Memphis for the foreseeable future. Sources indicated that the decision came on the heels of injury concerns of Xavier Henry and Sam Young, who have both been limited in practice due to ankle injuries. Some reports earlier today said that Henry has a sprained ankle that will keep him out of the lineup for at least two weeks.
Trading Mayo would have left the Grizzlies’ with a serious depth problem and meant the team didn’t have a dynamic scorer coming off the bench. Mayo settled into a sixth-man role last season, starting only 17 games while averaging 11.3 points per game.
According to the official Memphis Grizzlies website, there are currently 19 players listed on the Memphis roster. The Grizzlies will have to trim that to 15 signed players, three of which will be on injured reserve, before the start of the season. With that said, let’s take a look at the roster on a position by position basis:
Mike Conley: The Grizzlies received a lot of negative publicity last offseason when Heisley signed Conley to a long term, very lucrative deal. Many people perceived Conley as a solid NBA point guard, but not one worth the money the Grizzlies gave him. Conley responded to the criticism, however, and posted career highs in points per game (13.7), assists per game (6.5), rebounds per game (3.0) and steals per game (1.8). The fifth-year point guard also stepped up his play in the postseason, averaging better than 15 points per contest.
Greivis Vasquez: Entering his second season in the NBA, the former Maryland standout finally made a name for himself among Memphians for something other than making derogatory remarks about C-USA during the 2008-09 NCAA Tournament. In his rookie season, Vasquez emerged as a viable backup option for Conley, though he did struggle with ball control at times. He finished the season averaging just under 11 minutes and 4.3 points per game. Many Grizzlies’ fans may remember Vasquez memorable shot in the triple-overtime game against Oklahoma City during last year’s playoff run.
Jeremy Pargo: Memphis signed free agent Jeremy Pargo to a two-year contract to help add depth at the point guard position. Pargo spent the last two seasons playing overseas for Hapoel Gilboa Galil Elyon in Israel and Euroleague power Maccabi Tel Aviv B.C. Pargo put up good numbers in those leagues, so it will be interesting to see how he fares in the NBA.
Shooting Guard/Small Forward
Rudy Gay: The most unknown piece of the puzzle this season is returning superstar Rudy Gay, who missed the last 27 games of the 2010-11 season with an injured shoulder. Gay is the team’s “superstar” by all accounts and by his numbers. Before getting injured, the sixth-year guard out of Connecticut was averaging just shy of 20 points per game in addition to 6.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists. Gay is by far the Grizzlies’ best scorer, but getting him back into the rotation and finding him shots will be no easy task after the team adjusted to playing without him during the stretch run last year.
Tony Allen: Grit. Grind. Welcome to the Grindhouse. Allen endeared himself to the entire city of Memphis last season with his emphasis on toughness and blue collar play throughout the playoff run. Allen is not a great offensive threat, but he more than makes up for it on defense and with his tough-guy mentality.
OJ Mayo: As I mentioned above, Mayo emerged last season as the sixth-man option for the Grizzlies. Mayo was almost always the first man off the bench and still averaged more than 10 points per game. Despite getting suspended for 10 games because of the league’s substance abuse policy last season, Mayo earned himself a solid spot in the rotation and has the respect of his teammates.
Xavier Henry: The 12th overall pick in the 2010 draft, Henry has struggled with injuries since entering the league. He played in 38 games last year, starting 16, and averaged 4.3 points and one rebound per game before being sidelined with a knee injury. The Memphis front office was expecting more from him this year, but it has been reported today that he could miss almost a month with an ankle injury.
Sam Young: Entering his third year in the league, Young will have stiffer competition for minutes this season compared to last. Young saw increased minutes during the latter half of last season and into the playoff because of injuries to Gay and Henry, and the guard/forward combo responded. He played in 78 games, starting 46 and averaged more than seven points per game. Young’s lack of a consistent jumper did hurt the Grizzlies in the playoffs, however. The Commercial Appeal has also reported today that Young is battling an ankle injury that has kept him out of early practices.
Josh Selby: A rookie out of Kansas that many considered a steal as the 49th overall pick in the 2011 draft, Selby is a wild card for the Grizzlies this season. He has undeniable talent, but questions about his attitude and work ethic have surrounded him at every level. Selby had sit out his first nine games at the University of Kansas due to uncertainties around his recruitment and was a star at times once he made his debut with the Jayhawks. He battled injuries throughout the season, however, and ended up only averaging 7.9 points per game in 26 appearances.
Ish Smith: *12/15 Update* Smith has been waived by the Grizzlies.
**Note: Memphis has far too many big men on its roster right now. I expect them to drop at least two of those guys and maybe add another player that’s in free agency now like Leon Powe or Troy Murphy.**
Here are the key frontcourt players:
Marc Gasol: The younger of the Gasol brothers, Marc helped Grizzlies fans get rid of the bitterness towards his brother after a stellar season in 2010-11. Gasol emerged as one of the premier centers in the NBA. Standing at 7-foot-1 and 265 pounds, Gasol is a force on the glass and in the lane. He averaged 11.7 points and more than seven rebounds per game last year during the regular season and saved his best for the post season. Gasol performed on the big stage in the playoffs, averaging better than 15 points and 11 rebounds each game.
Zach Randolph: An embodiment of the blue-collar style that is Memphis, Randolph related to the Memphis fan base in a way that few can. Though he stands at 6-foot-9, Randolph is known for everything but his leaping ability and mostly operates as a below the rim type of player. Still, he came to Memphis with questions about his attitude, charisma and character and was able to put all that aside to have an extremely productive season in 2010-11. After Gay went down last season, Randolph stepped as a team leader and averaged more than 20 points and nine rebounds per game.
Darrell Arthur: Perhaps the most athletic post presence on the roster, Arthur was used as an energy spark for most of last season. He captivated fans with highlight-reel dunks, averaging more than 20 minutes and nine points each game.
Hamed Haddadi: Mostly a minute-filler, Haddadi is the tallest player on the roster at 7-foot-2. Memphis has extended a $2 million qualifying offer to the Iranian big man, but there are issues as to whether or not Haddadi can even make it back into the country.
Preston McClellan covers the Grizzlies for MemphiSport. Follow him on Twitter @p_mcclellan.