The last and only time the Grizzlies boasted the Executive of the Year was in 2004 when Jerry West won the award. However, Chris Wallace has done a stand out job and is a more than worthy candidate for the award this season. The player signings, trades, and acquisitions he has made has this year’s team poised to make a deep playoff run.
His ability to address personnel problems when they arise has been unmatched in the NBA this season and it began on day one with restricted free agent Marc Gasol in need of a new contract. Thanks to fast negotiation and a 4 year $58 million deal, Wallace was able to sign the big man.
All Gasol has done this year is be named to his first All-Star team, pick up the slack while Zach Randolph was out with an injury, be a dominant presence in the paint on both the defensive (7th in the NBA in blocks) and offensive ends , and average close to a double-double this season.
Signing Gasol was without a doubt the most important thing for Wallace, but figuring out what to do with OJ Mayo was still very important. As the old saying goes, “Sometimes the best moves are the ones you don’t make,” and Wallace’s decision not to trade Mayo proved to be a good one.
By keeping Mayo, and assuring him that he would not be traded, Wallace kept a very important bench player and scorer on the team. Mayo plays more minutes than any other player on the bench, and leads the team in points off the bench. What is more impressive is that Mayo is the only player to play in all of the team’s games so far this season.
With Mayo and Gasol taken care of, Wallace turned his attention to an extremely thin front court. Darrel Arthur was out for the season with an Achilles injury and Hamed Haddadi was still trying to get a work visa. So, the loss of two bigs left the Grizzlies with obvious holes to fill with the season quickly approaching.
Yet, Wallace did not panic. Instead, he engineered a trade that sent Grevis Vasquez to the Hornets for Quincy Pondexter (a move that caused some issues at the backup point guard spot, an issue Wallace also fixed) and signed Dante Cunningham after the Bobcats failed to match the offer for the restricted free agent.
These player acquisitions added depth to a depleted front line for the time being, but when Randolph went down with an injury just four games into the year more moves had to be made and Wallace stepped up to the challenge. He traded Xavier Henry, a little used player, and brought in Marreese Speights.
Cunningham, Speights, and Pondexter have all been pleasant surprises and critical pieces to the success of this year’s team. They embraced the team’s grit and grind mentality, and are also fitting in nicely with the pieces the team already has.
Yet, there was still an issue at the backup point guard spot that needed to be addressed. And Wallace made one of the most impressive moves by a GM this season with the addition of Gilbert Arenas to the roster.
Wallace had to find a way to improve the back up point guard spot, with Josh Selby and Jeremy Pargo struggling at the position. Mayo was seeing significant minutes as Mike Conley’s back up, but that was taking Mayo out of his natural shooting guard position. After Wallace cleared cap space by trading Sam Young to the 76ers, the Grizzlies were able to acquire Arenas to fill in as a more than adequate backup point guard.
Every time there was a hole to fill from a personnel stand point, Wallace filled it. The pieces he added to the team have fit nicely and the Grizzlies are on the verge of another special season thanks to him. It is safe to say that without the decisions he made in the front office the team is not in solid playoff position, and the Grizzlies do not have a chance at a three seed in the Western Conference.
CJ Hurt covers the Grizzlies for MemphiSport. Follow him @churtj09 for live tweets from FedExForum.
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