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Oklahoma City Thunder summer series: Ranking the West’s offseason moves

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A team-by-team Western Conference offseason assessment, beginning with Thunder-rival Memphis

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

As the NBA offseason slows, an offseason where the Oklahoma City Thunder excelled, it is time for NBA circles to assess and appraise summer 17’.

While a rebuilt Thunder preps for stiff Western Conference play beginning this October, the following series will explore how effectively Western GM’s navigated the draft, trades, and free-agency.

Over the coming weeks, WTLC will rank the Western Conference’s offseason pecking order, starting with #15 and finishing with arguably the league’s top low-season navigator.

We begin with a team in flux: The Memphis Grizzlies.

#15 Memphis Grizzlies

  • 16-17 record: 43-39 (Lost 4-2 in first round of playoffs to San Antonio)
  • Signed Free-Agents: (Ben McLemore $10 M two-year deal, Tyreke Evans $3.2 M one-year deal, Mario Chalmers $2.1 M one-year deal —only 25K guaranteed—, Rade Zagorac $2.3 M three-year deal)
  • 17’ Draft Picks: (Ivan Rabb F University of California, Dillon Brooks F Oregon)
  • Players Lost: Zach Randolph PF (Signed with Sacramento), Vince Carter G (Signed with Sacramento)
  • Unsigned Free Agents: Tony Allen G/F, JaMychal Green F
  • Retained: Wayne Selden (2.8 M two-year deal, first year and 1.3 M is guaranteed)
  • Salary-Cap Allocations: $105.8 M ($6.7 M over practical cap space)
  • 16-17 Record vs. OKC: 0-3

Last spring saw “grit and grind’s” finale, as movement cornerstones Zach Randolph and (presumably) Tony Allen will end their careers outside of Memphis. In addition, JaMychal Green’s RFA contact remains unsigned.

Though the 16-17’ Grizzlies met #2 seed San Antonio with veteran postseason urgency, nonetheless, Dave Fizdale’s holdovers, and injury-prone flier-level additions, must look ahead with uncertainty.

An uncertainty which leads some to murmur that an eighth-consecutive playoff appearance could become an uphill climb for Memphis in the star-laden West.

Key Loss: Zach Randolph

Eight seasons, a double-double average, and two All-Star appearances highlight Randolph’s Grizzlies run. Perhaps, however, the 36-year-old’s locker-room intangibles and mental toughness outweigh his hefty (16.8 PPG, 10.2 RPG, and 2.0 APG) on-court contributions with Memphis.

During a revealing 16th season, Randolph embodied maturity while accepting a lesser role. In 24.5 MPG last year, the former Michigan State Spartan added 14 PPG and 8 RPG while tallying 77 contests.

Again, alongside Tony Allen, Randolph’s veteran poise, leadership, and competitive moxy bolstered Memphis’ near-decade of overpowering collective-soul.

When Randolph joined Sacramento’s upper-tier summer overhaul July 10, he did so holding an immeasurable piece of his former team’s identity.

Key Addition: Tyreke Evans

Following a recent foot injury suffered by projected starting two-guard Ben McLemore, this season Tyreke Evans’ search for both the endurance and on-court form which once placed him among the league’s most versatile swing-men will become expedited.

Although, complicating matters is that Evans has competed in just 65 of his past 164-possible regular-season contests.

Approaching 27, and prone to knee ailments, the former NBA Rookie of The Year averaged a career-low 10 PPG, 3 RPG, and 3 APG last season.

On a team rife with oft-injured pieces, and facing the probable loss of starter-level talent, Evans’ reclamation is vital for Memphis’ depth, which is make-or-break in the formidable West.

X-Factor: Chandler Parsons

Formerly on the precipice of stardom, Parsons’ health is now generally in question —a recurring theme attached to members of this roster. What isn’t in question, though, is the possible albatross created by Parsons’ four-year $94 M deal signed last summer.

Contractual matters notwithstanding, Memphis could desperately use a revamped Chandler’s all-around stock to compliment the tandem of Mike Conley and Marc Gasol.

While enduring a disastrous 16-17, the 6’10 Parsons holds a potentially windfall skill-set for Memphis, including: 37% career shooting from deep, playmaking ability (2.9 assists), and legitimate third-option scoring (13.7 PPG).

As Memphis now embraces a space-and-pace era attitude, Parsons’ ability to remain on the floor directly aligns with the Grizzlies’ competitive hopes.

  • Memphis Grizzlies Projected Opening-Night Starting Lineup:
  • PG: Mike Conley
  • SG: Troy Daniels/Tyreke Evans
  • SF: Chandler Parsons/Tyreke Evans
  • PF: JaMychal Green/Chandler Parsons
  • C: Marc Gasol

Final Analysis:

Since April, vague circumstances have surrounded this Grizzles iteration; while over the past two months, some clarity has surfaced.

The clear: Hemorrhaging quality leaders Zach Randolph and Vince Carter —as the futures of Tony Allen and RFA JaMychal Green remain tenuous— places an already delicate roster in terms of health in a state of further anxiety.

The unclear: If Allen and Green leave, can Parsons, Evans, McLemore (out through end of Oct.), and Chalmers (missed entire 16-17 season w/Achilles rehab) remain healthy and regain a semblance of their prior form?

Further, can they do so if Allen and Green stay?

If the latter happens, the Memphis Grizzlies can field a quality team. Though, if Allen and Green bolt and the injury-plagued foursome under-produce, rocky times may lay ahead for this consistently productive franchise.