Grizzlies look aimless following Grit & Grind

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NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

The Grizzlies ended an era – just so they could take baby steps into the next one.

Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, Zach Randolph and Tony Allen spent seven seasons together. They built a strong identity of Grit & Grind – reaching seven straight postseasons, upsetting the top-seeded Spurs in the 2011 first round and peaking with a trip to the 2013 Western Conference finals.

That success was always bound to wane. This core was growing old.

I wouldn’t have wanted to pay a 36-year-old Randolph $24 million over the next two years. It just might have been time to move on from the 35-year-old Allen.

Still, it’s sad to see the quartet – which had been together longer than any active foursome – break up. It might be even sadder when seeing what the Grizzlies have become.

They still have their two best players, Gasol and Conley. But their massive contracts, plus another max deal for Chandler Parsons, restricted Memphis’ ability to retool sans Randolph and Allen.

Memphis signed Ben McLemore (two years, $10.66 million) and Tyreke Evans (one year, $3.29 million) as potential bridges between eras.

That was a surprisingly high price for McLemore, who has floundered in four NBA seasons. Still, the former No. 7 pick is just 24, and Sacramento looked like a poor environment for development. Though I’m not optimistic about McLemore, I’m also not sure the Grizzlies could have better spent that money.

Evans was nice value for the room exception, but he’s clearly trying to reestablish himself for next summer by taking a one-year deal. How much will Memphis get from him before next summer?

The Grizzlies face an uphill climb to make the playoffs in a stacked Western Conference, and they’re fighting the odds without – as Gasol called Randolph and Allen – the president and mayor of Memphis. There was something to be said about letting a proud group go down swinging.

Rebuilding is also a fair option, but this is barely that.

The Grizzlies didn’t have their own first-round pick, which was traded years ago. They dealt a couple future second-rounders to acquire ones this year, No. 35 pick Ivan Rabb and No. 45 pick Dillon Brooks. (Rabb, oddly, remains unsigned.) They also signed 2016 second-rounder Rade Zagorac.

Neither of Memphis’ players on rookie-scale contracts – Wade Baldwin, Jarell Martin – have shown much. Neither has Deyonta Davis, another 2016 second-rounder who was paid like a first-rounder.

It looks like restricted free agent JaMychal Green will return at a reasonable salary, and he’ll help in the short term. So could a re-signed Mario Chalmers, if healthy. But those variables won’t swing the Grizzlies’ playoff odds above 50%.

So, what are they doing?

Gasol is 32, and Conley turns 30 before the season. Time is ticking to make something of their remaining prime years. Maybe it’s time to rip the bandage completely off and trade those two, but Memphis is strongly resisting.

The Grizzlies owe the Celtics a future first-rounder, protected top-eight in 2019 and top-six in 2020 and unprotected in 2021. That makes timing a rebuild tricky.

In need of direction, Memphis spent the offseason slowly sinking.

Offseason grade: C-