There is a lot of talent stacked in the NBA’s Western Conference and in a classic case of the haves and have not’s, teams with abundant talent like Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors and Minnesota Timberwolves are doing what everybody expected them to do; win.
On the other hand, teams without a lot of premier talent like Sacramento Kings, Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks have struggled to keep pace with the aforementioned group. Unlike the Eastern Conference where matters are difficult to call, the West has a definite pattern at this point in the season.
If your team is good, it is good. If it is bad, it can very painful to watch them get dissected by some of the best in the business.
So when Los Angeles Clippers play bad they end up losing seven straight games. When they played well with their star players healthy and firing from different spots on the court, they went on a five game winning run.
The same tune is playing out in Memphis where the Grizzlies are struggling at the moment and have lost eight consecutive games. The latest loss came at the hands of rebuilding Brooklyn Nets who recorded a 98-88 win in Memphis.
Aside dealing with the loss of Point Guard Mike Conley due to a sore Achilles, Coach David Fizdale’s handling of the team’s sole legit star Marc Gasol isn’t helping matters.
Since Conley won’t be back soon “anytime soon”, the logical move would be to hand over everything the team does to multiple All Star and former Defensive Player of the Year Gasol. However, that was not the case against Brooklyn as Gasol watched from the bench through the fourth quarter as Brooklyn held a 19 point lead.
In his desperation to end the streak, Memphis could end up starless in the coming weeks should the big Spaniard’s late game no-show be consistent. Fizdale has since been fired from his post. Memphis exasperation is music to the ear of Boston Celtics Manager Danny Ainge who has been an admirer of Gasol for a while. During Boston’s big offseason where the club acquired Kyrie Irving in a trade and signed Gordon Hayward as a free agent, rumors swirled Ainge was in the market for an All Star Caliber three point shooting Center. Names like DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis and the younger Gasol popped up in the conversation.
Cousins’ volatile nature checks him out of the list since Celtics Manager is very sensitive about maintaining a close bonded dressing room. Reasons for Davis and Gasol’s inclusion are straight forward as both players are well mannered and have bigger start power and production than Al Horford. While Davis and Gasol are averaging 26 points and 19.1 points this season, Horford tails off with 13.7 points. It is true the former Atlanta Hawks Center checks the boxes as an all round threat but his defensive efforts pale in comparison to Gasol who has a Defensive Player Award on his resume with Davis highly regarded as a top rim protector.
Ainge has demonstrated he is bent on constructing his own super team in Boston to win the franchise’s 18th Championship. Though Isaiah Thomas ended last season with All-NBA honors, he swapped him for a bigger but younger super skilled Guard in Irving. Jae Crowder was a good teammate, top defender and an above average shooter from range on a very affordable contract but Jaylen Brown’s potential as a two way wing player and Jayson Tatum’s NBA ready game convinced Ainge to trade him to Cleveland.
This puts Horford in a delicate situation since Boston has valuable second tier player like Terry Rozier to sweeten a straight swap of Horford for Marc Gasol. Doing the little things is good but the Celtics are showing they have grown beyond the niche and now want the spectacular. That is why Marcus Smart’s contract extension still hangs in the air and it is the reason a solid but not spectacular guy like Horford could be moved to Memphis for Gasol.
Such a move benefits all parties since Boston gets an upgrade on Horford and Memphis get a player ready to fill in and keep the team’s chances of making the playoffs alive especially when Conley rejoins the group from injury.
Or they could complete the roster shake up that shipped out members of the Grit and Grind era like Zach Randolph Tony Allen in the offseason, by trading Conley and Horford to contenders for draft picks as a measure to prepare for the future. Whatever be the case, Boston will in close contact with Memphis should another show stopping trade present itself.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter