Following season of despair, Grizzlies quietly revamp roster, provide reason for optimism

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The Grizzlies' 2017-18 season quickly turned into the basketball version of "The Money Pit." A promising 5-1 start was forgotten after Mike Conley went down with a left heel injury, forcing the star guard to miss all but 12 games. The front office fired coach David Fizdale in November amid an 11-game losing streak, leaving many fans wondering if a poor relationship with Marc Gasol was behind the sudden dismissal.

Things only got worse from there.

Trade rumors followed Gasol all the way up to the February deadline. The Grizzlies kept the three-time All-Star center (and Tyreke Evans, for some reason) but endured a 19-game losing streak, dropping the team firmly into Tankapalooza 2018.

MORE: Will Conley be ready for training camp?

Then, Memphis really hit bottom. On March 22, the Grizzlies lost to the Hornets by a whopping 61 points, marking one of the worst losses in NBA history. Grizz players reportedly laughed and joked following the blowout — because what can you do once the bathtub falls through the floor?

Sixty losses later, there is reason for optimism in Memphis.

Conley should be back at 100 percent this season, ready to work in tandem with Gasol and pester opposing point guards. With J.B. Bickerstaff in charge, Gasol can shake off a down year and put all of the drama behind him.

But it's not only about the franchise cornerstones. While stars like LeBron James, Paul George and DeMarcus Cousins swallowed up plenty of attention early in free agency, the Grizzlies worked along the fringes this summer to im

prove the roster.

It started with the selection of Jaren Jackson Jr. with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. In his one year at Michigan State, Jackson showed he is capable of becoming the next great NBA unicorn as a 6-11 athlete who can protect the rim on one end (3.0 blocks per game at MSU) and stretch the floor on the other (39.6 percent from 3-point range on nearly three attempts per game). The Grizzlies also snagged second-round pick Jevon Carter, a rugged on-ball defender who is about as "Grit'N'Grind" as humanly possible.

Memphis landed Kyle Anderson in free agency with an offer sheet the Spurs declined to match, giving Bickerstaff a strong defensive wing (second in ESPN's Defensive Real Plus-Minus among small forwards) playable in multiple lineups. Anderson isn't known as a huge offensive threat, but his game could expand given more opportunities. 

After finishing in the bottom five of the league in terms of 3-point shooting, the Grizzlies needed perimeter threats. Insert Garrett Temple and Omri Casspi — both players have shot better than 37 percent from beyond the arc in each of the past two seasons. Temple and Casspi bring a veteran presence to the locker room, as well, which is always helpful to developing young talent.

Throw in role players like Dillon Brooks, JaMychal Green and Chandler Parsons (if he can stay healthy), and this roster suddenly provides plenty of intrigue. Grizzlies owner Robert Pera might be a little too high on his team's status in the West — he said in June he sees no reason why "we can't return to being a 50-win plus team" — but a 15- to 20-win improvement is within the realm of possibility.

And, just maybe, by the end of the 2018-19 campaign, Memphians might be standing in front of a nice house with a bright future ahead. Sometimes it just takes a little reconstruction.

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