It’s probably for the best Dillon Brooks doesn’t use or check social media.
That’s what he claimed the night the Memphis Grizzlies got their final win of the season, in Game 5 against the Golden State Warriors, the game after Brooks took so many bad shots and his biggest critics, locally and nationally, piled on.
“I don’t hear,” anybody Brooks said then, and so maybe he doesn’t hear the loud portion of the Grizzlies fan base that presumes he could be traded this offseason.
During these days of withdrawal, watching the Western Conference Finals play out knowing the Grizzlies could be there with just a few more breaks this postseason, the unknown is never more intoxicating. Anything to get rid of the feeling when something as fun and fulfilling as this past season comes to an unceremonious end.
It means you spend way too much time on ESPN’s trade machine putting together hypothetical trades, and the best options inevitably reinforce that Brooks is the most likely member of this Grizzlies nucleus to be dealt.
It means you entertain conspiracy theories about why Brooks was the only player to not speak to reporters during exit interviews Sundayeven though the explanation given by the team – that Brooks didn’t realize he had to talk, and nobody corralled him before he left FedExForum – sounds logical enough.
It means Brooks is seen as a commodity, but the one you’ve determined is easiest to part with in this case.
It’s all a bit depressing, both as a coping mechanism and when Brooks’ contributions to the franchise are considered.
So what about the case for doing nothing, or at least the bare minimum?
The Grizzlies just finished with the second-best record in the NBA, despite having Brooks and Ja Morant on the court together for just 11 regular-season games. They lost in six games to Golden State in the Western Conference semifinals, never despite playing with their normal starting five and losing Morant for the final three games of the series.
This team was close as is. Closer than it seemed in the moment. All but three players on the roster are already under contract for next season. What if the front office just ran it back one more time, by and large? It begins to reason they earned another chance to chase a title, to see if they can be at full strength more often, and for an entire playoff run.
maybe Tyus Jones and Kyle Anderson sign elsewhere, for more money than Memphis wants to spend, or a role Memphis isn’t willing or able to promise. Those two first-round picks (Nos. 22 and 29) would come in handy. Perhaps they’re used to move up in the draft order like the Grizzlies did when selecting Brandon Clarke, Desmond Bane and Ziaire Williams the past three years. There would still be salary cap space remaining to sign another potential rotation player to a short-term deal.
The biggest additions in this scenario would be the gains from within. A more durable and diversified Morant, a more consistent Jaren Jackson Jr., and a more comfortable and confident Bane. A second-year jump from Williams, and another opportunity for Brooks, Clarke, and De’Anthony Melton to address their flaws.
This is the luxury of having 11 players 26 years old or younger under contract. There isn’t a need to rush because there’s a distinct possibility the team is going to get better just from being a year older. There may not be an upgrade from Brooks the Grizzlies can get without giving away someone or something they don’t intend to give up.
There is, of course, a case against standing pat, against waiting another year before shaking up this nucleus in any meaningful way. Beginning with the fact that the assets compiled by Grizzlies General Manager Zach Kleiman could go to waste if he waits too long.
The Grizzlies have three draft picks this year, and 10 draft picks over the next three years. They don’t need (or want) three more rookies on next year’s roster, or 10 more rookies over the next three years. Some of these picks were always designed to be used in future trades, and Kleiman has completed trades each offseason he has controlled personnel decisions.
The other reality to being so close is that one move could get Memphis there. It’s as stressful as it is thrilling because the Western Conference should be tougher.
Golden State, Dallas and Phoenix will still be formidable. Denver (with Jamal Murray) and New Orleans (with Zion Williamson) will be better. Kawhi Leonard wants to rejoin Paul George with the Los Angeles Clippers. Even the Los Angeles Lakers could revert back into a threat.
The Grizzlies are firmly in that mix. Exactly where, though, depends entirely on what they decide to do next, on what the fourth offseason under Kleiman holds.
The first year, the moves were relatively easy. They were trades intended for a rebuild, stockpiling draft picks and flexibility for a team with no expectations.
The moves were minimal during the second year, partly because the pandemic shrank the offseason.
The move to trade Jonas Valanciunas for Steven Adams and the No. 10 draft pick that became Williams after three years served as a precursor to the speculation that now surrounds Brooks.
There are tough choices to make.
The toughest of all might be to do nothing.
You can reach Commercial Appeal columnist Mark Giannotto via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter: @mgiannotto