LA Lakers Favorites to Land LeBron James Over Cleveland

lebron-james-lakersThe biggest saga surrounding the Cleveland Cavaliers all season has been where Lebron James will sign in free agency. James has an option in his deal, leaving him free to sign anywhere if he opts out this summer.

The King has been linked to the Los Angeles Lakers multiple times throughout the year. But the prevailing wisdom is that L.A. is too young and too far away from being a serious contender. Combine this with how LeBron only wants to go somewhere where he can win a championship, and these are major downsides.

But as the Lakers’ recent win over the Cavaliers shows, LA may not be so far off as everybody thinks. They have several young pieces in Lonzo Ball, Brandom Ingram, Julius Randle, and Kyle Kuzma who could make them competitive for years to come. And they also have the cap space to sign one or two max free agents.

Whether this is ultimately enough to lure LeBron remains to be seen. But I strongly believe that this makes L.A. a more-likely landing spot than James’ current team.

Cleveland is Struggling

lebron-vs-warriorsThe Cavs have been to the NBA Finals in three straight seasons, winning the championship in 2016. But it’s far from a given that they’ll make a fourth straight trip to the Finals.

For starters, they’re currently in fourth place in the East, behind Indiana, Boston, and first-place Toronto. Cleveland is at least within striking distance of the Pacers. But even if they move ahead of them, it only gives the Cavs’ home court for the first-round. And don’t count out the thought that they could fall even further in the standings with 15 games to go.

We also can’t rule out the idea that Cleveland is still the favorite in the East. This is especially the case when considering that the Celtics have suffered multiple injuries. And LeBron has yet to be seriously challenged by the Raptors in the playoffs.

But even if the Cavs surprise everybody by making a trip to the Finals, they stand little chance of beating of the Houston Rockets or Golden State Warriors in a 7-game series.

Cavs Still Have Roster Problems

Draymond Green, LeBron JamesIt was obvious to GM Koby Altman and everybody else that Cleveland’s aging roster wasn’t going to get the job done. This is why Altman made multiple trades before the deadline to bring in fresh faces like Rodney Hood, George Hill, Jordan Clarkson, and Larry Nance Jr.

The team initially experienced a resurgence with these new players in town. But they’ve come back down to earth as everybody is still trying to mesh together.

The fact that Cleveland still doesn’t have great chemistry one month before the playoffs isn’t a good sign. They also have questions to deal with in the offseason about whom they can re-sign. And this is without considering the possibility that LeBron does opt back into his $30+ million-dollar deal.

LA Quieted the Drama and Became an Attractive Spot

Just a few weeks ago, the Lakers didn’t look like a great spot for veterans who want to win now. Ball’s dad, LaVar Ball, stirred up controversy when he said that head coach Luke Walton had lost the locker room.

lebron-james-bench-1As if there weren’t already questions about whether LA’s young squad was ready to win now, this also brought a level of unprofessional to the organization.

But the team has all of the drama under control now. They’ve also played really well since early January. LA boasts a 19-9 record since January 7, which is good for seventh in the league.

This young squad is also outscoring opponents by 3.6 points per possession. In this same span, the Cavs’ have gone 12-15 and been outscored by 3.3 per 100. Obviously LeBron isn’t going to make his entire decision just based on stats over a two-month sample size. But this does show that the Lakers are moving in the right direction.

Young LA Players are Showcasing Talents

lebron-james-dunk-nba-finalsBall headlines a crop of young players who should make this franchise very successful in the future. Ball is averaging 11.6 points, 7.0 rebounds, 6.8 assists, and 2.5 steals since the beginning of January. He’s also hitting 37.2% of his three-pointers in the same span, which is impressive for somebody who was ripped for his shooting earlier in the year.

Ingram is also playing well in his sophomore season. The former No. 2 pick is averaging 16.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 4.9 assists since the turn of 2018.

Late first-rounder Kyle Kuzma isn’t on fire any longer like he was to start the season. But he’s still shown enough to prove that he’s a steal who could be good for years to come. Forward Julius Randle is yet one more key young player on this squad. And he proved his worth by dropping 36 points and grabbing 14 rebounds against the Cavs.

Can the Lakers Sign 2 Max Free Agents?

Los Angeles will be perfectly happy if they can sign James. But they could create an immediate championship contender by getting two max free agents.

This would likely mean getting rid of Randle in a sign-and-trade. But team president Magic Johnson may have to consider this move if it means bringing in somebody like Paul George. James, George[?], Ball, Kuzman, and Ingram would create an impressive lineup.

Of course, LA could make an even more-aggressive move by trading one or more of their first-round picks and either Ball or Ingram to get a third star.

This is a highly speculative move that might never come to fruition. But the point is that the Lakers have far more options than the Cavs do. And this could ultimately influence LeBron’s decision.

But we also have to consider the fact that the Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers can make strong plays for James’ services too. Houston is already a title contender and has one of LeBron’s best friends in Chris Paul on the team. Philadelphia is a rising young team that could compete for championships sooner than later with LeBron.

However, LA also has another advantage over these squads. LeBron owns multiple homes in the city and has business interests in LA.

Of course, nobody knows what’s truly going to happen. But one thing is for sure: the 2018 free agency period is going to be an interesting one.

Celtics Odds: Kyrie Irving Out with Sore Knee

kyrei-rving-celticsKyrie Irving is playing very well in his first season with the Boston Celtics. He’s averaging 24.4 PPG and shooting a career-high 49.1% from the field. Unfortunately for the Celtics, their star point guard will be forced to miss time with a sore knee.

He missed the second half of Sunday’s game against the Indiana Pacers when his knee flared up. The pain started in a March 3 contest against the Houston Rockets and sidelined him for a win over the Chicago Bulls.

Many hoped that the problem was behind Irving when he returned to score 23 points and dish out eight assists against the Minnesota Timberwolves. But even then he complained about how his knee felt.

Head coach Brad Stevens and Irving agreed that the best decision will be for the guard to sit out a few games to heal up. There’s no definite timetable on his return at this point.

Irving had the following to say to’s Jay King:

“It’s just been aching for a little bit,” Irving said. “I just think I need to take some time. … “I’m not concerned. Where we are in the season, I’m pretty comfortable.

“I think that competitively, I think that’s what I’m more or less concerned about, just when I actually do get back on the floor I want to feel the level I expect myself to play at and I want to play at. And being able to sustain it. So right now I’m unable to do that. So I’ve just gotta deal with that.”

Added Irving: “I think (taking time off) will probably be the best thing, just instead of kind of hoping that it gets better over the two or three days which it usually does. It’s aching a little bit more than I want it to now, so I’m just going to take the necessary time.”’s Chris Forsberg also reported on the situation:

kyrie-irving-celtics“At halftime, he was talking about [the knee], felt some soreness in it, probably similar to the Houston game,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “He was getting it worked on after halftime. We don’t know what it is above general knee soreness, and he doesn’t seem overly concerned, big-picture, with it. But obviously it’s been giving him fits here and there for the last five to eight days or so.”

Stevens sounded open to the idea of shelving Irving until he’s more confident in the knee.

“If he doesn’t feel 100 percent, then we need to have him sit, and so I think that that is something that we’ve all talked about, and [that’s] why he didn’t come back in [against Indiana],” Stevens said.

Celtics could Struggle without Irving

Given that Stevens would also like Irving to rest, sitting out seems like the best short-term decision. But it’s also likely that Boston could struggle in his absence.

While the team’s record without Irving is 5-2, the Celtics have had trouble getting quality shots when he’s not on the floor. The team scores just 101.1 ponts per 100 possessions without their floor general. But they score 108.7 points per 100 possessions when he does play.

Terry Rozier is a capable fill-in at point guard and can generate some offense. But the other option, Marcus Smart, is a defensive specialist who doesn’t shoot well from the field. The good news, though, is that Rozier and Smart bring a nice balance at the position.

Injury Woes for the Celtics

gordon-hayward-injuryBoston has a deep roster with quality bench players. But this depth is being tested with the injuries that the team has been hit with. Gordon Hayward headlines the list since he suffered a broken ankle in the season opener and won’t play until the 2018-19 campaign.

Second-year forward Jaylen Brown suffered a bad fall in the game against Minnesota. Thankfully, he didn’t do any structural damage, but he will be sidelined for at least a few more games.

Center Al Horford was forced to sit out the Indiana game with an illness. With he and Irving on the bench, the team produced 12.2 fewer points per 100 possessions.

And German rookie Daniel Theis will miss the rest of the year after tearing a meniscus in his left knee.

Goal is to Prepare for the Postseason

The Celtics are having another fine campaign that sees them holding down the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed. They’re currently 3.5 games behind the first-place Toronto Raptors and are well ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers for the second spot.

kyrie-irving-celticsI doubt that Stevens is willing to rest on the team’s laurels and just accept that they’re resigned to the two seed. But with just 15 games to go, the smart play here is to sit Irving for a few games so that he’s ready for the playoffs.

The team will be hoping for another deep postseason run. Last year, the Celtics made the Eastern Conference Finals, where they met the Cavs. Boston wasn’t really very competitive in this series, losing 4-1 in a matchup that featured multiple Cleveland blowout victories.

This convinced Ainge that he needed to shake up the roster. The result was multiple trades that sent away all but three players from the 2016-17 team.

Irving was the biggest addition in this busy offseason. The 26-year-old was a costly add that required sending All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, and the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first-round pick to the Cavs. But based on the numbers, this looks like a good trade in hindsight.

Of course, how Boston performs in the playoffs will go a long way towards validating whether all of the off-season moves were a good idea.

Some criticized Ainge’s decision to overhaul the team’s defensive identity. But they haven’t taken any step back in terms of regular season results so far. That said, it’ll be interesting to see how they do come playoff time in April.

2018 Celtics Futures (via

Celtics Odds to Win 2018 NBA Championship

  • Golden State -170
  • Houston +250
  • Cleveland +850
  • Toronto +950
  • Boston +1400
  • Oklahoma City +3500
  • Philadelphia +4500
  • San Antonio +5000
  • Washington +6000

Celtics Odds to Win 2018 Eastern Conference

  • Cleveland +140
  • Toronto +180
  • Boston +350
  • Philadelphia +1200
  • Washington +1800
  • Milwaukee +5000
  • Indiana +6000

Celtics Futures: Brad Stevens Confirms No Gordon Hayward Won’t Play This Season

gordon-hayward-celticsThe Boston Celtics are having another very good season. They’re currently 44-20, sitting just 1.5 games back of the top-seeded Toronto Raptors (44-17) in the East.

But the team would be doing even better if they had All-Star forward Gordon Hayward healthy. Hayward broke his ankle in the season opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers and hasn’t played a minute since.

Celtics fans were hoping that he could make it back onto the court at some point this season. This was especially the case recently, when he posted a video of himself dribbling and shooting around.

But if there was any hope that Hayward can make it back this season, head Coach Brad Stevens dashed this notion.

“He’s still super long way from even being in a 1-on-1 workout where he’s cutting,” Stevens told reporters.

Stevens Wants to Focus on the Current Roster – Not Hayward’s Small Chance of Playing

Given that there are less than 20 games left in the regular season and Hayward isn’t even close to 1-on-1 drills, it’s a given that he won’t be ready for playoff basketball in April.

Stevens has essentially known all along that there’s a very slim chance his star forward would play. And he’s been saying over and over that he doesn’t think Hayward will suit up. But this is the most definitive he’s been about saying so.

Celtics Thinking about the Future

Sure, Boston could try to rush Hayward back in hopes that he could support a playoff run. But this Celtics team has been focused on building for the future ever since the 2014 steal they got in a trade with the Brooklyn Nets.

GM Danny Ainge used the assets from this trade to construct a team that’s capable of competing for the Eastern Conference title year in and year out.

Having Hayward slowly work his way back into shape only fits the notion that Boston wants to get him ready for next season. This is especially the case when considering that Hayward’s ankle was reportedly swollen and purple during All-Star weekend.

Celtics Still Have Plenty Left to Chase Title

kyrie-irving-celticsBoston’s hopes for winning the East and competing for the NBA championship would be far better if they had Hayward. But it’s not like the cupboard is totally bare right now.

The team still has All-NBA point guard Kyrie Irving (24.8 PPG) leading the charge. And he has an excellent supporting cast with Jaylon Brown (14.0 PPG), Jayson Tatum (13.2 PPG), Al Horford (12.8 PPG), Marcus Morris (12.8 PPG), Terry Rozier (10.4 PPG), Marcus Smart (10.1 PPG), and Greg Monroe (8.3 PPG).

The Celtics are still within striking distance of earning the top seed in the East before the playoffs start. Overtaking the Raptors would give Boston home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Even if they can’t catch Toronto, the Celtics would still have home court in the first round and semifinals. This is huge, assuming they run into the Cavs (36-26) in the second round. And the way the standings currently shape up, this is a definite possibility.

Boston Celtics 2018 Futures

While Boston currently holds a 6-game lead over Cleveland, they’re still not favored to win the East in our GTBets NBA futures. The Cavs are a big favorite at -120, mainly because LeBron James is still the top of his game. Furthermore, Cleveland has been the East champions three seasons in a row.

Boston is also sitting behind Toronto in our odds. Assuming they can move past the Raptors in the standings, then they’ll likely move up in our NBA futures too.

Boston currently has the fifth-best odds (+2000) odds of winning the NBA title. Aside from being behind Cleveland (+750) and Toronto (+1400), they’re also behind the Golden State Warriors (-200) and Houston Rockets (+250).

The team felt like they had a “formula” to beat the Warriors last year, thanks to two victories over the eventual champions. But that was with a very different roster, and there’s been a lot of turnover this season.

It’d be interesting to see how this new-look Celtics team performs in the playoffs. Last year, they made the Eastern Conference Finals and were beaten by the Cavs 4-1.

Here’s a look at our NBA futures as of now:

2018 NBA Eastern Conference Futures

  • Cleveland -120
  • Toronto +310
  • Boston +400
  • Milwaukee +2000
  • Philadelphia +2000
  • Washington +2000
  • Indiana +7500

2018 NBA Championship Futures

  • Golden State -200
  • Houston +250
  • Cleveland +750
  • Toronto +1400
  • Boston +2000
  • Oklahoma City +3500
  • San Antonio +3500
  • Washington +6000
  • Milwaukee +7500
  • Minnesota +8000
  • Philadelphia +8000

Did Jimmy Butler Take a Big Risk with Meniscus Surgery to Play in 2018?

jimmy-butler-2018-injury-returnJimmy Butler recently suffered a meniscus injury to his right knee. He underwent successful surgery and could see the court again in as little as four weeks.

This has to make the team feel good, given that they feared Butler was lost for the year when he crumpled to the floor. But it’s also possible that he’s put his long-term health in jeopardy by choosing to have a specific meniscus surgery.

The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor reports that Butler could’ve opted for a full meniscus repair and returned in the 2018-19 campaign. But he instead went with a different surgery and shorter recovery timeline.

“An NBA executive explained to me that the Yahoo Sports’ timeline suggests that the torn part of the meniscus will be “shaved” via arthroscopic surgery, which often leads to a faster recovery, but can lead to pain or complications down the line,” writes O’Connor.

“The alternative was for Butler to undergo a full repair, which involves sewing the tear together like you might mend ripped jeans. That route would have produced fewer potential complications, but also would have sidelined him the rest of the season.”

Did Coach Tom Thibodeau’s Culture Influence This Decision?

Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau has always been a hard-driving coach who preaches hustle and strong defense regardless of the situation. And Butler, who also played for Thibodeau in Chicago, has thrived under this system.

But there will inevitably be people who question whether Thibodeaeu’s team culture influenced Butler to make this decision.

After all, his system calls for toughness and a willingness to play through pain. And questions will arise if Butler has more problems flare up in the same knee.

However, this is also merely speculation and nobody outside the organization truly knows the full story. In fact, there are times where a full repair isn’t an option.

And considering how competitive Butler is, he likely opted for surgery that would help him return to the court sooner than later.

What Kind of Future is Butler Looking at?

jimmy-butler-timberwolves-injury-1Butler is currently 28 years old and in the prime of his career. He’s had a great season so far too, averaging 22.4 PPG, 5.0 APG, 5.4 RPG, and 1.9 SPG.

But how he rebounds from this knee surgery will go a long way towards determining his NBA future. Assuming everything is alright, he may sign another big deal with the Timberwolves. Or he might find a more-lucrative deal elsewhere.

Here’s more from O’Connor on what could happen between Minnesota and Butler when his deal ends in 2019 (player option) or 2020:

“Butler will make $20.4 million in 2018-19 and has a $19.8 million player option for 2019-20. If he declines his option and signed an extension this summer, Butler’s deal would start at “only” $24.5 million in 2019-20 but provide immediate long-term security.

“If he waits until next summer, he could earn 30 percent of the 2019-20 salary cap—or roughly $32.4 million (based on a projected salary cap of $108 million). Long-term security is nice, so that’s not a bad deal for a player who has missed a lot of games with injuries in the past and whose aggressive style doesn’t exactly bode well for a long, sustainable career.”

O’Connor adds that Butler could even decline his player option in 2019-20 and test the free agent market. Again, as long as his knee is at full strength, he’ll fetch a giant contract from somebody.

Minnesota may decide that they’re not willing to pay him, given how expensive their younger players are. Andrew Wiggins already inked a maximum extension in October, which he hasn’t justified so far.

butler-wiggins-townsGorgui Dieng was re-signed to a deal that’s he’s not playing up to. And this lasts until the 2020-21 campaign. Jeff Teague is also on an expensive contract through the 2019-20 season.

Then there’s Karl-Anthony Towns, whom the team will look to keep at all costs. Towns is going to be a free agent in 2019 and will command a max deal with the T-Wolves, or wherever he goes.

Butler is still more valuable than any of these players in the immediate future. But Minnesota must still evaluate his injury history before re-signing him when the time comes.

2018 Minnesota Timberwolves Futures

The Timberwolves opened the 2017-18 season as darkhorse title contenders after trading for Butler. And they’ve played up to this billing so far, sitting at 38-28 and fourth place in the Western Conference right now.

But as can be seen in our 2018 NBA futures at GTBets, Minnesota doesn’t have a great chance to win the title. They currently have the 9th best odds at +8000.

Will these odds change with a healthy Butler? We’ll soon find out in the coming weeks.

2018 NBA Championship Futures

  • Golden State -200
  • Houston +250
  • Cleveland +750
  • Toronto +1400
  • Boston +2000
  • Oklahoma City +3500
  • San Antonio +3500
  • Washington +6000
  • Milwaukee +7500
  • Minnesota +8000
  • Philadelphia +8000

Jeff Hornacek Out in New York, and Doc Rivers In?

New York Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek finally got a chance to run the team his own way. With Phil Jackson being let go as team president in the offseason, Hornacek ditched the triangle offense forced upon him, and instilled a new look.

Unfortunately for Hornacek, running a new offense with different faces hasn’t resulted in any more wins. New York is currently 11th in the Eastern Conference with a 24-38 record.

What’s worse is that he’ll coach the remainder of the season without All-Star forward Krstaps Porzingis. The 7’3″ Latvian big man tore his ACL and won’t be back until later in next season’s campaign.

All of this has caused speculation that the Knicks will cut ties with Hornacek in the offseason. And this leaves them looking for a new coach.

According to a report by the New York Post’s Marc Berman, this future coach could be Doc Rivers. Berman spoke to a former associate of Rivers, who said that the ex-Knick wouldn’t mind coaching the team he played for.

“Doc enjoyed his time there,’’ said the anonymous associate. “He respects the city, he respects the organization.’’

How would This Deal Work for Rivers and the Knicks?

doc-rivers-new-york-coachThe biggest roadblock to luring Rivers to the Knicks is that he still has one year left on his L.A. Clippers contract. And Doc is unlikely to give up this year, considering that he’ll earn $10 million next season.

New York would have to offer a draft pick as compensation to even pursue Rivers.

But it’s not totally outside the realm of possibility, considering that the 2008 NBA title-winning coach lost his GM title to Lawrence Frank last year. Combining this with how the Clippers got rid of their core, they might not mind doing the same with their long-time coach.

L.A. traded Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets in the offseason. More recently, they shipped Blake Griffin to the Detroit Pistons.

Rivers Has Done His Best Coaching in 2018

Many wondered if the Clippers were tanking when they traded away an unhappy Paul, and later got rid of Griffin. But team owner Steve Ballmer has insisted all along that he doesn’t want to bottom out.

Rivers has worked hard to make Ballmer’s goal a reality, guiding the team to a 33-28 record. They’re currently 33-28 and just one game behind the Denver Nuggets for the Western Conference’s eighth playoff seed.

L.A. consultant Jerry West believes that Rivers should be in the 2018 Coach of the Year conversation. After all, he’s taken a team of newcomers, including Lou Williams, Milos Teodosic, Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari, and Avery Bradley, into playoff consideration.

Rivers may be on thin ice in L.A., given the team’s interest in changing the franchise’s direction. But he’s still a hot coaching commodity after the job he’s done with this mix-matched Clippers roster. And it would be no surprise if he drew further interest from the Knicks.

Rivers Might Bring Mike Woodson to New York

Former Knicks head coach Mike Woodson currently serves as an assistant to Rivers. And this would only sweeten the deal for New York if they can bring both coaches aboard.

Woodson, Rivers’ top assistant, was the Knicks’ most successful head coach since Jeff Van Gundy quit in 2001. Woodson led the Knicks to a 54-28 record in the 2012-13 season. He also rallied a team with multiple injuries the following season to only miss the playoffs by one game.

If Rivers were to bring along Mike Woodson as his associate coach, it’d be more enticing than the current Hornacek-Kurt Rambis pairing.

Nevertheless, Jackson decided to replace Woodson with Derek Fisher for the 2014-15 campaign. And Knicks owner James Dolan is still writing Fisher checks, long after he’s been gone.

Dolan Has Always Kept Tabs on Rivers

Another reason why New York may continue pursuing Rivers is that Dolan has always been interested in him. Rivers, who played for the Knicks from 1992-95, has impressed Dolan ever since winning the league title in 2008 with the Boston Celtics.

james-dolan-knicksAs for Rivers, he’s enamored with Porzingis, whom many call the “unicorn” due to his ability to play outside at 7’3″. Following a Nov. 20 game, where Porzingis scored 25 points in New York’s route of the Clippers, Rivers had plenty of good things to say about him.

“He’s just a beast,” Rivers said following the game. “I mean he’s going to be, or he is, one of the great ones now. He’s just going to keep getting better.

“You look at his numbers and you forget his age, I think, and what he’s doing. It’s just a scratch. He’s going to keep getting better and better. And that’s going to be scarier for all of us.”

Here’s why Rivers Won’t Coach the Knicks in 2018-19

Everything I’ve covered up to this point offers compelling evidence that Rivers will indeed coach New York in the near future. But we also have to look at the reasons why this won’t happen too.

Again, Doc is still under contract in Los Angeles for another season. And he’s not going to walk away from another year where he’s making coach/GM combination money.

Another thing to consider is if Rivers would still be in love with this coaching job with Porzingis currently nursing a torn ACL. Odds are that he comes back fine from his injury. But it could make sense for Rivers to wait another season and see how Porzingis’ return goes when he can start playing again next winter.

On the Knicks’ side, they have to consider whether it’s worth compensating L.A. with the draft pick to go after their coach.

Furthermore, they may have another decision if Rivers decides that he wants GM responsibilities again in the next gig. This is a big issue considering that many don’t believe Rivers’ strong suit is putting together rosters.

Weighing the pros and cons, there’s no guarantee that we’ll see Rivers on the New York sidelines. But then again, we certainly can’t rule out the possibility when considering that Dolan likes Rivers’ coaching abilities.

Grizzlies Marc Gasol Frustrated on NBA’s Worst Team

marc-gasol-grizzliesMemphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol has played on a number of winning teams in his 9-year NBA career. That said, it must be a shock playing on the league’s worst team this season.

Memphis is currently 18-44 and riding a 13-game losing streak. They’ve also yet to win a single road game in 2018. Given that the Grizzlies currently have the league’s worst record right now, they’re no longer listed in our NBA futures for winning the Western Conference and championship.

Gasol won’t draw much sympathy from the average person, given that he’s earning $22.6 million this year, and will collect over $50 million in the next two seasons. But basketball fans have to feel for one of the best centers to play in recent times.

Gasol led the “Grit and Grind” Grizzlies teams over the past several seasons. Since winning 40 games in the 2010-11 campaign, Memphis has yet to have a losing season.

But that’s officially guaranteed to end this year. Even if Memphis wins their final 20 games, they’d end with a 38-44 mark.

The Grizzlies have never made it to the Western Conference Finals during Gasol’s tenure. But they’ve always been very competitive in the conference and given the top teams a run for their money. That said, Gasol has to feel in a different world now.

Injuries and Free Agency Have Decimated the Grizzlies

Nobody expected Memphis to dethrone the Golden State Warriors this season. After all, they lost a key cog in their Grit and Grind teams after Zach Randolph left in free agency. And All-Star point guard Mike Conley has been out most of the year with an injury.

marc-gasol-grizzlies-1This has left Gasol playing with rookies and other unproven players. For example, unheralded rookie Dillon Brooks is playing over 30 minutes a night. Deyonta Davis, a former Iowa Energy/Memphis Hustle member, is the team’s leading scorer off the bench recently.

This isn’t to bash Brooks and Davis for taking advantage of the opportunity and showcasing what they can do. But Gasol is no longer playing with skilled veterans like Conley and Randolph.

Gasol Hasn’t Had a Great Season Himself

Marc Gasol is a 3-time All-Star and was the 2013 NBA Defensive Player of the Year. That said, people expect a lot out of the 6’11” big man. But 2018 definitely hasn’t been his best season.

He’s shooting a career-worst 41.3% from the field, including 32.8% from three-point range. He also ranks just 206th in defensive rating among starting players according to His points per game have dipped from 19.5 PPG last season, to 17.8 PPG this year.

This means that Gasol is not only losing games, but also playing worse basketball on the offensive end.

Memphis Coach Weighs In

Coach J.B. Bickerstaff was asked about the struggles of both his team and Gasol. Here’s what Bickerstaff told Yahoo Sports:

“It’s frustrating A guy as competitive as he is, and a guy who every day matters to him, whether it’s practice, drill work, three-on-three, he’s trying to win. The games come on, same thing, he’s trying to do everything in his power to lift his team.

A guy who is so unselfish, he doesn’t care how many points he scores. The only thing that matters to him are wins and losses. I think we all understand and appreciate guys who are that way. There’s no doubt about it, it’s frustrating for him.

“He has his moments. But one of the things he has done is he’s embraced the young guys. You watch him put his arm around guys, teaching guys, working with guys.

“And then he has started to work on his game and do different things that will help him moving forward as a player. He’s human, and those moments [of frustration] do come up, but he’s spent more time focusing on growth than he has on the situation that we are in.”

Gasol Still Working Hard

marc-gasol-grizzlies-2Despite the struggles, Gasol has continued to work on improving his game. While this is a lost season, he can at least better his skills for the 2018-19 campaign.

“He’s working on different parts of his game,” said Bickerstaff. “Post-up game. The way teams are playing, you don’t see a ton of post-up opportunities any more. He’s working on his face-up game, he’s working on a different array of shots, in the paint, how he gets to those spots, things like that.

“Playing from the perimeter, being able to attack off the catch versus other big guys. Those things we’ve seen him be able to implement. He’s been able to implement them quick. As soon as he puts his mind to it, he can add it that night.”

Gasol will Likely Never Win a Title with Memphis

As good as the Spaniard has been, it’s a sad reality that he’ll probably never win a title with the team he’s spent nearly a decade with. He’s 33 years old and entering the back side of his career.

The squad will no doubt improve when Conley returns. And it would certainly help if Chandler Parsons could return to his glory days and live up to his max contract.

marc-gasolUnfortunately, there just aren’t enough other pieces to make Memphis a real contender in the future. Something drastic will have to change in the form of a surprise draft pick or highly skilled free agent somehow choosing this team.

But looking at the facts, Gasol is getting older, Conley will need time to work back from his heel injury, and Parsons has played just 51 games in the last two seasons.

Perhaps Gasol’s best chance to win will be opting out when he becomes a free agent in 2019. At the very least, he could use his option to leverage the team to make some moves – a.k.a. LeBron James style.

But right now, it doesn’t seem like he’s too happy with the current losing situation and state of the organization.

“[Winning is] pretty high … winning is what this is about,” he recently said.

“It’s not about somebody playing well or getting your reps or developing players. We have a league [the G League] for that. We have a team here in Memphis to develop guys. This is the NBA, not the [G] League.”

Gasol may have to get used to seeing G League and rookies on his team for a while, given that there’s little hope for the immediate future.