Zach Kleiman was basically an unknown entity within the Memphis Grizzlies organization before being named as the team's Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations on April 11, 2019. One-year later he has not only made a name for himself but he has silenced his critics by advancing the rebuild of the Memphis Grizzlies in a way that proved doubters wrong.
I am 'doubters.'
If you'd have asked my opinion on the Memphis Grizzlies firing former General Manager Chris Wallace and Head Coach JB Bickerstaff, to only turn around and promote Jason Wexler to team president and Zach Kleiman to be in charge of basketball operations I would have laughed with frustration. An at the time 30-year-old, in Kleiman who was previously a lawyer, would now be in charge of making basketball decisions for an NBA team. It was no way that I saw it working.
"Here are the Grizzlies going the cheap route again. Instead of hiring an actual proven basketball mind, they got out and hire someone that will just fall in line and do owner Robert Pera's biddings to his specifications," I said.
My Thoughts On Zach Kleiman's First Year As The Executive Vice President of the Memphis Grizzlies
I was banking on Kleiman failing - and failing miserably. Not only was he in charge of managing an NBA team, but he was also in charge of rebuilding one from the ground up after several years of success. Mike Conley Jr. was the final remaining piece from the Grit 'N' Grind era and Kleiman had to decide what to do with him with nothing in his back pocket but a draft pick that would most likely either be eighth overall or headed to the Boston Celtics.
Luck would land on the Grizzlies side of course in the lottery that summer as the Grizzlies were rewarded with the second overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft. Instead of playing patchwork with the pick and taking a player like RJ Barrett who could play alongside Conley on the wing, Kleiman instead dealt Conley and decided to go full steam ahead with a total rebuild based around draftee Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. as a young nucleus.
This was the year that the Grizzlies were supposed to be dwelling among the bottom of the Western Conference but with a move that has indirectly landed or set in motion the acquisitions of Brandon Clarke, Justice Winslow, Josh Jackson, DeAnthony Melton, Grayson Allen, Gorgui Dieng, and several future draft picks, Zach Kleiman, in spite of his doubters has the Grizzlies set up well for the present and the future.
Kleiman isn't much for the cameras with him doing only maybe 2-3 media availabilities since his hiring a year ago but he clearly lets his actions speak for him. There is very little to question or complain about this season as he and his front office staff including Tayshaun Prince, Rich Cho, and Chris Makris haven't missed on what seems like anything so far in year one of their regime. A franchise that seemed to be cursed with incompetence has now shined as an example of a young, thriving front office.
Kleiman and company have proved themselves so far in just one year to be able to not only build a great basketball team but to win over his biggest doubters - including me.
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- Anthony Sain - Memphis Grizzlies Beat Writer and Lead Editor For Sports Illustrated's All Grizzlies.com
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