Are the Grizzlies Ready for Title-Contender Talks?
1. West in Limbo
The Western Conference is in the midst of a crazy identity crisis right now. Dwight and Nash in LA, Harden in Houston, and does anyone recognize the Mavericks new starting lineup?
Right now, there are three playoff-caliber teams in the West that still maintain the bulk of their lineup from the 2010-2011 season. These teams are the Spurs, Thunder and Grizzlies.
The Spurs have toggled with some supporting players and the Thunder just lost their third most dependable player, but what changes have the Grizzlies made? While the West has been constantly shuffling with trades the last couple seasons, Memphis has been spending time developing chemistry with the players they’ve held on to.
2. Not Giving Up
Without Rudy Gay in 2011, the Grizzlies were able to knock off the top-seeded Spurs, then as Gay led the team in the playoffs last year, the Grizzlies fell short. Gay and Zach Randolph, the team’s two best scorers, have been on different pages during a lot of their three years together, and after not being able to reach the second round last year, there was a lot of speculation that the Memphis front office would attempt to move one of the two forwards, most likely Gay.
But the Grizzlies opened up the 2012-2013 campaign with the same starting 5 they carried the bulk of the last two seasons and so far, both Randolph and Gay have flourished. Randolph has recorded a double-double in each of Memphis’s games, averaging 17 and 14 on the season, while Gay has been filling the stat sheet and leading the team with 20 points per game.
3. Keeping the Balance
While Gay and Randolph carry the scoring load, the Grizzlies’ other three starters fill similarly important roles, giving the team a much-needed balance that’s only gotten better over the past few years.
Mike Conley is there to set the offense and create havoc for opposing point guards with his quick hands.
Marc Gasol is reliable on both sides of the court and one of the league’s best passing big men.
And Tony Allen is a lock-down wing defender that’s always up for a new challenge.
All in all, there are few teams in the league that can put together such a balance as the Grizzlies can.
4. Remember 2011 and 2004
Of the four major American sports leagues, the NBA is far and away the easiest to predict on a season-by-season basis. Playoffs aren’t dictated by the same momentum swings or one-game-elimination scenarios in the NBA and the last team standing is usually one of about three to four teams most NBA fans could have predicted at the season’s start. Except for in 2011 and 2004.
The Mavericks and Pistons are the two biggest anomalies of the NBA in the 21st century, maybe even since the early 80s even. More-so Detroit because they didn’t have a Nowitzki-caliber scorer, but both teams were under the radar in Championship contender discussions and then went on to play star-studded teams in the finals, where it was the team with the better chemistry that came out on top of the team with the bigger names.
Will the Grizzlies win the NBA Championship this year? No. Well, maybe but I wouldn’t put too much money on it at least. What I do think is that they’ll finish with over 50 wins, notch a top 4 seed in the West, advance to the second, maybe even third round, and not go down without a fight.