Starting Five: PG Mike Conley Jr., SG Tony Allen, SF Tayshaun Prince, PF Zach Randolph, C Marc Gasol
Key Bench Players: SF Mike Miller, SG Jerryd Bayless, SF Quincy Pondexter, C Ed Davis, C Kosta Koufos, SG Nick Calathes, F Jamal Franklin
Notable offseason additions: SF Mike Miller, C Kosta Koufos, F Jamal Franklin (#41 overall in the NBA draft), Coach Dave Joerger
Notable offseason subtractions: PF Darrell Arthur, F Austen Daye, G Keyon Dooling, Coach Lionel Hollins
FACT OR FICTION: The Grizzlies will take a step forward in a crowded Western Conference.
FACT. The Grizzlies have their work cut out for them in a loaded Western Conference playoff picture. Although Denver did everyone a favor with their timed implosion, the Grizz will have to contend with the Spurs, Thunder, Clippers, Rockets, and even Warriors for playoff position in 2013-14. So why am I confident that they can do it?
The Grizz are coming off of their best season in franchise history, winning 56 games (just 4 short of the #1 seeded Thunder) while making it to the Western Conference Finals. To get there, they had to beat a very good Clippers team and take down a hobbled Thunder squad. Although the Grizz have changed head coaches, their pecking order and identity as a defense juggernaut haven’t changed a bit.
Between health, age, and depth issues, there are plenty of questions about their competitors in the West, but this Grizzlies squad has the potential to be even better than last year. John Hollinger, nihilistic basketball GM-bot, has done a nice job of tweaking the roster to fill in some strategic gaps. Gasol and Randolph will now have Koufos and Davis as their back-ups, forming a formidable frontcourt rotation. Tony Allen, resident maniac and clubhouse leader, was re-signed to a reasonable contract.
Mike Miller may be a shadow of his former self at this point, but he can still space the floor and will former a respectable Small Forward rotation with Tayshaun Prince. I see no reason why Pondexter and Conley can’t continue the positive momentum they built at the end of last season, which will be key for this team’s long-term success. Conley in particular looked like a top 10 PG in the league last year after he found his footing.
There are no guarantees in the West this year – the Grizz could easily go out in the first round or make the NBA Finals. Still, few teams will be able to bring the consistent defensive chaos that Memphis can. This team will dominate on the boards and make teams work as hard to score as anyone. The real question is whether or not they can score consistently enough to get home court advantage in the first round.
Best case scenario: 3rd seed in the west, favorable first round match-up. The new Grizzlies fit in seamlessly, building the deep and dangerous team their GM-bot envisioned. Helped by injuries in the Western Conference playoff picture, the Grizzlies execute their game plan and defend their way to the Western Conference Finals again. Once there, anything is possible.
Absolute Apocalypse: Mike Miller reveals that he actually is Mr. Glass, leading the way as injuries take away Memphis’ enviable depth. Conley and Pondexter take a step back, putting too much pressure on Gasol to carry the team. Although Memphis still squeaks into the playoffs as an 8 seed, they are decimated in the first round.
Expected outcome: It’s hard to bet on a team like this in the crowded Western Conference, but the Grizzlies frontcourt is a terrifying match-up for pretty much everybody. No matter who they face, the Grizz will play their game the same way. The question mark for this team is on offense. I think they’ll be good enough to be in the pack again this year, giving themselves the chance to make some noise in the playoffs once again.
3rd in the Southwest , 6th in the Western Conference
Do you smell what MAMBINO is cooking? Check out the rest (so far) of our 2013-2014 NBA Season Preview series: