The Memphis Grizzlies were a team that only a few years ago weren’t thought of as much. They didn’t have any stability in their organization, they couldn’t keep a coach, and no player wanted to play there. Their organization was the laughing stock of the NBA for a long time. Those are the days of the past now though.
Ever since they upset the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs as an 8th seed, mind you, they’ve been taking the league by storm. They always seem to constantly be the underdog no matter who their opponent is–but that’s alright with them.
With the spotlight being on every other team in the NBA, the Grizzlies have been able to manifest a championship contender. The question is, how much of a time frame do they have to do that in?
The Grizzlies have had their core group of guys in place for three years now. Throughout they haven’t been all on the floor at the same time. Their two best players–Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph–seem to get injured when the other is perfectly healthy. They’ve yet to develop a chemistry that could potentially bring the Larry O’Brien back to Memphis.
This year, the Grizzlies are all looking to develop that chemistry they’ve been missing for years.
Many critics have argued that Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph don’t mix well on the floor together. Their health plays a major role in their floor chemistry. Last season, Randolph only managed to play in 28 games, while starting in only 8 of them, out of 66 . The year before Rudy Gay only managed to be available for 54 out of their 82 games.
That 2010-11 season is when Randolph really left his mark on the NBA. A large part of that is him not having to share the ball with Rudy Gay. With them both on the floor at the same time it seems as though they are pressing to let each other do work instead of working cohesively as a front court with Marc Gasol. This was to the detriment of the Grizzlies, as they lost this season in the first round to the Clippers.
You could see a lot of their struggles were coming from each of their front court players not having the ball in the right spots. That comes from not having worked with each other in real game situations before. Once they get on the same page, its going to be a different story. I think that’s something that the Grizzlies will have corrected going into this season.
Another reason why the Grizzlies struggled to mesh on the court last season was because of the personnel that was around them. On their roster, there are very few players who have the ability to consistently hit the three point shot. Therefore, that eliminates some of the space that the front court players could operate in.
We’ve seen the inside-out strategy employed throughout the NBA for a while now. Teams with lackluster guard play and dominant bigs use it all the time. The Grizzlies were the complete opposite. Instead of being able to play through their bigs and creating open shots from doubles in the paint, they’d be forced to play from the free throw line down. That means that the paint was constantly clogged for them.
There’s no getting around it; the Grizzlies need floor spacers and they need them bad. O.J Mayo and Gilbert Arenas certainly weren’t cutting it. They’ve addressed that need this offseason with the additions of Jerryd Bayless, who shot 42% from three last season, and Wayne Ellington. Ellington only shot 32% from beyond the arch last season but I believe this was a down year for Ellington. In his two previous years Ellington shot 39%.
Those two should provide some much needed paint relief for Randolph, Gay an Gasol. This season is going to be easier for each of them.
The Grizzlies’ minutes will be interesting for sure. They’re going to have Darrell Arthur returning this season after having surgery last year and not playing at all. The Grizzlies replaced his minutes through Marreese Speights and he ended up filling that role nicely. Seeing how they distribute the minutes through those two will likely be situational throughout the season.
Mike Conley- 32.7 Mpg
Tony Allen- 28.5 Mpg
Rudy Gay- 36.2 Mpg
Zach Randolph- 33.3 Mpg
Marc Gasol- 34.8 Mpg
Jerryd Bayless-26.3 Mpg
Darrell Arthur- 18.2 Mpg
Marreese Speights- 20.1 Mpg
Wayne Ellington- 23.9 Mpg
Josh Selby- 21.3 Mpg
Quincy Pondexter- 17.2 Mpg
Tony Wroten- 17.3 Mpg
The Grizzlies didn’t make any significant roster upgrades outside of Ellington and Bayless this offseason. The reason for that is quite simple–they didn’t need to. The Grizzlies already had a team that can match up with most other playoff contenders. Every season I think they have a shot to get to the Finals again because of their front court depth and talent.
The combination of Gay, Randolph, and Gasol is championship caliber if they are able to get used to one another on the floor. The main concern for the Grizzlies right now should be getting, and staying, healthy.