“I don’t think anyone in the Western Conference can beat the Grizzlies dude.”
I sent my friend this text message sometime during game 1 of the first round of the playoffs last year, as the Grizzlies were seemingly making the Clippers say ‘uncle’. After giving Oklahoma City absolutely all they could handle and coming within a game of the 2011 Western Conference Finals, Memphis looked completely reloaded and ready to challenge the Spurs and Thunder as the representative in the NBA Finals. I went to sleep while Memphis was leading by 20 points worrying about what this meant for my Thunder’s chances.
“We just won’t be able to beat them,” I kept thinking. I woke up astonished to see that the Clippers had come back to win game 1, and still, to this day, have absolutely no idea how it happened.
The Grizzlies aren’t making me lose any sleep this year. They are no longer in the conversation of best 4/5 combination in the West as Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph have been completely dethroned by Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol. There has long been a reported rift between Randolph and swingman Rudy Gay, and the Grizzlies don’t seem to be concerned about it. Both players have a lot of trade value, and they don’t really play well together. Trading either could net the team a solid piece for this year and possibly something to continue building on for the future.
Hanging out in the middle of the pack in the West isn’t going to do anything for anyone, as the Grizz are essentially becoming the Pacers of the West. Looking at this roster, they definitely didn’t get better, and their bench took a pretty big hit losing OJ Mayo to the Mavs. Jerryd Bayless is a guy I’ve liked since he was playing for Lute Olson in Arizona, but he doesn’t really have the size to get minutes at the 2. Darrell Arthur coming back is good news, although he will likely be a relic of his old self, given the history of NBA players returning from Achilles injuries.
Mike Conley continues to improve and seems to get forgotten about because of the bevy of NBA point guard talent, but he is a great player. He could play on my team any day. Gasol is one of the top 5 centers in the NBA, and has probably surpassed Pau as the best Gasol in the league. Randolph is great in the halfcourt but is about as athletic as the Marlboro Man.
If the Grizzlies were a bit younger it would be really easy to like their chances to continue climbing the Western Conference ladder. If a team is going to stay so stagnant, it’s nice to know that their core is under 25 (cough OKC), but if not, than it’d be nice to see the front office get creative and try to find some better pieces. They probably could have traded Gay to Charlotte for the 2nd pick in the draft, having a chance to take Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to develop into a pseudo Scottie Pippen or someone like Dion Waiters to play the 2 and move Tony Allen to the 3. This team just smells like another early round exit in May.