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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

SDH's 2012/2013 NBA Worst to First Previews and Predictions: 11. Memphis Grizzlies

Overall Win/Loss Record :  41-25 second place Southwest Division


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Projected 2012/2013 Finish

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Last season’s Team Statistics and League Rank
  • Points Scored: 95.0 (20th)
  • Points Allowed: 93.0 (4th)
  • Team FG%: .447 (16th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .444 (12th)
  • Rebounds per game: 42.0 (16th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 40.7 (7th)



Returning Individual Statistical Leaders
  • Scoring: Rudy Gay (19.0)
  • Rebounds per game:  Marc Gasol (8.9)
  • Minutes per game:  Rudy Gay (37.3)
  • Assists per game: Mike Conley (6.5)
  • Steals per game:   Mike Conley (2.2)
  • Blocked Shots per game:   Marc Gasol (1.9)

Projected Starters Based on Last Season’s Performance, Veteran Seniority and Projected Impact

Key Reserves Based on Last Season’s Performances, Veteran Seniority and Potential Impact.
  1. Jerryd Bayless (G)
  2. Mareese Speights (F/C)
  3. Darrell Arthur (PF)
  4. Wayne Ellington (G)
  5. Quincy Poindexter (SF)


2012/2013 Projection:  52-30 second place in the Southwest division, with Houston and Dallas going down it has a clear route to second.

Analysis:

For what can be considered as still one of most talented young teams in the league, time seems to be running out for the Memphis Grizzlies.  After two straight appearances and their first playoff series win, the natives are starting to get restless as fans are wondering if their team will be able to make that next major step towards a championship.  Much has been invested in this current roster including the max contract that the Grizzlies signed their starting swingman Rudy Gay along with the additional 110$ million dollars over the next four years to Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.  This can be considered a make or break season for Memphis as it will determine whether they can be considered a true contender for the NBA crown or just another pretender that will soon run out of gas in a couple years time.  Fortunately, the situation cannot be any better for the Grizzlies as two of their division rivals are on the way of sinking leaving them free rein over second place and a chance to take first place from the long standing king, the San Antonio Spurs.

Both the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks have essentially mailed it in for the upcoming season.  Houston completely overhauled its roster leaving it a complete mess while Dallas geriatric squad is also on the verge of collapse.  The San Antonio Spurs still remain the team to beat in the Southwest and it seems as it is more vulnerable than ever before with last season’s playoff collapse in the Western Conference Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder.  Also, with the Spurs’ aging roster, it may be the best time for the Grizzlies to take advantage of the situation and finally bump the Spurs off the top of the hill, if not in the regular season then possibly in the playoffs.  And the Grizzlies certainly have the tools to not only shock the Spurs, but also raise a few eyebrows amongst the West’s elite—especially the Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder. 

Memphis had one of the most active off-seasons in the league as they have completely retooled and re-hauled their roster from last season making it even deeper and stronger than it has ever been before.  They started by re-upping the contracts of Marc Gasol, Mareese Speights, and Darrell Arthur giving the Grizzlies possibly the biggest, deepest and most talented front court in the league.  Along with strengthening the front court, they also have bolstered a glaring weakness they have had in poor perimeter shooting by adding sharp shooting guard Jerryd Bayless.  Last season with the Toronto Raptors, Bayless had his best season as a pro averaging 11.4 points and 3.8 assists per game while shooting a whopping .423 from beyond the arc.  Bayless’ signing might be the most underrated one as he has the potential to be an All Star and may give Tony Allen a run for his money for the starting shooting guard spot as well. 

Along with Bayless, the Grizzlies picked up another potential steal in acquiring guard Wayne Ellington from the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for fan favorite, forward Dante Cunningham.  Ellington has struggled in his first two seasons with the Wolves, but has a chance to redeem himself on a new team with a winning culture.  And although Cunningham’s energy and hustle will certainly be missed by Grizzlies fans, their team will finally not be afraid to launch the long ball as it has been before ranking near the bottom in the league in three point shot attempts (849, 28th in the league) and three point field goal percentage (.326, 25th in the league).  Add the improved perimeter shooting to an already imposing front-court, the Memphis Grizzlies seem poised to rise from its middle of the pack status in the West to becoming a potential spoiler come playoff time.  Unfortunately, they will need to make their mark this season, or face being stuck with the title of a former young and up and coming team that was only able to go so far.

Just as the Atlanta Hawks and the Portland Trailblazers before them, Memphis so does not want to be just spinning their tires and not moving any place.  Too much money and time has been invested for this team to just qualify to make the playoffs only to be quickly eliminated as fast as they had entered.  Memphis had the same problem before, when Marc Gasol’s older brother Pau was once the Grizzlies franchise player and was only able to lead the team only as far as the first round.   And once it became painfully apparent that Grizzlies team would not go any farther, it simply just collapsed and it took it close to five years to recover.  Hopefully this Memphis team led by Pau’s “little” brother will buck that trend and do what even he couldn’t do when he played for the Grizzlies—win more than just one playoff series.