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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

SDH Presents the 2013 End of Season NBA's Worst to First: 3. Memphis Grizzlies

Overall Win/Loss Record (At Season’s End): 56-26, second place Southwest Division

At Season’s End:

Team Statistics and League Rank (At Season’s End)
  • Points Scored: 93.4 (26th)
  • Points Allowed: 89.3 (1st)
  • Team FG%: .444 (21st)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .435 (3rd)
  • Team FT%: .773 (10th)
  • Team Three Point FG%: .345 (24th)
  • Rebounds per game: 42.7 (11th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 39.1 (1st)
  • Turnovers per game: 13.2 (14th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 14.7 (7th)

Individual Statistical Leaders (At Season’s End)
  • Scoring (ppg): Zach Randolph (15.4)
  • Rebounds per game:  Zach Randolph (11.2)
  • Minutes per game: Marc Gasol (35.0)
  • Assists per game:  Mike Conley (6.1)
  • Field Goal Percentage: Ed Davis (.539)
  • Free Throw Percentage:  Marc Gasol (.850) 
  • Three Point FG Percentage: Austin Daye (.418)
  • Steals per game:  Mike Conley (2.2)
  • Blocked Shots per game: Marc Gasol (1.7)

Taking a Look Back at the Season that Once Was . . .

SDH Worst to First Recap
Time Period
Change (+/-)
At Season’s End
SDH Player of the Year:
Marc Gasol

He may not have led his team in scoring, rebounds, or even field goal percentage, Marc Gasol was still by far the Grizzlies' best player on the court along with the being the team's strongest leader.  It was primarily because of him that the Grizzlies kept their opponents to scoring under 90 points per game in the regular season along with shooting just .435 from the paint as he has been a stalwart in the paint.  He also was took a leading role on the offensive end not just in proficiently putting the ball in the basket, but also facilitating his teammates as he was second on the team in assists per game behind Mike Conley.  Gasol's play was certainly a factor in the post season as he helped guide his team to not just one but two stunning upsets in the first and second rounds leading Memphis to its first appearance in the Western Conference Finals. So when many try to discount Marc Gasol as an All Star caliber player because his stats do not pop out as some other, all they need to do is watch him play and see that he is more than deserving of the acclaim he has recieved.

At the beginning of the 2012/2013 NBA season, the Memphis Grizzlies had burst out of the gates with guns blazing as they won twelves of their first fourteen games which had many believing that the Memphis Grizzlies had finally moved from a middle of the pack team to a true championship contender.  Unfortunately those prospects ended as quickly as they went .500 the following month dropping them from the team which had the best record back to the middle of the pack once again.  With their championship prospects dimming with each passing game and them facing ridiculously high luxury tax penalties at season's end, the Grizzlies went into cost cutting mode slashing away at their payroll.  They started by trading pennies to the dollar sending two quality players in guard Wayne Ellington and big man Mareese Speights to the Cleveland Cavaliers for less expensive and FAR less talented Jon Leuer.  Then they went about cutting the hugest salary on their payroll, sending away the team's leading scorer, Rudy Gay, to the Toronto Raptors in a three team trade that also involved the Detroit Pistons again receiving pennies to the dollar in return.

Although many considered Gay to be grossly overpaid receiving a max money contract extension despite not making one All Star team and being overshadowed by his teammates Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, even his critics had to raise their eyebrows questioning the deal.  In return for Gay, a player that had averaged 18 to 20 per game along with six boards and a steal per game, Memphis essentially received two role players who had little or no upside whatsoever and an aging veteran who looked as if his best years had passed him.  They got a young wiry long skinny big man in Ed Davis who despite being a tough energy player for the Raptors, showed little or no improvement in his three seasons in Toronto and it was doubtful than he would be anything more than an energy player of the bench.  From the Pistons, Memphis received another slight build big man in Austin Daye who at 6'11 would rather shoot outside than play in the paint which the Pistons eventually gave up on as like Davis, saw that he would not amount to anything else more than he was right now.  Along with day, the Grizzlies would also receive from Detroit a 33 year old Tayshaun Prince, a player who many believed had squandered his best basketball playing days on a team going nowhere.

It was obvious to many that Memphis made these moves for the sole purpose of saving money and by doing so had cut off any real chance for contending for an NBA title as they gave up a blue chip player in Gay for essentially a bunch of spare parts.  Even when the Grizzlies finished the regular season with a franchise record 56 wins, they was little hope in Memphis that their team would even advance past the first round in the playoffs.  They had finished fifth place in the West thus having no home court advantage throughout the playoffs and they would be facing a team many felt had far more talent and firepower than the Grizzlies could muster.  Despite finishing with the same amount of wins as Memphis, the LA Clippers were still the odds on favorite to advance as their offensive production in the regular far eclipsed that of the Grizzlies while at the same time ranked among one of the league's top defensive teams.  After winning the first two games at home, it looked as it were an open and shut case for the Clippers, but to the surprise and sheer shock of many the series did not end with LA advancing to the second round, the complete opposite happened.

Memphis not only came back to their home court and evened the series at two games apiece, but also would take the wind out of the Clippers' sails by taking game five on the road giving the Grizzlies a three games to two lead and an opportunity to close the series out at home which they in fact did in splendid fashion.  In that moment, Memphis had silenced all doubters who had considered them a one and done team known to exit the playoffs as quickly as they arrived having beat a team who were considered an odds all favorite to reach the NBA Finals.  The Grizzlies would continue to shock the sports world by handily defeating the top seeded Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that finished the regular season with the second best record in the league behind the Miami Heat with 62 wins, in five games.  After narrowly losing game one on the road, Memphis went on to win the next four as they ground the high octane offense of the once thought of invincible Thunder to a halt.  Having lost their All Star point guard, Russell Westbrook, for the rest of the post season, the Thunder not only lost their primary offensive catalyst, but also much of their swagger which Memphis mercilessly took advantage of.

Next were the San Antonio Spurs and instead of the usual apathy that came with facing such a hardened playoff team, there was actually excitement in Memphis as not only they had taken down two of the West's top dog, they were facing a team that they had already beaten in the playoffs.  Two years ago San Antonio finished the regular season with the best record in the league which earned them the number one seed in the West and would face the underdog at the time Memphis Grizzlies; however instead of mopping the floor with Memphis, the Spurs were left dumbfounded as they were handily eliminated by the eighth seeded Grizzlies leaving a scar on an otherwise superb season.  Now Grizzlies fans were chomping at the bit as they smelled blood in the water as their team faced a foe that they had vanquished before in the postseason and it did not matter that the Spurs won the first two games in the series because Memphis was undefeated at home through the entire postseason. Unfortunately for Grizzlies, their post season magic spell worse as they were quickly decimated at the hands of the Spurs in a four game sweep that was so quick that it did not even seem that the Western Conference Finals even took place.  Nonetheless this season will be remembered by all fans alike when a small market team that had little chance to become a championship contender rose to the upper echelons beating the best in the league and quieting both their skeptics and critics at the same time.