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Friday, November 28, 2014

SDH's 2014/2015 NBA Worst to First Previews and Predictions: 10. Memphis Grizzlies

Overall Win/Loss Record :  50-32 ,  third place Southwest Division

2014/2015 Projection: 49-33, third place Southwest Division, sixth place Western Conference

Preseason Rank

Last season’s Team Statistics and League Rank

  • Points Scored: 96.1 (27th)
  • Points Allowed: 94.6 (3rd)
  • Team FG%: .464 (7th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .450 (9th)
  • Team FT%: .741 (23rd)
  • Team Three Point FG%: .353 (19th)
  • Rebounds per game: 42.4 (19th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 32.2 (1st)
  • Turnovers per game: 12.9 (3rd)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 13.6 (19th)

Returning Individual Statistical Leaders

Projected Opening Day Starters Based on Past Performances and Potential Impacts:

  • Mike Conley (PG)
  • Courtney Lee (SG)
  • Tayshaun Prince (SF)
  • Zach Randolph (PF)
  • Marc Gasol (C)

Key Reserves Rank Based on Past Performances and Potential Impacts:

  1. Vince Carter (G/F)
  2. Tony Allen (G)
  3. Beno Udrih (G)
  4. Kosta Koufos (C)
  5. John Leuer (F)

Out of the 15 teams of the Western Conference, nobody gets as little respect or recognition than the Memphis Grizzlies despite their four straight playoff appearances with one in the Conference Semifinals in 2011 and another in the Conference Finals 2013.  Barely anyone talks about them or gives the team any attention whatsoever; instead most of the attention is paid towards their division rivals such as the +Dallas Mavericks+Houston Rockets and +San Antonio Spurs due to their huge television markets as well as their marquee players.  Even teams that have thus far struggled and have yet to make the playoffs such as the +New Orleans Pelicans and +Sacramento Kings get more press time than the Grizzlies and even they have even more recognizable faces on their rosters than Memphis does. Nonetheless, the Grizzlies, in spite of their lack of attention and respect, still remains one of the league's most dangerous teams and can possibly come out on top of the conference even though most people would not be able to spot a Memphis player in a police lineup, let alone recognize them while walking the street.  And that what makes this team so special: even without the possession of big name marquee players and are barely noticed in sports media, the Grizzlies always find a way to come out of the shadows and strike an unsuspecting league so viciously that it leaves both their opponents and fans in awe.

With just one look at the team's current roster, no one can really see how a team such as Memphis that does not have a superstar franchise player and few really recognizable players has been able to keep at par with teams who not just have one, but sometimes two or three All Star players in their roster.  Last season, the Grizzlies took an +Oklahoma City Thunder team that had both league MVP +Kevin Durant  and his All Star sidekick +Russell Westbrook  to seven games before eventually losing the series and getting eliminated.  The season prior, not only did they shock the +Los Angeles Clippers  led by +Chris Paul and +Blake Griffin, but they made short work of the same OKC team mentioned before in the second round, only to be handily swept by the Spurs in the Conference Finals.  That is why Memphis, above all the teams in the west, should be considered as not only the dark horse favorite to win the regular season tile, but also further shock the world by knocking out the clear cut post season favorites in the playoffs and reach to its first NBA Finals. Unfortunately, regardless of whatever they do, it is doubtful that anybody will give this team its just due because as mentioned before, the team simply does not have that "it" factor that makes them a team that need to stand up and finally be accounted for.

They were certainly not even considered a major player in the off season free agent market despite having plenty of salary cap space to spare as the best they were capable of signing was a way over the hill Vince Carter to a minuscule veteran minimum contract.  And despite winning 50 games and reaching the playoffs last season, the Grizzlies have been considered as absolutely one of the worst teams to watch in the league as they ranked near bottom in scoring while at the same time held their opponents to even lower scoring.  One can go as far to say that everything on this team, from its bland logo to their even more bland style of play, can be classified as absolutely dreary to say the least thus making it even harder for fans, whether they reside in Memphis or not, to strongly support this team because their team is simply not worth the time and effort to watch.  With all of tthose factors going against them, it is little wonder how a team such as Memphis were completely unable to woo the likes of a +LeBron James+Carmelo Anthony, and could not even get themselves in the running for restricted free agents such as +Eric Bledsoe, who had later signed back with the +Phoenix Suns.  Perhaps the other reason for an off season so silent that one can hear a pin drop was not that no one even bothered to acknowledge their overtures and advances, but the simple fact that they never made such inquiries in the first place.

You never hear about Memphis actively engaging with agents encouraging them to convince the clients that they represent to take in the sights of the Grizzlies' fair city and work hard at seducing him into signing a long term deal thus making him the new face of the franchise.  The Grizzlies seem happy enough counting on their beefy front court duo of a 33 year old Zach Randolph and a near 30 Marc Gasol to remain as not only a the faces of the franchise, but also as its primary foundation; however, the recent emergence of point guard Mike Conley as a prime time scorer has also given the Grizzlies a third option on the offensive end.  Unfortunately, save for those three, there is absolutely no one else who has the either the ability or desire to step up their games and become a strong offensive presence which can be seen in last season's statistics where the vast majority of the roster averaged in single digits in points per game.  Courtney Lee did show some promise as a scorer averaging 11 points per game in the 49 games he had played upon being transferred from the +Boston Celtics; however, looking at his past performances, it is doubtful to predict that last season's performance will translate into him being that scorer that the Grizzlies desperately need.  So it seems that until further notice, much of the offensive load will be taken up by Gasol, Randolph and Conley while the rest of the scoring will be by committee as the rest of the team would rather lurk in the shadows and be background supporting players rather than make a major impact.

Nevertheless, in spite of the flawed recipe, the Memphis Grizzlies still remain a strong cohesive unit that is capable of tearing down such titans as the Clippers, Spurs, Thunder, and Rockets to claim the top seed of the Western Conference.  In fact, they could not only just crack into the West's top five teams, but also shatter the conference's caste system where essentially six teams have playoff spots already spoken for while the rest battle tooth and nail for what little scraps are left; however, despite the numerous times they have proven their capabilities, many still remain unconvinced.  Many analysts and commentators still have disregarded the Memphis Grizzlies as a mere afterthought favoring instead to shine their spotlights on the league's sexier teams with the marquee players and huge box office amd television draws rather than give a grind it out team such as the Grizz a fair shake.  So once again Memphis has been swept under the rug by both the league and its media partners and once again, they will have to prove not only to themselves, but to the basketball world that a team does not need to be in a big market or have marquee names in order to make it far in the NBA.  In fact, maybe history will repeat itself as the league's dark horse will once again rise out from the shadows and upset the balance of power as it has done before.