Throughout September and October, we’ll be examining all 30 teams in the NBA and previewing the 2013-14 season through the lens of each particular organization. I’ll be going through each team’s roster and expected outcome for the upcoming campaign in reverse order of predicted finish, starting with the worst team in the NBA. At the bottom of each preview there will be a table with each division that will link to already-completed previews.
The Memphis Grizzlies are perhaps the least aesthetically pleasing of the league’s contenders in the eyes of casual fans, but are a defensive juggernaut that delight basketball nerds as far as the eye can see.
The Grizzlies only got better over the summer, following up their highly controversial in-season deal that sent Rudy Gay to Toronto for Tayshaun Prince and Ed Davis, which simultaneously improved their cap situation and their on-court product as well. In the off-season, Memphis sent Darrell Arthur to Denver for center Kosta Koufos, further shoring up their already stacked front court.
The starting lineup will start 2013-14 with the same look as they finished last year in the playoffs: Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Prince, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol. In addition to Koufos and Davis, the Grizzlies also inked sharpshooter Mike Miller to a one year deal over the summer to come off the bench alongside Jerryd Bayless and Quincy Pondexter.
Memphis’ cap situation is surprisingly clean, only owing money past the the 2014-15 season to Conley and Allen. Moving Gay’s longer, more expensive deal helped them free space to potentially re-sign Gasol, who’s far and away their best player. If Randolph continues to show signs of aging, don’t be surprised to see him moved around the start of 2014 or around the trade deadline, in similar shocking fashion to last year’s trade of Gay to the Raptors.
At the start of the season, however, the Grizzlies are set up to contend in the rough and tumble Western Conference. In contrast to the isolation-reliant playoff teams, the Grizzlies play much more of an “old school”-style game. They slow things down in the half court (29th in pace in 2012-13), feeding Gasol and Randolph in the post and allowing the offense to run through them.
Defensively, the Grizzlies rely on Conley and Allen’s fantastic on-ball defense in the back court, backed by Gasol’s league-best defense from the paint. Because this squad is so good at slowing games down yet still running when they need to, they can ugly-up any game, thus giving themselves a chance to win. Pounding the ball into the post is always an option, and the Grizzlies go back to that well time and time again.
Best Case Scenario
Memphis won 56 games last season, and appears to have an improved roster headed into the new season. It wouldn’t be shocking to see them finish right around that same win total, barring key injuries or rapid, faster-than-expected decline by Randolph. It isn’t difficult to see them winning another 56-59 games in 2013-14.
Worst Case Scenario
This is a team that’s tough to see losing too many games. Barring a major injury to Gasol, the Grizzlies are simply built to last. Gasol is the main cog on both ends of the floor in Memphis, but the offense is still predicated more on ball movement than simply one-on-one, isolation plays.
The only depth problems that they could see would be at the 2/3, as Miller has had his share of injuries, especially in recent years, and there isn’t much else there behind Prince. Even still, the Grizzlies should manage a minimum of 46-49 games. But I just don’t see that being too realistic of a possibility, either.
Most Likely Outcome
I suppose it’s likely that a mostly injury-free season like Memphis enjoyed in 2012-13 would be too much to ask for, as Conley, Allen, and Gasol all played at least 79 games and Randolph played in 76. That’s really the only thing that I can see affecting their final win total. This team is just too solid; too consistent.
Memphis could still make a move with Randolph, and some pieces (Randolph, Miller, Prince, Allen) are moving quickly towards their mid-thirties. That could provide some uncertainty with the final win total. I can definitely see there being a little less luck in Memphis this year, but regardless, they should manage 54-57 wins without too much trouble.
|Minnesota Timberwolves (11)||Golden State Warriors (10)|
|Denver Nuggets (15)||Los Angeles Lakers (23)||Memphis Grizzlies (8)|
|Portland Trail Blazers (16)||Sacramento Kings (25)||New Orleans Pelicans (14)|
|Dallas Mavericks (21)|