The Memphis Grizzlies are a very young, exciting team, but still lack the experience and leadership necessary to get to the Playoffs. Midway through last season, the Grizzlies traded away their franchise star, Pau Gasol, and this offseason they traded away their top clutch player, Mike Miller. The Grizzlies are in a complete rebuilding mode, and following the youth movement. Rudy Gay will be thrust into the position of being the teamís leader, whether heís ready or not. There will be many problems for the Grizzlies this season, but a sneak preview of things to come will be given this year, and the future for this team is very bright. Rudy Gay, O.J. Mayo, Mike Conley, and Pauís little brother Marc Gasol are the future of this team, but it will take a few years before the Grizzlies have an impact on the league.
Offense: Head coach Marc Iavaroni instilled a full-court offensive system for the Grizzlies last season, and they were tenth in the league in scoring. This year, the offense will be more potent, and at times they will be able to run anyone out of the building. Rudy Gay will likely continue to grow into a superstar, and donít be surprised to his name amongst the league leaders in scoring. Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo will likely be starting in the backcourt, and will be the top playmakers in the lineup, along with Kyle Lowry. O.J. Mayo will probably show signs that he is capable of leading this team, but he wonít be ready to take full control. The Grizzlies will have one of the top offenses in the league, but it will have its faults as this team is just so young.
Defense: The Grizzlies were a terrible defensive squad last year. For every 100 points they would put up, the opponent would score close to 10 points more. The addition of Marc Gasol will help in the post, and O.J. Mayo is a fair defender, who will only get better with time, but this team will still have a very rough time on defense. The Grizzlies will give up a ton of points again this season, but as the players begin to grow together, the team defense will improve, but it will take a lot of time and effort to get to the level of being ďfairĒ on the defensive end.
Strengths: This teamís offense was its only strength last year, and this year will be no different. Memphis will put up plenty of points, and considering they can go small and get away with it, no one will be able to keep up with these guys for 48 minutes. There are many versatile players on this team, such as Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo, who can both play multiple positions and keep each team guessing as to what lineup the team with shell out next. The future of this teamís offense looks to be full of excitement, and this year will be the introduction of things to come.
Weaknesses: For every Dr. Jekyll, there is a Mr. Hyde, and defense for the Grizzlies is Mr. Hyde. Memphis looks fantastic on offense, but defensively they are a scary team to watch, but not in a threatening way. Hyde would usually find a way to overpower Jekyll, and the defense for the Grizzlies will be weaker than their offense will be strong. If Darko Milicic can amount to anything for Memphis, he could provide a solid post presence along with Gasol, but that is a big if these days. Defense will be the downfall for the Grizzlies, whether they improve or not.
Five Players to Watch:
Rudy Gay - Rudy Gay is the most impressive player on this team, and with Mike Miller in Minnesota, will have to be the outright leader of this young squad. He will also be looked at as the go to guy in clutch situations, and I believe he will be able to handle that pressure. Gay is the man on this team, and should be for quite some time. He, Mayo, and Mike Conley could prove to be a formidable trio down the road, and will be very fun to watch on a nightly basis.
O.J. Mayo - The Grizzlies gave up Kevin Love and Mike Miller to get this talented prospect, and big things will be expected out of him from game one. Mayo should step up to the challenge immediately, and will likely be the second best player on the team, after Gay. Mayo has potential to be a great leader on this team, and flashes of stardom will be witnessed all year long. Mayo will have more trouble than most rookies, however, due to the fact that he will be a star on a bad team, meaning he wonít have time to sit and learn, as he will be forced to react consistently. This could benefit Mayo if he is a fast learner, though, and a Rookie of The Year Award nomination is very likely.
Mike Conley - Mike Conley has had the pleasure of playing alongside Kyle Lowry, which has pushed his game and has prepared him for the big stage. This year, Conley will have to show that he is ready to be the teamís floor general, and I think he will handle things rather smoothly. Conley is a nice guy off the court, but when heís on the floor, heís a man on a mission, and leading the Grizzlies will be a challenge he is ready to meet. After a sow rookie season, Conley will be looking to put his name back up with the likes of Durant and Horford, and this year he could do just that.
Marc Gasol - The Grizzlies traded star player Pau Gasol to the Lakers for absolutely nothing Ė or so everyone says. Pauís brother, Marc, was a sent to the Grizzlies as a part of that deal. Marc is big, strong, and not afraid to play in the post, and take hits from other centers. Marc is not soft, and is just what this Memphis team needs. If Marc Gasol can produce for this team right away, and continue to play the way he did for Spain, that bad deal with the Lakers may be looked at much differently this team next year.
Marc Iavaroni - Iavaroni has done a great job with this teamís offense, and is a great teacher for all the youth on this squad. Iavaroni is a very calm, likable coach, which is perfect for this young squad, and with even more youth this year, he may be even more valuable to this team. Iavaroni will likely continue to develop his coaching skills right at the pace of the teamís development, and could be a Coach of The Year candidate down the road.
Playoff Hopes: The Grizzlies wonít make the Playoffs. They are in the toughest division in the toughest conference in the league. They are too young to have an impact on the league, and though they will show flashes of brilliance, they will ultimately be near the bottom of the NBA once again. The future is bright for the Memphis Grizzlies, but this is not the year they make the giant leap into the Playoffs.
Prediction: 5th Place, Southwest Division