Last year, the Memphis Grizzlies finished the season with a 43-39 record, which earned them the 7th seed in a deep Western Conference. Their playoff dreams ended after six games in the first round against the San Antonio Spurs. The Grizzlies headed into the offseason with many questions and few answers. The biggest issue facing the team was figuring out how to maintain a formidable roster, while managing limited cap space. With key players moving on to new teams, Coach Fizdale heads into his second year as the head coach looking to restructure.
- Zach Randolph
- Tony Allen
- Vince Carter
“Grit & Grind” is widely used to define the Grizzlies’ style of play…well, it used to be. The departure of Zach Randolph and Tony Allen forces Memphis to redefine themselves. Randolph and Allen made the Grizzlies tough and, with this toughness, it was hard to count the team out of any game no matter how it appeared on paper. The team also lost Vince Carter, who is now 40 years of age and is the oldest active player in the NBA. Though his age would suggest that his departure is not an issue, Carter was able to perform on occasions when needed and was a perfect fit for the old style of play. The departure of the support added by Randolph, Allen, and Carter is collective loss of 31 points, 5 assists, and 17 rebounds, in addition to years of experience and mentoring opportunities.
- Ben McLemore
- Tyreke Evans
The Grizzlies added two players who are looking for an opportunity to take their game to the next level. Ben McLemore is still a young player in the league. At the age of 24, he has a chance to improve his game before entering into his prime years. McLemore has already proven his ability to take his man off the dribble, move without the ball, catch and shoot off the pick, and hit the spot up shot. These skills will help boost the play from the wing position. Additional help may come from Tyreke Evans who is entering his ninth season in the NBA, but may still be considered young at the age of 28. Evans is no longer considered a rising young star, and approaches his “prime” years with inconsistent evidence of his potential impact. However, when he is healthy, Evans looks to be on the brink of becoming a legitimate offensive weapon. After bursting onto the scene his first season averaging 20.1 points a game, injuries have kept Evans from besting his rookie stats. Under the direction of Coach Fizdale, Evans can get back on track and prove to be a solid contributor alongside Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, and others.
Projected Depth Chart (*Starters):
Even though replacing old players with young athletic talent is usually an upgrade, Memphis is losing a lot of experience and cohesion. The Grit & Grind days are gone! Although Conley and Gasol remain as the leaders of the team, the multitude of new faces changes their identity. JaMychal Green, who is set to sign his new deal with Memphis shortly, will be expected to continue what he started last year and do the dirty work for the team. Also, Mario Chalmers rejoins the team after suffering a serious Achilles injury. After signing a new one year deal, expect Rio use his play on the court to prove his value to the team and campaign for a bigger contract next year. The new year is also a chance for Chandler Parsons to showcase his skills and re-establish himself as an offensive threat. With a a full season ahead of him, he can inject himself as a key part of the new identity of the Grizzlies.
Coach Fizdale wants his team to play an old school style of basketball. The team will look to collectively make an effort to grab defensive rebounds and push the pace. On offense, the plan is to attack the rim and, if the defense collapses, kick it out to the open shooters. This sounds routine for all teams, but Coach Fizdale has stressed that he wants the team to attack the bucket. If the team sticks to the plan and comes together, they will find relative success. Fact is, however, the Memphis Grizzlies are in a rejuvenated, beefed up Western Conference. There will be no room for error or time for learning, outside of playing against an Eastern Conference team.
Brief Description of Strengths/Weaknesses:
Memphis is a younger team than the previous few years and will need time to learn and get comfortable with each other, the system, and find their groove. Having so many new faces is a weakness for the team. Another weakness is the ability to stay healthy. Many guys on the roster have proven to be injury prone throughout their careers. The Grizzlies have fewer core veterans to back up their second-year head coach, which means Mike Conley and Marc Gasol will have their hands full mentoring the new guys on the team. Finally, failing to add a proven all-star to the roster this summer will leave the team outgunned in most Western Conference showdowns.
The biggest strength for the team is a rejuvenation of youth in the roster. Yes, their weakness will double as a strength at times. There will be more energy and more reasons to prove themselves. With a second year head coach, young players are easier to mold than a group of guys who “have been there and done that.” With many guys on the team who have yet to live up to their potential, their push to prove themselves will allow them to play better collectively and individually, and may result in a new version of the tough style of play, Grit & Grind 2.0.
It will take time for this team to get used to each other, solidify their system, and establish a new identity. Even once they get things together, they will have a hard time imposing themselves on both the established and new Western Conference powerhouses. Though the team will play good ball after an initial adjustment period, they’ll still find themselves taking a step back from last year’s record and achievements.
36-46 (Will fail to make the Postseason)
Photo Credits: USA Today
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