As a site, we ranked all the NBA teams from worst to best for our release of season previews. Day twenty-four’s release of a season preview ends up being the often forgotten about, Memphis Grizzlies. Step-Back J will provide a recap of their past season, an offseason recap, and then finally the season preview all of us fans are eager for.
Last season’s record: 55-27
Playoff Status: Lost 4-2 to the Golden State Warriors on the Western Conference Semi-finals
Another season went by and the Memphis Grizzlies gritted and grinded through the entirety of the season. It has been their trademark to slow the game and pound the ball inside, physically imposing their big men over opponents and it has worked. Come playoff time no one wants to meet these Grizzlies. Besides Cleveland, they were the only team that seemed to challenge Golden State this past season. They even lead 2-1 with their defence first approach until Steve Kerr found a way to beat them (a.k.a ignore Tony Allen). Their season ended yet again short of the conference finals trip they made back in 2013 with Lionel Hollins. It was another good season for franchise centerpiece and former defensive player of the year, Marc Gasol, solidifying his status among elite two-way centers with an All-NBA first team nomination. Zach Randolph seems to still be a valuable contributor and Mike Conley again showed he can compete with the best at his position. The 2015 offseason seemed destined to address the holes on the roster before their championship window closed.
In the 2015 NBA draft the Grizzlies selected, Jarell Martin with the 25th pick, a power forward out of LSU. Martin missed Summer League, so fans were not able to see him play against quality competition. Martin will also need be healthy come the start of the season, as he fractured his foot in early September, and the earliest he would return is the beginning of November, but Memphis will likely be precautious with the rookie, and sideline him for the full duration of his injury. However, he did average 16.9ppg and 9.2rpg during his freshman season, and could be an interesting energy guy to have coming off the bench for a team that seems to lack fire power.
As far as free agency goes, Memphis had a quiet offseason. Their biggest move was retaining Marc Gasol on a 5-year $110 million deal. Despite already being 30, his game is one that ages well, particularly his passing IQ and post game. Therefore he should be a serviceable player for the duration of the contract (note that with the increase of the salary cap the value can become more justifiable) and helping to keep the Grizzlies in a contending spot. The signing of Brandan Wright was also a pretty good move, adding depth at the five position with a solid scoring presence, despite some deficiencies as a defender. They also traded for Matt Barnes continuing to build their team on a grit and grind mentality. Barnes, an above average defender, should be a nice complement to Tony Allen as it pertains to offensive presence, possible allowing Joerger to not having to play 4v5 on offense to have a wing stopper on defense (Tony Allen). Memphis did a good job adding complementary players to their roster, and improved their bench unit, for another run at a championship.
However, not all was good. The loss of Kosta Koufos, regarded by many as one of the best backup big man in the league is going to sting this team. They also did not address what has been their biggest weakness: 3-point shooting. With a bevy of shooters on the market the fact that they did not address it should be concerning. They ranked 29th in 3-points attempted and 22nd in 3-point % and, in today’s’ league, to play without spacing does not usually lead to great results. Just look at the fact that the 4 teams in the conference finals all relied on a spacing offensive gameplan. Nonetheless, bringing back the majority of a 55-win team should be viewed has a pretty decent offseason. A prime Gasol and Conley, improved bench, and a grit and grind mentality all add up to give us another typical Memphis season. The only thing that may hurt them is the improvements of the other West upper echelons.
It seems reasonable to expect another 50-win season as the overall level of talent and “know-how” are still there. We should witness a more cohesive offensive unit with improvement from Conley and Jeff Green and the same defensive minded approach, barring any injuries. The bench was also able to add athletic offensive players in Martin and Wright, as well as the further development of Jarnell Stokes. The addition of Matt Barnes to the bench only furthers its defensive potency to go along with the offensive minded Green and Carter. Now with all of that a playoff spot seems all-but assured, but with the improvement from the rest of the teams, a high seed (1-4 or 5) does not seem likely. Come playoff time, we know what Memphis brings to the table and that teams would like to avoid it (especially because of the physical and fatigue side), but a trip to the conference finals does not seem possible with the level of talent in the West (Golden State, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Houston and Los Angeles seem more championship ready) and a 2nd round exit is not even assured. A lot will depend on how the seeds will go, but unfortunately a 1st round exit is a strong possibility under the current circumstances.
By: Step-Back J
Edited By: Mac Crowe, @Mac_Truck17