2012/13 NBA Season Preview: Memphis Grizzlies
Last season, the Memphis Grizzlies failed to replicate their impressive 2011 playoffs run that put them a game away from the Western Conference Finals.
The LA Clippers defeated the fourth-seed Grizzlies in the first round of the 2012 post-season, meaning in the minds of many the boys from Beale Street are now in a kind of NBA purgatory.
That they couldn’t back up in the playoffs last year says they aren’t capable of being a serious threat. That they still nabbed the fourth seed despite Zach Randolph’s injury says they aren’t going to fall too far short of that.
The challenge for Memphis this season will be to – just as they did two years ago – smash down the outside perception of them.
The three biggest questions for the Grizzlies in 2012/13:
What difference will it make having Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph together and fit?
Put simply, it will make a huge difference.
In 2010/11, the Grizzlies lost Rudy Gay to injury in February. Their phenomenal post-season run happened with him on the sidelines. Randolph was an All-Star that year and led the team in the playoffs.
In 2011/12, the Grizzlies lost Randolph to injury in the fourth game of the season. He returned in time for the playoffs but was limited in what he could do. Gay was the team’s star.
This season, the hope is that both Gay and Randolph can stay on the court and be at their best. Basic logic suggests that for the Grizzlies to do any real damage, this will need to be the case. Along with Marc Gasol, these guys are the team’s elite and without them, the task of matching it with the more star-studded teams becomes much harder.
To illustrate why things might look a little different, in that series against the Clippers, the three games where Randolph managed to hit both 15 points and eight rebounds were all Grizzlies wins. All four losses came when he could not manage the feat.
Can the Grizzlies cover the loss of O.J. Mayo?
Yes and no. Getting nothing in return for Mayo – especially when there weren’t any other headline-grabbing moves involving the Grizzlies – isn’t great. The real problem with it is you doubt anyone will be able to replicate his scoring off the bench.
Having said that, the Grizzlies had two very obvious deficiencies last season: the lack of outside shooting and, thanks to the inexplicable trading of Greivis Vasquez, a genuine back-up point guard. It became clear O.J. – who shot marginally above 40% from the field and 36% from three – was the answer to neither of these deficiencies.
So they’ve brought in Jerryd Bayless, who will be an upgrade in that back-up role at the point. They’ve brought in Wayne Ellington, who’s a three-point shooter, albeit one coming off a bad shooting season. They’ll also be giving more minutes to second-year guard Josh Selby, who was co-MVP of Summer League this off-season.
In short, the loss of Mayo has led to some major holes being plugged. But it still remains to be seen who fills the scoring void. Mo Speights? Darrell Arthur coming off yet another injury? Ellington or Selby?
This is something that will need to be addressed for the Grizzlies to do anything more than break even from Mayo’s departure.
Was 2011 a fluke or are the Grizzlies the real deal?
The Grizzlies may not be the most talented team – there’s no Kevin Durant or LeBron James or Kobe Bryant – but they work hard, get in their opponent’s faces and do the unfashionable stuff and it serves them well.
Last season, Memphis led the league in steals. They ranked first for opposition turnovers. They were top five for offensive rebounds and points in the paint. So long as this grit and grind mentality is maintained, with the players they have now they’ll never be too far short of the big boys.
The starting five – Conley, “The Grindfather” Tony Allen, Gay, Randolph, Gasol – is a solid core. Conley’s preseason has hinted at significant improvement while, as already mentioned, Gay and Randolph together will make a noticeable difference.
Bench concerns aside, there’s a spot on the list of contenders for the Grizzlies.
Memphis Grizzlies Snapshot:
- 41 wins, 25 losses
- Finished fourth in the Western Conference, and second in the Southwest Division
- Lost 4-3 to the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round
Statistical leaders in 2011/12:
- Points: Rudy Gay (19 ppg)
- Rebounds: Marc Gasol (8.9 rpg)
- Assists: Mike Conley (6.5 apg)
Jerryd Bayless, Wayne Ellington, Tony Wroten
O.J. Mayo, Dante Cunningham, Gilbert Arenas
Career record: 158 wins, 175 losses
Predicted finish in 2012/13:
- 5th in the Western Conference
- 2nd in the Southwest Division
- Lose in the second round
Michael DiFabrizio is completing his journalism degree. As an AFL writer, he has been an expert columnist at The Roar since 2009, and appeared in The Age and on ABC television and radio. Follow Michael on twitter @mdifabrizio
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