Memphis Grizzlies Season Preview: Almost There

Team Capsule 

Last year, the Memphis Grizzlies lost to the L.A. Clippers in the first round of the playoffs in a series that went seven games. It seemed like another year that the Grizzlies, while a good team, just weren’t good enough. Picked often by many people as a dark horse title contender for the past two seasons, the Grizzlies have come up short both times. This year, Memphis gets the return of Zach Randolph from injury, who only played in 28 games last year (started only 8 of them), to combine with center Marc Gasol as one of the best PF-C duos in the league.

Rudy Gay is an interesting player. Year after year, he produces good scoring stats, around 19 ppg the last few years. However, he has been slightly inefficient while scoring. He has never had a season with a TS% above 54.8%, and last year finished only with a FG% of 45.5. Despite being well known for having a good mid-range jump shot , he only shot 34% from 16-23 feet last year, despite taking over four of them a game. A hopefully improved Rudy Gay will be key to this season’s Grizzlies team. It will be interesting to see if an improved Rudy Gay and getting Randolph back will vault the Grizzlies from championship hopeful’s to serious championship contenders.

Biggest Strength: Defense

The Grizzlies finished seventh in defensive efficiency (98.9), were first in the league in Opponent turnover rate (16.30), and were  seventh in the league in defensive rating (101.8). A large part of this defensive success is because of Tony Allen, Marc Gasol, and Mike Conley. Tony Allen is a great defender at the wing position capable of shutting down the other teams best scoring options and being a general pest on defense. Marc Gasol, while not a great individual defender, is a huge man that clogs the lane for opposing players and blocks a lot of shots (fifth last year in number blocked shots). Finally, Mike Conley was a big part of why the Grizzlies forced a lot of turnovers last year as he was second in the league in number of steals at 136.

Biggest Weakness: Shooting

They were 24th in TS% last year at only 51.5% and 26th in three point shooting hitting only 32.6%. Just two players on last years Grizzlies team shot over 5o%, Hamed Haddadi and Dante Cunningham, neither of whom got much playing time. This team might have only one true three point threat with the loss of OJ Mayo this off season, Mike Conley. At the trade deadline or next years off season, it would be wise for them to sign a shooter to help bolster the great interior play of Z-Bo and Marc.

Player to Watch: Rudy Gay

As I mentioned above, an improved Rudy Gay would do wonders for this team. They already have a great interior presence with Randolph and Gasol, two good guards who both play good defense, Conley and Allen, so maybe a rise in efficiency in Rudy’s game would lift this team to serious title contenders.

Coach: Lionel Hollins

2011-12 record: 41-25

Key Additions: Jerryd Bayless and Tony Wroten

The Grizzlies largely stayed put this off season, only signing a young journeyman, Jerryd Bayless. Bayless is expected to backup Conley and play alongside him in stretches. He is a capable three point shooter, though he is very streaky. He has never lived up to his draft status, but perhaps can play well in Memphis. They also drafted 6’6″ point guard, Tony Wroten, out of Washington. While he won’t get that much playing time this year, he is a good defender and has been compared to Rajon Rondo. He should be a valuable player for the future.

Key Subtractions: O.J. Mayo

The Dallas Mavericks signed the disappointing shooting guard Mayo this off season. He looked like he could turn into a star after his first season in the league, but unfortunately his play has fallen off the past three years and he has regressed.

Team Trajectory: Flat 

Projected Record: 50-32

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