Grizzlies ’10-11 Preview
30 teams in 30 days.
by Rodger Bohn / @rodgerbohn
After being thought of by many as a potential NBA Coach of the Year for ‘09-10, Lionel Hollins rolls back to the River City with the same core and a few key additions that could prove to be solid role players as the season goes on. While there’s most definitely some uncertainty at a few positions on the hardwood, you may be hard pressed to find a better four-man combo anywhere in the League not named Miami.
The shining star of the Grizzlies future lays on the perimeter with wings OJ Mayo and Rudy Gay. While Juice’s scoring numbers actually regressed a little bit from his debut campaign, anyone who watched the Grizz saw him mature during his sophomore year. He was more comfortable running the show when asked, shot the rock at a higher percentage, improved his decision making, and stepped up when it came to putting the clamps on cats on the defensive end. Mayo’s running mate, Rudy Gay, is fresh off of letting the ink dry on a new max contract and is one of the more intriguing young small forwards in the game. Mr. Gay has improved upon his shot selection and is always adding something new to his game, but it remains frustrating to watch a cat so talented and athletic constantly stand around the perimeter and jack up contested jumpers in crunch time.
Memphis’ frontcourt is anchored by Zach Randolph. Coming off of what many consider the best season of his career, Zeebo has made the transformation to locker room cancer to Grizzled veteran presence. He’s still one of the more unorthodox power forwards in the L to guard, from his lefty jumper that can take you out near the three-point arc, his sneaky quickness going to the cup, and his slithery moves in the pivot. Pretty insane when you think that a guy who can’t jump over a piece of paper is one of the tougher match-ups from the 4 spot in the League. Spaniard Marc Gasol showed out this summer in Turkey and appears ready to take his game to the next level after doing his thing during his second season. Any time that you have a true 7-footer who isn’t afraid to mix it up on the blocks, but can also step out to 18 feet or hit you with a behind the back pass in traffic while grabbing 10 boards a game, you’re sitting pretty.
The main question mark for Memphis remains the point guard situation. Refusing to give up on Mike Conley Jr., they will continue to rely on the 4th year ex-lotto pick from Ohio State to lead the team. On the bright side, he has improved his three-point shot to the point that defenses don’t immediately go under high ball screens the way they did initially upon his arrival in the League. Conley has also shown the ability to get into the teeth of the defense and drop a teardrop floater with either hand over your team’s 7-footer. With that said, there’s a bit of uncertainty around whether or not he will be able to create enough for his teammates to lead them into the Playoffs. Known as a guy who was a pure point guard who always took care of the rock in college, he’s yet to wow anyone with his assist numbers at a pedestrian 4.7 per game over his career. Greivis Vasquez and Acie Law will surely have there chance to battle for burn unless Mike takes his game to the next level.
The Grizzlies bench is loaded with a bunch of guys ranging from 6’5 to 6’9, along with a pair of project 7-footers. Gritty swingmen Sam Young and DeMarre Carroll both had their moments during their rookie seasons as energy guys. Tony Allen brings a bevy of experience to the squad and has proven to be an adept role player on winning Celtics, but didn’t make a single three-pointer last year. Their 14 feet, 5 inches of thunder in Hasheem Thabeet and Hamed Haddadi both showed glimpses of improvement this summer, but will likely be hard pressed to find many minutes playing behind an emerging stud in Gasol. The two X-men for the Grizzlies off of the bench are Xavier Henry and Darrell Arthur. Henry, considered by many as one of the elite pure shooters in the NBA Draft is an uber-talent who has hella long term potential and could immediate help out. Darrell Arthur is also another dude who has a ton of talent, but “Shady” is coming off of a torn pectoral and has always been a guy who’d prefer to hang out on the wing shooting Js rather than mixing it up in the three-second area.
With the size that the Grizzlies have, expect for them to be amongst the leaders in rebounding on both ends of the hardwood. They should also be able to create a plethora of mismatches in the 2-5 slots because honestly, how many teams can defend four players who can each give you 20 a night on the floor at the same time? On the down side, the Grizz did very little to address their lack of three-point shooting (besides Henry), didn’t gain much at the point guard position, and will need to mature as a whole. Anyone who watched Memphis last year could tell you about how many substantial 3rd quarter leads that the squad pissed away in the 4th quarter due to a lack of a go to guy and sense of confusion about who was going to get the rock.
With the exodus of talent from the West to the other side of the Mississippi, there is definitely a window for the Grizzlies to be playing in the postseason instead of spending their time fishing. Much of this will lay on the shoulders of Mr. Conley, who is in a contract year and needs to ball out if he hopes to get paid. A definitive “MAN” on the team would also help.
Playoffs or no Playoffs, Memphis fans will at least have a fun team to play with on NBA 2k11!