Before the season actually comes around and spoils everyone’s fun, let’s take our time to embrace optimism and tell you why your team will win the title. We continue with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Believe or not, Golden State’s 2-1 deficit in the NBA Finals wasn’t the first time the team trailed in the playoffs.
Golden State was given all that it could handle a couple of rounds earlier, against a tough Memphis team. And while time may be running out for the Grizzlies to finally break through and win a championship, that ship hasn’t sailed quite yet.
Memphis didn’t make any big additions in the offseason, but it did retain one of the best players in the game. Keeping Marc Gasol was a must for a team very much in win now mode, and that mission was accomplished. Everything Memphis does on both sides of the ball runs through Gasol, and keeping him keeps the Grizzlies’ championship dreams alive.
Then came a couple of other important, if unheralded, additions. Matt Barnes was acquired in a trade, and he brings a much needed capable wing player to the rotation. His three-point shooting shot up to 36 percent last year, and he is a solid wing defender as well.
While Barnes fortifies the perimeter, Brandan Wright brings depth down low. The Grizzlies needed another big, and Wright more than capably fills a backup role. It will be fun watching his minutes with a point guard with as much vision as Mike Conley.
While every other team seems to be shifting to small ball, the Grizzlies have largely stuck with a traditional lineup that works for them. Zach Randolph can wear opponents down over the course of a game or series, and Dave Joerger trusts his defense to cover for Randolph’s difficulties on the perimeter. Instead of trying to beat Golden State by playing the style the Warriors want to play, Memphis is going to stick with what its roster does well. And that gave Golden State a run in the playoffs last season.
Memphis should also expect a bit of a bounceback from Jeff Green. The Grizzlies acquired Green from the Celtics last season hoping he would push the team over the top, but Green was a subpar performer down the stretch.
Green has always been an up-and-down player, but he should improve with a full season in Joerger’s system. If Green can get back on track, the team will have several good options on the wing including Green, Courtney Lee and Tony Allen.
The team didn’t acquire any shooting to fill that void in the offseason, but there is reason to believe that void can be filled in-house. Jordan Adams should be ready to contribute this year, and he brings a skillset that includes unlimited range. He will start the year buried on the depth chart (and just had minor surgery), but he could fill a vital role off the bench for the Grizzlies come playoff time.
Memphis is close to the end of its run with the current core, but that doesn’t mean it’s all over. This could be the year the Grizzlies finally break through, and march all the way to the title.