Here’s what we know for sure: the Grizzlies are in the playoffs, and they will be playing the Clippers in the first round. Everything else, however – including whether or not they’ll have home court – is still in the air. It’s hard to tell how far this team can go. If they make the finals, it would be mildly surprising, but not entirely shocking. On the other hand, you could say the same thing about a first round exit. It’s hard to tell where this team’s ceiling is. That’s why I’ve decided to look at some recent playoff teams who remind me a bit of the Grizzlies (in one way or another), to see if this Memphis team could have a fate similar to any of theirs. Let’s look at what teams could be the 2011-12 Grizzlies historical playoff doppelganger!
The 2010-11 Portland Trail Blazers
Ugh, this would be a real bummer. Imagine if the Grizzlies had the suffer the cruel fate of being the team everyone thinks is a potential sleeper that ends up getting crushed in the first round. Of course, the thing to remember about that team is that they weren’t eliminated because they were weak, they were eliminated because they were stuck playing the eventual champions in the first round – a Mavericks team that no one was especially high on. No one’s really high on this Clippers team either – it’s basically two great players, and a set of mediocre cast-offs – but you never know when a team might surprise you. Still, I think the Grizzlies are too good of a team to fall into this trap.
Any Atlanta Hawks Team Since 2007-08
Here’s another scary thought: what if the Grizzlies end up morphing into the West’s version of the Hawks? A team that can consistently reach the playoffs, but never is a serious title contender. You could make the case that this notion was already disproven in last year’s run, when one more shot going through in Game 4 of the Thunder series would’ve sent them to the Western finals. Still, in a conference where Durant/Westbrook/Harden could be around for 10 more years, and the Lakers and Spurs always seem to put together competitive teams, you wonder if the team’s lack of an absolute superstar like Durant or Kobe could be their perpetual flaw, the thing that leads to an exit in one of the first two round year after year. I tend to think Rudy Gay gets too much crap for not being a Durant-type player, but it’s possible that the lack of a guy like that could be the thing that keeps the Grizzlies from being immortal. But let’s hope not, and move on to greener pastures.
Either the 1997-98 Pacers or the 1999-00 Pacers
Each of these Pacers teams were deep and talented, but ended up falling at the hands of a team with an elite duo running the show. For the ’98 team, it was Jordan and Pippen. For the 2000 team, it was Shaq and Kobe. The only difference is that one of these teams went down in the Eastern finals, while the other lost in the finals. Either of these fates could happen to the Grizzlies this year. You could picture them being defeated at the hands of Westbrook and Durant in the Western finals, or if they get all the way to the finals, Lebron and Wade being too much to handle. Each of the Pacers teams were deep, talented, and skilled on defense, but they were both taken down by a terrifying twosome. Let’s hope that fate doesn’t befall Memphis this year.
The 2003-04 Detroit Pistons
I’ve thought about this, and so have you. No superstars, but tons of depth, and killer D. A team like this won the title 8 years ago, maybe it can happen again. We can only hope.