Memphis is one of best teams in the NBA just based upon their talent. The Grizzlies starting roster is composed of scorers and defensive specialists which is indicated by the Grizzlies high number of wins against elite teams.The Grizzlies have beaten teams like Miami, the Los Angeles Lakers, Oklahoma City, and Dallas this season.
Memphis has a good opportunity heading into the post season with at least the eighth seed in the hotly contested western conference as the Grizzlies play some of their best basketball against the top teams. When playing a great team, Memphis offense gels and their defense is top notch which is shown by the low number of points they allow against elite teams. If Memphis plays this high of a level against every team that they face, the Grizzlies would have one of the best records in the NBA.
However, with all of Memphis talent, both fans and analysts wonder why the Grizzlies havent established themselves as an elite team. By elite I mean a top four team in their respective conference. After in-depth analysis of the Grizzlies players, team, and situation this season, I finally feel that I can decode this enigma.
Each player on Memphis starting roster has specific talents that mesh well together.
First, lets take a look at the playmaker of the team, Mike Conley. Conley is the general of the court, creating a plan of attack for his troops and making sure that they execute. When General Conley is setting up his soldiers well, the Grizzlies win with ease as indicated by Memphis compiling an impressive record of 7-2 when Conley has recorded double digit assist numbers. No team in the NBA wants to play Memphis when the General is passing well. It is critical that Conley play makes at a high level heading into the post season and average 8-10 assists per game if the Grizzlies want to be competitive in the first round.
Then theres Tony Allen, the thief. Opposing teams better take good care of the ball or Tony Allen WILL steal it, simple as that. Whenever someone who isnt wearing a Grizzlies jersey has the ball, they soon find themselves standing dumbfounded as Tony Allen makes his move. Allen doesnt just steal well; he does it with outstanding efficiency. Tony Allen is 6th in the NBA is steals per game despite only 19.2 minutes a night. Guys like this come around every 20 or so years as Tony Allen averages an incredible 4.37 steals per 48 minutes which is the highest mark since Nate McMillan back in the 1993-1994 season. There is no real way to stop this guy from stealing the ball from the opposition.
Next we have Zach Randolph, who has been Mr. Double-Double this season (besides Kevin Love of course). Randolph is a double-double machine which has been the case throughout his entire career as this is his fifth consecutive season averaging a double-double. Just when you think it cant get any better, Randolph is also the only player in the NBA with a 20-10 average in each of the last two seasons. How many other power forwards do you know that can rebound and score that well with such consistency? Besides Blake Griffin and Kevin Love, none which put Randolph in select group of high caliber players.
Sam Young is a decent young player that Memphis is lucky to have. Memphis has sported a record of 22-11 when Sam Young has started meaning that his style of play meshes well with his teammates. Young has also scored in double figures in 16 of the last 27 games showing that he is able to contribute offensively. Among these 16 games where Young has scored in double figures was a 22 point explosion against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Grizzlies did lose that game but Young led the offensive attack and showed that he could perform against the NBAs best. Look for Sam Young to make his mark on the franchise in years to come.
Finally theres Mark Gasol, better known as brother of Pau. Marks a solid player but no one seems to be able to talk about him him without mentioning Pau. Disregarding that obvious personal issues Paus little brother, I mean Mark has from years of living under his brothers shadow; he is still able to play at a high level and benefit the Grizzlies. At 71 Gasol is a monster in the paint. The few dimwitted players that dont get the message by just looking at Gasol have the ball swatted away as soon as it leaves their hands. This is indicated by Gasols 1.6 blocks per game. Gasol can also contribute offensively and has a franchise leading 54.4 field goal percentage throughout his career as well as a team leading field goal percentage of 52% this season.
This starting lineup filled with generals, thieves, and monsters should be enough for a top four spot in the western conference, right? Well another player, Rudy Gay, who I forgot to mention has a critical role in the Grizzlies offense but also has suffered a severe shoulder injury that ended his season earlier than expected.
Then there is O.J. Mayo who I had high expectations of. Mayo has had a significant decline in his level of play asindicated by his seasonal stats. Since last season where Mayo averaged nearly 18 points per game, he has not played well. Mayos scoring has obviously gone down which is because of all the time he has spent on the bench this season as well as a suspension he suffered in late January due to Mayo testing positive for DHEA. However when starting, Mayo has averaged just under 16 points per game which shows that his ability to score is still there. His efficiency wasnt top notch when starting as Mayo has logged a little under 36 minutes per game. O.Js efficiency problem is not too much of a concern though because he was never too efficient of a player. Assuming the things work out next season for Mayo and Memphis has no severe injuries to key players, the Grizzlies should be able to move up to the four seed in the west next season.