Team Name: Memphis Grizzlies
Last Years Record: 46-36
Key Free Agents: Marc Gasol, Darrell Arthur, O.J. Mayo, Sam Young, Shane Battier
Team Needs: Quality big man for the bench, healthy perimeter shooters
1. What are your team’s biggest needs this offseason?
There are two schools of thought as to what the team that came one win away from the Western Conference Finals truly needs. The first says that they need to re-sign Marc Gasol, then stand pat and just hope that last season wasn’t a fluke, that Rudy Gay will mesh in a team that was most successful by playing inside-out basketball, and that everyone can stay healthy. The other thought is that the team needs to trade Rudy Gay because they obviously don’t need him if they were so great while he sat out during last year’s postseason.
I strenuously disagree with the second one because it’s a patently absurd viewpoint to anyone who watched this team play last year that a healthy Rudy Gay wouldn’t help them. I mostly agree with the first one though, with a few caveats. First, they need to add a quality big man in the worst way. Their three-man rotation of Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Darrell Arthur is great. But, there is a significant drop-off when you bring Hamed Haddadi into the game against many teams. Haddadi is a skilled post player, but his flaws are glaringly obvious, and the team needs to find another PF/C who can eat up the minutes that are out there after the main three get theirs. If they can acquire such a player, then all they need is to stay healthy to be a true force.
2. What are the teams biggest strengths & weaknesses? (so far)
The easy answer is that their strength lies in their inside presence with Z-Bo and Marc in the middle. However, their strength is a combination of their overall balance (when healthy) and their gritty determination. The first one is easier to maintain after a successful season than the second one unfortunately, so let’s hope that they remember that it was the extra effort they put into each and every play that made them winners last season. When this team is healthy, it has that same inside presence, but with perimeter threats to go with it, on both ends of the floor. That’s what makes them a team that everyone is dreading having to play this coming season.
Their biggest weakness, as I see it right now, is that they don’t know how well a returning Rudy Gay (and to a lesser extent, Xavier Henry) will mesh with the success of last season’s postseason run. A close second to that is the backup PG situation though, where Greivis Vasquez and Josh Selby will battle for minutes.
3. If there is no season in 2011-12, how is your team set up for 2012?
They look to be as good as anyone else, which is to say “Who really knows?” A full season lockout would wreak so much havoc on the league that there’s no real way to tell how any team will look when it’s over with. Anyone who remembers the NHL’s lockout will recall the wholesale changes that resulted in many teams’ rosters being completely gutted, so to make any predictions and expect accuracy would just be tossing darts while blindfolded. Until there’s a new CBA, nobody knows what to expect.
4. If you could make one change to the NBA’s new CBA, what would it be?
Revenue sharing. Do you want to know why a team in Green Bay, Wisconsin can be a consistent NFL playoff team? Or why a team in Indianapolis is a constant Super Bowl favorite (this season being the exception)? Not just because they are well-run organizations, but because the money their league makes is dispersed to everyone, not just to the teams in big markets. I know that David Stern once said that his dream NBA Finals matchup was “Lakers vs. Lakers”, but in order to have a viable league, all of the teams need to have the ability to make money and that can only be done by sharing the wealth. Small market teams typically only make money when they’re really good, and fail miserably when they are in the lottery. They need to be able to make real money when good, and get by when they’re not-so-good. It just makes sense for the league to institute something that can make this happen.
5. Are the Grizzlies a legitimate Finals contender for the (theoretical) 2011-2012 season?
Short answer: Yes.
Longer answer: YEEEESSSSSSSS!!!!
Real answer: A re-signed Marc Gasol (and Darrell Arthur), a healthy Rudy Gay and a continuation of what they started last year makes them a team that nobody will want to face in the playoffs for a second consecutive year — and not the least of which because they’ll probably have homecourt advantage for at least one series, if not two. This team is solid and talented, top-to-bottom. When they are clicking like they did last postseason, then very few teams can stay on the floor with them. They’re as legit as it gets.