In Zach Lowe’s first piece for Grantland, he ranks where he thinks team is in terms of this year’s title chase. Like most, he has the Heat, the Thunder, the Lakers, and the Spurs as the most obvious favorites to win it all this season. He goes onto say that the aging-but-still-scrappy Celtics have “a puncher’s chance,” which would be a fairly accurate assessment in my view. But where do the Grizzlies come in?
In the next group, “dreaming of a puncher’s chance.”
Well, that’s a fine how-do-you-do, now, isn’t it?
Lowe acknowledges that the grizzlies are a good team, with a fearsome frontcourt, but also speculates that “it might be over,” meaning that the dream of the upstart Grizzlies winning a title (or at least making a deep playoff run) have fallen by the wayside. This might not frustrate me so much if I weren’t so scared that it might be true. Let’s be honest; the West is tough, and it got even tougher in the off-season, when the Lakers added Steve Nash and Dwight Howard to their arsenal. It’s not that I think a deep run is impossible, I’m just a bit worried about how likely it is.
Last year, the Grizzlies were done in by the Clippers, who should’ve been the thinnest of paper tigers. I mean, they basically won with one great player, one very good player, and a decidedly mediocre cast of role players. The Grizzlies should have been able to manhandle them, if they were the mighty conquerors most of us assumed they were.
The hope is that what happened in the playoffs was a mere anomaly, that the Grizzlies really are a top team in the West, one that can handle the three-headed beast of the Lakers, Thunder, and Spurs. I desperately want to believe that is the case. But let’s face it, they’ll be going into the season without the sleeper buzz that permeated basketball talk last season.
Luckily, that might not be a bad thing. The 2010-11 Grizzlies seemed to thrive on doubt. No one gave them much of a shot, and they fed off of that, reaching the playoffs, and taking down San Antonio in 6 games. Who knows, maybe with some of the pressure off, they can turn into the nasty defensive menace we want them to be, and taking down a top team in the playoffs.
But we won’t know that until the season starts, and right now, I have to think Lowe’s assessment is accurate. It’s not that a Grizzlies title is completely impossible, it’s just that when you look at it objectively, it doesn’t seem very likely. They need so many things to happen; Marc needs to play as well as he did last year, Z-Bo has to be completely recovered from the injury, and back to his 2010-11 form, Rudy has to turn into the all-star we want him to be, and Tony has to keep being the scariest defensive guard in the game. If all of those things happen, then yeah, I do think the Grizzlies have a puncher’s chance at a title.
But for now, they probably are dreaming.