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As per tradition, this is our entry for the annual Blogger Previews as put on by CelticsBlog. You know, the previews we’ve been posting by division for the last few weeks if you’ve been paying attention. Remember: all predictions guaranteed wrong or your money back!

Team Name: Memphis Grizzlies
Last Year’s Record: 41-25 (equivalent to a 51-31 season), 4th in the Western Conference
Key Losses: Ovinton J’Anthony Mayo
Key Additions: Jerryd Bayless, Darrell Arthur (injury)

1. What significant moves were made in the offseason?
First, Memphis did what they have done best in recent years by locking up their own free agents that they intended to keep. They re-signed Marreese Speights and Darrell Arthur to market level contracts, shoring up their frontline behind All-Stars Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.

Then they had to address the backcourt. Out: O.J. Mayo. In: Jerryd Bayless. On the surface, this might seem like a resulting deficit for the Grizzlies, but not in the greater scheme of things. Bayless possesses superior shooting and ball-handling ability, both of which are sorely needed as the backup to Mike Conley. Also, he has made it clear that he is willing to embrace his role as the primary bench scorer and facilitator.

2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?
Balance and chemistry. From top to bottom, side to side, this team can play with anyone on any night. They are solid at every position and boast potential All-Stars at every frontcourt position. Their chemistry is one of the things that allows any one of 5 to 6 players to be the leading scorer on any given night. It also feeds into their belief and trust in one another, which directly contributes to their often stifling team defense. They hustle, they crash the boards, and they just generally make things difficult for their opponents. With the additions of Bayless and Wayne Ellington, and the improvement of Josh Selby, even their perimeter shooting is no longer a glaring weakness, meaning they finally have something to keep teams from packing it into the lane on defense against Z-Bo and Gasol.

3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
Over the last couple of seasons, I have seen two issues come to the forefront for Mempis. First is their lack of ruthlessness. When other playoff-level teams rush out to a big lead early in the game, most of them have the wherewithal to put their foot on an opponent’s neck and crush the life out of them. Not the Grizzlies. Time and again, they allowed teams to whittle away at big leads, which often led to late-game heroics being a necessity in order to come away with what should have been a comfortable win. They’ll have to rectify that this season.

The other problem they have had is that nobody is really sure who “the man” is on this team. Two years ago, with Rudy Gay sidelined for most of the spring, it was Z-Bo who put the team on his shoulders and carried them. Last year, with Randolph out for most of the lockout-shortened season, it was usually Rudy who was the driving force for the team. This year, with (hopefully) both of them healthy, it will be interesting to see just who grabs the reins and takes charge of this team. One of the reasons this is so important is that a team needs a focal point during a tough stretch, someone they can look to when things are going south and need to be turned around. The Thunder have Durant, the Mavs have Dirk, the Lakers have Kobe, etc. Who will be that guy?

4. What are the goals for this team?
A return to the playoffs is the first goal, obviously. They were a #4 seed last season (tied with the Lakers for 3rd best record in the West) and would like to duplicate that, at the very least. If they can keep everyone healthy, there is no reason to believe that they cannot win the Southwest Division for the first time, and possibly even challenge for a top seed in the conference.

Another goal is to establish everyone’s role on the team early. With two proven stud scorers at the forward positions, an All-Star center, one of the best young point guards, and the league’s best perimeter defender in the starting five, this team doesn’t lack much. If Bayless, Speights, Pondexter and Arthur (once he’s healthy) can fill the primary bench roles, with Selby, Wroten, Ellington, and Haddadi taking care of the mop-up/spot minutes, then this team could find themselves in rarefied air by season’s end.

5. What are the best and worst case scenarios for this team?
Worst case: Barring injuries, worst case is that they struggle to maintain the defense and rebounding that has been their calling card the last few years, leading to them fighting for playoff positioning among the bubble teams.

Best case: Not to get overly optimistic, but this team has the potential to be very, very good indeed. Like…good enough to challenge the Thunder and Lakers for conference supremacy. After all, they took the Thunder to 7 games without having Rudy Gay available. They have always played both the Lakers and Dwight Howard well, thanks to Marc Gasol. Just because they are one and the same now won’t likely mean much to him — or Z-Bo. This team could be playing into June if everything falls into place.

Prediction: 57-25, 2nd in Western Conference

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13 Responses to Memphis Grizzlies 2012-13 Season Preview

  1. ChjpNo Gravatar says:

    57 wins? And I thought I was the optimist!

  2. neo-realistNo Gravatar says:

    Weakness #1 and #2 seem related. They are both chemistry problems that plagued the Grizzlies when Randolph came back. I think one problem was that the team had forged a scrappy/comeback kid identity without him and did not know exactly what they were when he came back. I am optimistic these problems will take care of themselves as the team learns to be a dominant force in the NBA. I also don’t think it is as simple as there being one ‘the man’ on a great team – look at how the Thunder leaned on Harden (because of his playmaking abilities) to lead their team during crunch time in their Dallas and Spurs series. “The man” can change from series to series, game to game, depending on circumstances.
    I think the lack of 3 point shooting and spacing problems that creates are more of a glaring weakness for the team this year. The players that are supposedly going to fix that problem are unproven, especially during crunch time.

  3. Lee Eric SmithNo Gravatar says:

    Yeah, I don’t think we’ll get 57 wins either . . . Too much parity in the league, particularly the West. But I do think that the 1 or 2 seed is in play. I’m gonna say 53 wins.

    This is gonna be one of those seasons where you have at least one 46-win team miss the playoffs in the West — while a 38-44 team scores the 8 seed in the East. Man, that’s irritating . . .

  4. hadtohappnNo Gravatar says:

    I totally agree. I see us scrapping out about 50 wins. It does suck though. I forsee as well a team like the timberwolves competing this year and hit about 43 to 46 wins and still get left out of the playoffs. They are what we were three years ago.

  5. JoelNo Gravatar says:

    Im sitting here at the Grizz-Magic game and i see one MAJOR problem. It has been an issue in the past for the grizz and it apperently still is. What I am talking about is our perimiter D, it is seriously lacking. We need to get out to cover the shooters, it is causing big problems for the grizz.

  6. KOBEshigawaNo Gravatar says:

    I think a lot of people have forgotten just how good the Grizz were two short years ago. With only one discernable personnel excavation in OJ Mayo, Z-Bo, Conley and Marc Gasol form the right pieces for another shockingly deep postseason run. The X-Factor? Has to be Rudy Gay. In my opinion, Conley and Randolph, and to a certain extent Gasol, are all playing to their ceiling. Gay? He’s capable of being one of the top 10 players in the league, especially defensively. If the Grizz are going anywhere, it’s on his shoulders. http://thegreatmambino.blogspot.com/2012/09/need-some-rudy-gay-memphis-grizzlies.html

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  9. ccNo Gravatar says:

    Good and realistic synopsis…I totally agree about the “put the dagger in” mentality.
    Except for losing D. Cunningham I am pleased w/ GRIZZ bench,although I think Selby will be getting more than “scrub minutes”.
    My take on rest of The Association: East is as deep as it’s been since early ’80s.Major dogfights abound in that conference too.
    West is complex(duh!): LAL has a very bad bench & will need awhile to develop chemistry.
    SA has done Zilch to address their problems;OKC just slipped a notch w/ Kev Martin?harden deal.
    Nuggies are for real;LAC slipped in their off-season moves as well(Odumb & Grant Hill=Really?/LOLza)
    T-Wolves & Jazz could surprise,tho MIN’s injuries are a big issue; Mavs are still at best a 7ish seed.
    GRIZZ: 55-27…possibly a 3 or maybe even a 2 seed(at worst a 4).

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