Memphis blues: Can the Grizzlies claw their way back among the west’s elite?
For years, the Memphis Grizzlies have won basketball games with their trademark “grit and grind” mentality. They do not have a superstar, and their style of basketball is not pretty; but with physical play, great defense, and teamwork, they consistently make deep postseason runs.
The Grizzlies have started the 2015 season in un-Grizzly-like fashion, going 7-6 through their first 13 games. Those losses include a 30 point beating by the Cavaliers, a 40 point loss to the Warriors, and a 20 point loss to the lowly Trailblazers. The team’s core players are aging, and this will be the year Memphis drops from the Western Conference’s elite teams.
Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, and Mike Conley have served as the nucleus for the Grizzlies successful run. All four play excellent defense, with Gasol winning the defensive player of the year award in 2013 and Tony Allen earning three all-defensive first team selections during his career. However, none of those players can be relied upon as a primary scorer. The Grizzlies average only 95.8 points per game, fourth worst in the NBA. As a team, they shoot only 31.7 percent from the field, second worst in the NBA.
Memphis’ entire game plan is based on using their defense to slow down the opposition, limit possessions, and keep games close. Their defense has lost a step this year, and teams are scoring on them at a higher rate. The Grizzlies offense does not score at an efficient enough pace to keep up. This has resulted in high profile, embarrassing losses and questions as to whether Memphis should blow up the roster and try to reinvent themselves.
The Grizzlies made a surprise early season trade in an attempt to re-energize the roster. Memphis sent veteran point guard Beno Udrih and Jarnell Stokes to Miami in exchange for Mario Chalmers. The move brings some much needed shooting to the backcourt, but Chalmers is not a big enough piece to tip the scales in Memphis’ favor against elite teams in a playoff series.
It is a tough pill to swallow, but Memphis’ ceiling this year is a bottom tier playoff team who will be heavy underdogs in their first round series. Gasol, Randolph, and Allen are all on the wrong side of 30 and are not producing at their previous levels. As good as Mike Conley is, he is not the kind of player who can carry the scoring load for a team through an entire playoff series. This season is the beginning of the end for the “grit and grind” Grizzlies.
Will Memphis make another trade in an attempt to bolster their scoring output? Will a player such as Jeff Green or Courtney Lee make the leap from good to great and help make the Grizzlies more competitive? Feel free to leave a comment or find me on Twitter @Andrew_Morse4