Is this the last chance for this generation of Memphis Grizzlies to win the championship?
Marc Gasol will become a free agent this summer, so he will probably change the environment and Zach Randolph won't get any younger so this can be their swan song. For the last couple of years, they have been very close (especially 2012-2013) but always fallen short. It's interesting how people underestimate them after all, because they are not big market and don't have stars like Durant, Lebron, Westbrook, Griffin, Harden, Curry and others.
The Grizzlies are the last refuge of old school basketball, and this is one of the main reasons why they are such a tough opponent for every team in the playoff. Post up after post up consistently, they are the 29th in the league in 3-point attempts taking only 15.3 per game. For example, the leaders in this modern trend, Houston Rockets, take more than twice 3-point attempts per game- 32.8.
The brain of this half-court offense is Marc Gasol. Almost every action must start from the elbow, where he can operate best and find back-door cuts for Conley, Allen, Lee or simply feed Z-bo in the post. In the first half of the season, Gasol was one of the leaders for MVP award, but the real difference is Zach Randolph. For the first time since his knee injury in 2012, I feel he is his old self, a 20/10 monster and an unstoppable force in the paint. Arguably he was one of the best PF in 2010-2011, even before he exploded in the playoff that year.
Mike Conley is having the best year of his career. He is perhaps the most consistent and most underrated player in today's NBA. Maybe he is not fancy like Chris Paul, flashy like Kyrie Irving or athletic like Russell Westbrook but he is a natural born winner. Every time he is on the court, he knows what his team need the most, whether it is a fast break, three-pointer, finding the hot hand or slowing down the rhythm. Somebody can say: "15.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 5.4 apg is little above average", but he has a greater impact on the game than it can be seen through stats categories.
It is obvious that their main force relies on trio Conley, Gasol and Randolph, When they don't have full control in the paint, lack of shooting haunts them even more. With Jeff Green, they finally have a big body on the wing that can play on both sides.
The Grizzlies Defense
- Memphis is the best defensive team in the NBA. They allow just 95.0 points per game. Utah allows 94.5 points, but Jazz aren't the playoff team right now.
- The starting lineup is the top 5 defensive lineup in the NBA. They allow only 63.2 points per game.
- In the paint (defense), Memphis is the 1st in the NBA, they allow 34.4 pts.
- If you play vs Memphis, prepare for bad FG % night. The Grizzlies's allow only 44.2% from the field. Golden State is the 1st (42.6%).
- Tony Allen is very important as a defensive specialist and lockdown defender. Look at his defense analytics:
Memphis can play the playoff defense all season long.
The Grizzlies Problems
- Outside shooting, the Achilles heel of this team, has been an unsolvable problem for a long, long time. Only 55.6 points out of the paint.
- Bench is terrible with 31.0 points per game. Vince Carter didn't provide the spark from the bench which they expected.
- Bench frontcourt is not providing enough points. If Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are in the foul trouble, who can score in the paint?
- Memphis score just 98.4 points per game (the lowest points for the playoff team in the Western Conference).
- This team is heavily built for playoff basketball. The problem occurs when they have to go through the regular season with that style of playing and when even against the weakest teams in the league they have to spend the same amount of energy.
- It is really difficult when you don't have the luxury to pull away in a few minutes of good basketball as the other great teams are doing.
The Song of Grit and Grind
The West is something special and unique this season. From the 1st round, we'll have "Clash of the Titans".
Memphis proved it can match up every opponent, but one thing we know for sure is that if they want to win the championship, they will have to grit and grind like never before.