Culture of Hoops

2016-17 NBA Preview: Memphis Grizzlies

Image courtesy of Sean Davis/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Sean Davis/Flickr.

Atlantic: Boston Celtics | Brooklyn Nets | New York Knicks | Philadelphia 76ers | Toronto Raptors
Central: Chicago Bulls | Cleveland Cavaliers | Detroit Pistons | Indiana Pacers | Milwaukee Bucks
Southeast: Atlanta Hawks | Charlotte Hornets | Miami Heat | Orlando Magic | Washington Wizards
Pacific: Golden State Warriors | Los Angeles Clippers | Los Angeles Lakers | Phoenix Suns | Sacramento Kings
Northwest: Denver Nuggets | Minnesota Timberwolves | Oklahoma City Thunder | Portland Trail Blazers | Utah Jazz
Southwest: Dallas Mavericks | Houston Rockets | Memphis Grizzlies | New Orleans Pelicans | San Antonio Spurs

Presenting an NBA preview of the Memphis Grizzlies that looks at the potential highs and lows for this coming 2016-17 NBA season.

The Memphis Grizzlies have been a mainstay in the wild, wild, Western Conference for 100 years. Okay, maybe not, but it feels like it. Once upon a time, the Grizzlies were a few three-point shooters from competing for an NBA Championship, but sadly, it never materialized.

For the past few seasons, the new-look Grizz have been bitten by the injury bug. Despite injuries, they’ve made the playoffs the last six seasons. For 2016, the outlook this year looks meek, but to no surprise, they are looking to regain relevancy, but it’ll be easier said than done.

In their favor, having the nucleus of Mike Conley Jr., Tony Allen, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol gives them a chance to win every night. In addition to the forefathers of the Grit and Grind squadron, they’ve added Chandler Parsons and rookie Deyonta Davis from Michigan State.

Let’s look at what we can expect from the Grizzlies in the first season under first-year head coach David Fizdale.

What’s Good.. The Fantastic Four: There is little to worry about when aforementioned foursome of Mike Conley Jr., Tony Allen, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol still call the FedExForum home. While surrounding teams continue to make changes, the core group of the Grizzlies is the same.

Last year, injuries bothered all four players, and that comes as no surprise as they approach father time’s call. When healthy, they are arguably one of the top quartets in the NBA.

The hallmark of the team is toughness and defense and it starts with the “Grindfather” himself, Tony Allen. Allen won’t give a scoring punch, but he will harass the opposing team’s best perimeter scorer.

Z-Bo is no longer an All-Star, and he’s sacrificed minutes to help the team. He assume the role as the 6th man. While he can no longer dominate a game from the block for forty plus minutes, he can efficiently score in bunches and close out games as the Grizzlies still need his ability to rebound and score in the paint.

Gasol is a back-to-the-basket dynamo with guard-like passing ability. If he’s healthy, it’s no question that he’ll be a top 5 center in the NBA, but health is a concern. At this point in his career, Conley is the team’s franchise player. He was awarded a record-setting deal worth $153 Million. To no surprise, he received flak from his deal, but he can silence critics as long as he continues to ascend into one of the best point guards in the NBA. With an improved jump shot and more shooting on the floor, the sky is the limit for Conley.

Combining Allen, Randolph, Gasol, and Conley, it gives the team a chance to compete. Due to their style of play, all the games will not be pretty, but that’s the Grizzlies way of playing.

What’s Bad…The lack of depth: Once upon a time, Memphis were one of the deepest teams in the NBA, but that’s a thing of the past. Long gone are the days of Rudy Gay, O.J. Mayo, Mike Miller, and Shane Battier. Although adding Chandler Parsons was a huge hit, the team lost Chris Andersen (Cleveland), Matt Barnes (Sacramento), Jordan Farmar (Sacramento), and Lance Stephenson (New Orleans) in the off-season. The loss of role players will be vital as they look to fill their spots with inexperienced players like Troy Williams and Troy Daniels.

In the West, every night will be a gauntlet. Depth plays a role in keeping the core players healthy. Coupled with the past injury history and the missing parts of the roster, it spells concern for the Grizzlies. If coach Fizdale can get Vince Carter to turn back the clock, that’ll help. But as he nears the age to where he would receive his AARP card, it’s highly unlikely.

X-Factor… Chandler Parsons: Consistent outside shooting continues to evade Memphis. In acquiring Parsons he can put a Band-Aid on the open wound. In his career, he shoots around 38 percent from long-range. His shooting acumen can open up the lanes for Conley, and it gives Gasol and Randolph some scoring relief as well.

When Parsons has it going, he’s one of the most underrated wing players in the NBA. In addition to his ability to shoot, he’s an underrated playmaker and slasher. Since drafting Conley out of Ohio State, the team has failed to have adequate ball handlers that can relieve him. Parson’s ability to facilitate will allow him to play the role of the de facto point guard on occasions. 2016 is an exciting year for him as he looks to regain his production from yesteryear.

Bet On… The Grizzlies competing every night: The West is loaded with superior teams. The Grizzlies roster doesn’t resonate with the new era of the NBA. A team with two bruising post players and a few three-point shooters resembles a team from the 90s instead of the three-point shooting and analytics-driven NBA of today.

Having said that, Memphis will go out and give their best. The Grizz are as blue-collar like the residents living in Memphis. They will inject that same vigor on the court. Anytime you have Allen and Randolph in the foxhole, competitiveness is never a concern. Will competing turn into victories? For now, it’s unknown, but the Grizzlies will try their damnedest.

The Crystal Ball Says… The Grizzlies will make the playoffs: My clairvoyant outlook may come into question, but I would never bet against a healthy Memphis team. I am not predicting them to take the Larry O’Brien trophy down to Beale Street, but their passion, chemistry, and aggression will afford them the opportunity to make the playoffs. I don’t see them being anything higher than a seventh seed. Making the playoffs is a tough task, but Fizdale has to remain optimistic about his team’s chances.

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