Season Preview: Memphis Grizzlies

Team History:

The Grizzlies haven’t always played their home games in Memphis. As some/most of you know, the Grizzlies initially were in the great city of Vancouver. Another notable piece of history for the Grizzlies is that they were the first NBA team to have a website. Other than that, the franchise has been little but a struggling team annually in the draft lottery with a horrific record.

The team has drafted some notable players throughout their still brief existence. The Grizzlies drafted Antonio Daniels with the fourth overall pick in 1997, Mike Bibby with the second overall pick in 1998, and Steve Francis with the second pick in 1999. Much controversy arose after the selection of Francis because he had already made clear his intentions of never playing for the Grizzlies franchise, so instead Vancouver traded Steve to the Rockets in an enormous three team, eleven player swap.

However, the Grizzlies’ fortunes seemed to take a turn for the better when they traded for the third overall pick in the 2001 draft Pau Gasol and then took Duke star Shane Battier with the sixth pick. Now, with a supposedly solid young nucleus, the Grizzlies were looking forward to a bright future. And it was, for a brief and glorious period. From the 2003-04 season to the 2005-06, Memphis made the playoffs. Unfortunately for Memphis, they were swept out of the first round each season to San Antonio, Phoenix, and Dallas respectively.

Since those brief glimpses into success, the Grizzles have reverted back to their losing ways, finishing with less than 25 wins in each of the past three seasons. They infamously traded away Pau Gasol to the Lakers that enabled them to take over the West the past couple of seasons. They have formed an almost solid young nucleus of athletic wingmen who can fill up a scoreboard with ease, drafting Rudy Gay, Mike Conley, Kevin Love (traded for OJ Mayo), and most recently Hasheem Thabeet. They have been in the NBA headlines recently for their signing of unwanted superstar Allen Iverson who has a knack for playing selfish ball.

2008-2009 Record: 24-58, 5th Place in the Southwest Division, 12th place in the Western Conference

Coach: Lionel Hollins

Projected Lineup:

  • PG: Allen Iverson/Mike Conley – To be honest, I am not sure which one of these players will be the starter for the Grizzlies, and I am not sure which one deserves to be. Iverson’s abilities have been well documented for many years at this point. He is a scorer, first and always. Conley is still developing his game at this point, not quite living up to the hype that surrounded him coming out of Ohio State. With Iverson, the Grizzlies will run out a starting five with one goal: to score, and to score a lot.
  • SG:  OJ Mayo/Allen Iverson – Again, even though Allen has expressed his willingness to come off of the bench, I am still unsold on the prospects of that scenario. OJ Mayo had a good rookie season ripe with scoring displays. At this point, he is even more potent of a scorer than Iverson is at his advanced age. Iverson will, if not playing point guard, come off of the bench and try to light it up for as long as he has the warm-ups off.
  • SF: Rudy Gay – The ever-underappreciated Rudy Gay. The past two seasons, Gay has averaged 20.1 and 18.9 PPG with a solid shooting average from beyond and in front of the three-point arc. Despite all of his terrific endeavors, he is yet to be considered among the game’s better players. Granted, he hasn’t truly proven anything yet on a scale of any significance, but the kid can score.
  • PF: Zach Randolph – The Grizzlies trading for Zach Randolph makes me question their motives. The combination of Randolph, Mayo, Gay, and Iverson is too much shooting and not enough passing. Z-Bo is, beyond all else, a talent. Nobody has questioned his ability to roam the post and put the ball in the basket, but everything else has been.
  • C: Marc Gasol/Hasheem Thabeet – Who are the Grizzlies going to play? The “veteran” Gasol (brother of Pau) or the number two overall pick Thabeet? In his playing time last year, Gasol was solid erring on the side of unspectacular. Or they could turn to the very unproven and seemingly easily movable Thabeet. Thabeet is probably more famous for being tossed around like a ragdoll by Dejuan Blair than he is for any blocked shots he may have had.

Key Gains:

  • Allen Iverson – I have already delved into the whole Iverson saga, multiple times, so not much is needed here. What he brings is a scoring mentality with a never say die attitude that can save or kill a team.
  • Hasheem Thabeet – The rookie out of Connecticut is supposed to bring in some defensive presence along with his 7’ 3” frame. However, some have questioned whether or not he is the next Manute Bol or if he is the next Dikembe Mutumbo. He has a relatively skinny frame that could be easily bullied by bulky centers and forwards.
  • Sam Young – A young athletic forward who brings much athleticism and possible scoring acumen to the team.
  • DeMarre Carroll – See above. Also was diagnosed with liver disease, but doctors have said this will not affect him until after any playing career.

Key Losses:

  • Hakim Warrick – The athletic and potentially talented forward left Memphis for the greener pastures of Milwaukee. The impact of Warrick walking is softened by the additions of Sam Young and DeMarre Carroll.

Season Preview:

Why do I envision a train wreck when I think about Memphis’ upcoming season? I think it is because I know that their team shouldn’t work. The team is composed almost entirely of those players who shoot first and do everything else later (I know Mayo can be unselfish, as can Gay, but they score a lot). Can any lineup that consists of Allen Iverson, OJ Mayo, Rudy Gay, and Zach Randolph really be winners?

Although, this wouldn’t be the first surprise in the history of the NBA. Did anyone really envision Orlando was going to be the best team in the East last offseason? Or last All-Star break? Or before the Eastern Conference Finals? So, anything is possible in today’s NBA, or so KG would have you believe. I still envision the typical season for the Grizzlies, a bad record, in the neighborhood of 30-35 wins, and four players averaging near 19 PPG with everyone else getting the leftovers.

Quote this:

God chose Memphis as the place that I will continue my career … I met with (Grizzlies owner Mike Heisley), (GM) Chris Wallace and my next head coach, Lionel Hollins.

– Allen Iverson

Recap:

  1. Sacramento Kings
  2. Washington Wizards
  3. Los Angeles Clippers
  4. Oklahoma City Thunder
  5. Memphis Grizzlies
  6. Minnesota Timberwolves
  7. Golden State Warriors
  8. New York Knicks
  9. Toronto Raptors
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