For those that mourn the lack of continuity in the NBA, I say look no further than the Memphis Grizzlies. The team has more-or-less rolled out the same line-up and made the postseason for the last four seasons. Not only that, but they have one of the most established identities in basketball that didn’t change a bit when they exchanged head coaches last year. And the fans love all of this, with the Fed Ex Forum lovingly known as “The Grindhouse”.
During this offseason, the front office locked up Zach Randolph without a second thought, giving him a two year contract extension. While Marc Gasol may be the best player in the Memphis frontcourt, Z-Bo is the heart-and-soul of this team, and the actual physical embodiment of a grizzly bear. Z-Bo and Gasol will be joined by Tayshaun Prince, as well as Tony Allen and Mike Conley to round out arguably the league’s best defensive starting 5. The team has Courtney Lee and old Knicks friend Beno Udrih to come off the bench and provide a little bit of shooting for a team that has looked allergic to the 3 point line over the past few seasons.
And the Grizz got Vince Carter!!! The Randolph extension really bit into the team’s cap flexibility, but I would say they made a killer signing with what little money they had. Carter is the perfect example of one of those “how is he still playing basketball?” guys right up there with Ray Allen. He was huge for the Mavs last year off the bench, and hit some BIG shots in their playoff run. This doesn’t seem like a team that needs a veteran presence or leadership, but it never hurts.
The rest of the team is the same. Which is to say there will be another season of grit and grind in Memphis. These guys are incredibly talented, yes, and play a throwback style of brutal, physical defense that looks like it belongs in the 1990s. But ultimately, its kind of boring. These are going to be slow-paced, slug-em-out games where the winning team will be the first to hit 80 points and the Grizz will have one 3 pointer at halftime. While I’m excited to see if these guys can do some damage in the postseason again (they’ve given both the Thunder and Clippers a ton of trouble and produced really memorable playoff series), I don’t feel the need to watch them on a nightly basis at all.
X-Factor= Marc Gasol
Gasol missed 23 games last year and this team was DRASTICALLY different when he was off the court. Gasol doesn’t fill up the rebound and block stats like you would expect a center to do, but he is a defensive genius in understanding rotations perfectly and shutting down his man in individual matchups. He also rivals Joakim Noah for the best passing big man in the game and his facilitation goes a long way to un-stagnating this offense. In the last year of his contract, Gasol may be willing to jump ship if the Grizz fail to reach the Western Conference Finals again. Plenty of teams (NEW YORK KNICKS!!!) would love to have him.