Posted by Andrew Shi
Last year, the Memphis Grizzlies astounded the nation when they knocked out the Western Conference 1st seed San Antonio Spurs and took the Western Conference semi-finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder all the way to game seven before finally being eliminated. This year, they're currently ranked fifth in the Western Conference, and that's after they lost their super-star forward Zach Randolph early in the season. With his return though, exactly how good are the Grizzlies, and how far will they go?
The Grizzlies are good. That much is evident from their occupation of the fifth seed in the Western Conference. A look at their line-up is just as impressive. At point guard Mike Conley averages 13 points per game (ppg) but more impressively dishes out 7.3 assists, placing him at 10th in the league. At small guard, 2008-9 Rookie- Of-The-Year runner up O.J. Mayo adds 12 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists. Small forward All-Star dunker Rudy Gay leads the team in points with 19.2 and brings down 6.9 rebounds. Power Forward and All-Star Zach Randolph, in his seven games before his injury, put up 15.7 points and 7.9 rebounds. Center, and now All-Star Marc Gasol finishes off the starting line-up with 15.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2 blocks which ranks him at 11th for rebounds and 6th for blocks. Even coming off the bench is Celtics 2008 championship guard Tony Allen who adds an additional 10 ppg. Also, just Tuesday, the Grizzlies announced they were signing former Magic guard and three time All-Star Gilbert Arenas, who last season averaged 8.0 points, 3.2 assists and 2.4 rebounds.
The Grizzlies have a deadly starting line-up and a deep bench. They have the players to pull off a serious post-season run, but are they good enough to top the Thunder, Spurs, Lakers and Clippers who lead them in the conference? Their record says no. In the three encounters with the Thunder, the Grizzlies have lost all three. The Grizzlies have lost all three match-ups against the Spurs, both games against the Lakers and the one against the Clippers. Sure, Randolph was missing from action for most of these games, but he was in uniform for the first losses against the Spurs and Thunder.
Last year they were in eighth and upset the first seed, but a look at their 2010-11 schedule shows that the Grizzlies were 3-1 in their series against the Thunder, 3-2 against the Spurs, 1-2 against the Lakers and 2-2 against the Clippers. In two of those series they won, another they tied and the fourth they lost by one game. This season's schedule doesn't reflect that same caliber to upset the big teams.
It may be too early to call it. With Randolph back in the mix and Arenas adding substantial depth, the Grizzlies still might be a serious contender during the playoffs. Next week's games against the Lakers and Clippers and their game against the Thunder on April 2 will give a better idea of their post-season potential, but based on their performance thus far, it doesn't look like they'll make it past the first round when they currently have to go up against Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and the rest of the Clippers.