Last season: 50-32, 3rd Southwest Division (7th Western Conference), Lost 4-3 to OKC in Quarterfinals
Notable Acquistions: G/F Vince Carter (free agent, DAL), F Earl Clark (free agent)
Draft Picks: G Jordan Adams (UCLA, 22nd overall), F Jarnell Stokes (Tennessee, 35th overall)
Notable Losses: G/F Mike Miller (CLE), F/C Ed Davis (LAL), F James Johnson (TOR)
Burning Question: What will it take for Memphis to retain Marc Gasol?
Marc Gasol will certainly have plenty of suitors once he hit hits free agency next summer. Teams like the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers will definitely attempt to free cap space to make a run at one of the league’s top two-way players.
Though the allure to play in a huge market is not a big deal for a loyal player like Gasol, the allure to win might sway him elsewhere. If Memphis takes a step back, things could turn south very quickly.
The grind will go on for the Memphis Grizzlies in 2015. Last year, the Grizz forced OKC to seven games in the first round and were a key suspension (Zach Randolph) away from upsetting Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and co. in round 1.
The emergence of Mike Conley into a top-10 point guard helped Memphis stay afloat while Marc Gasol missed 23 games due to injury. Conley drove the ship for new coach Dave Joerger and was spectacular on both sides of the ball (avg. 17 points, 6 assists, 2 steals). With Randolph and Gasol back for another season, Memphis looks to brake through and make the Finals for the first time in franchise history.
New additions Vince Carter, Jordan Adams and Jarnell Stokes figure to add more of a scoring punch to a defensive core that includes the Grindfather (Tony Allen), Courtney Lee, Quincy Pondexter and Kosta Koufos. In the West, Memphis can finally trot out versatile offensive weapons every single night.
Mixing and matching the right pieces will be a challenge for Coach Joerger but if he is successful, the Grizz can go very far in the postseason.
There are skeptics, however, about Memphis’s ceiling. Since their roster is not at a championship level, on paper, it will be tough for the Grizz to beat an onsalught of teams like Los Angeles (Clippers), Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Dallas, etc. in the second season. As a veteran, defensive-minded unit, they have enough experience to win plenty of games and claim the unofficial title of team “no one wants to face.”
But will grinding out victories translate in the postseason? So far, it hasn’t. But with Marc Gasol’s impending free agency on the table, Conley, Randolph and co. will be even more motivated to show that defense and team play can still dominate.
Projected Starting 5:
Answering the Call:
Memphis definitely has its share of young talent. On a team filled with older veterans, Coach Joerger has to be very creative with lineups to sure his key guys get rest.
So that means that either Jordan Adams (rookie, UCLA), Jarnell Stokes (rookie, Tennessee), Jon Leuer, Nick Calathes, or Quincy Pondexter needs to take that next step in the rotation.
Leuer figures to be the most likely choice out of the bunch with his ability to play both front court positions and stretch the floor. If he has a breakout season shooting the ball, Memphis can keep Gasol and Randolph fresh down the stretch.
G/F Vince Carter: The artist formerly known as “Vinsanity” is still an excellent source of points, threes, and clutch play off the bench. He should fit into the Mike Miller role nicely and produce similar numbers (around 12 points, 4 rebounds).
Best Case: Memphis gets lucky with health and playoff seeding on the way to a berth in the Western Conference Finals.
Worst Case: Injuries strike, their young core struggles, can’t score enough to win close games, they miss the playoffs and Marc Gasol bolts in free agency. Ouch, that’s brutal.
4th, Southwest Division (9th Western Conference), Will Miss Playoffs
“The grind never stops”- Logic