Playoffs: Lost in first round to Los Angeles Clippers (7 games)
Draft picks: Tony Wroten
Signings/trades: Jerryd Bayless, Wayne Ellington, D.J. Kennedy, Jerome Jordan, Michael Dunigan, Kyle Weaver, Ronald Murray, Ronald Dupree, Jarrid Famous
O.J. Mayo, Gilbert Arenas, Dante Cunningham, Jeremy Pargo, Lester Hudson
Projected starting lineup
C - Marc Gasol
PF - Zach Randolph
SF - Rudy Gay
SG - Tony Allen
PG - Mike Conley
What to expect
Many (myself included) expected big things from the Memphis Grizzlies in 2012. I even went as far to say that they would represent the Western Conference in the finals. Obviously, that didn't happen, as the Grizzlies were bounced in the first round by the Clippers. Now Memphis looks to rebound, although it did not really make any moves to improve this offseason.
The biggest news that came out of the Grizz camp over the summer was Mayo leaving town for the Dallas Mavericks. Mayo never really got comfortable in Memphis and had trouble finding his niche, but that's still a scorer the Grizzlies did not replace during the offseason. That is, unless you count Ellington and Bayless.
Bayless in particular is an interesting player. He was selected 11th overall by the Indiana Pacers in the 2008 draft, and he is already on his fifth team (although he never played a game for the Pacers before being dealt to the Portland Trail Blazers). Now, coming off a rather solid 2012 campaign, the 24-year-old combo guard arrives in Memphis. Bayless clearly has talent, and maybe the Grizzlies are the franchise he can really break out with.
Perhaps the best news for the Grizz is that they will get a full season of Randolph, who missed a solid chunk of time last season after undergoing knee surgery. The 2011 playoff hero was never able to find his rhythm upon returning (he even had to come off the bench for a while), and that may have had a lot to do with Memphis' lack of success during the postseason.
That's one thing to look forward to if you're a Grizzlies fan. During Memphis' impressive 2011 playoff run when it knocked off the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs in the first round and pushed the Oklahoma City Thunder to the limit in the conference semifinals, Gay was out. Then, this past year, Randolph did not have his sea legs underneath him yet. If the Grizz can get into the playoffs fully healthy, they will be dangerous.
Another thing to like is that there is a lot of depth here, especially in the front court. Marreese Speights did a great job for the Grizzlies after they basically stole him from the Philadelphia 76ers last season, and Darrell Arthur is making his way back from a torn Achilles. Those two should provide great bench support for the likes of Gasol and Randolph inside.
Key player: Randolph
Again, a healthy Randolph is the key for Memphis success this season. If he can stay on the floor and produce the way he did during the 2010-11 campaign, the Grizzlies will be in great shape. Z-Bo possesses one of the best low-post games in the league, and he is also a fierce rebounder. He is not the greatest defender in the world, but fortunately, Gasol is pretty darn good on that end of the floor, so he can clean up Randolph's mess.
Just think of how lethal a trio of Randolph, Gay, and Gasol will be over the course of an 82-game season. It is for that reason that I refuse to count out the Grizz as a legitimate contender in the West. They have the size to pose matchup problems for almost any team in the league and one of the stronger defenses in the NBA to boot.
For that to happen, Z-Bo has to remain healthy.
Sleeper: Quincy Pondexter
Pondexter quietly developed into one of the more reliable perimeter defenders in the game last season. He is not a great offensive player, but that's not what the Grizzlies need him for. They need him for his D, and having both him and Allen on the court at the same time gives Memphis one of the deadliest one-two defensive punches in the NBA.
Don't think Allen's presence doesn't significantly benefit Pondexter, either. Quincy gets to learn from one of the best defenders in the game, and being that the Washington product already has savvy on that end of the floor, it could end up paying gigantic dividends.
Watch out for Pondexter this year. He could ascend the ranks of the league's strongest defenders very quickly, and in a few years, I could see another team handing him a nice contract because of it.
Playoffs: Could make a deep run
While the Thunder and Los Angeles Lakers are clearly the class of the West at the moment, don't dismiss the Grizzlies. They absolutely have the talent to give either of those teams a rough time in a seven-game series, and if they bring in someone else through a trade, then look out.
What Memphis could really use is another wing scorer to put alongside of Gay. As valuable as Allen and Pondexter are, you can't depend on either of them to consistently get you buckets, and there is a reason why Ellington never made it with the Minnesota Timberwolves. That makes Bayless all the more important.
One more thing: watch out for Wroten. The Grizzlies are very high on the rookie, and like Allen and Pondexter, he has great defensive prowess out on the perimeter.
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