Memphis Grizzlies: NBA's Forgotten Team

Tyler PollardCorrespondent IJuly 21, 2009

LOS ANGELES - APRIL 12:  O.J. Mayo #32 of the Memphis Grizzlies sets on the court aganst the Los Angeles Lakers on April 12, 2009 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

The Memphis Grizzlies are one of the NBA's most forgotten teams. Having had the 2nd-worst attendance in the league (again) last year, the Grizzlies have had the worst overall turnstile counts over the last five years, only climbing above the 2nd-worst once.  

Most Memphis fans are baffled by the question:

What is the missing piece to the Memphis Grizzlies' puzzle?

Well, let's have a look at the Grizzlies' GM, coach and players.

GM: Chris Wallace

Review: Wallace started out in Boston, being hired there in 1997, and four years later being given the job as GM in the 2000-'01 season.

The next season, Wallace would make a trade-deadline-deal with the Phoenix Suns of Joe Johnson for Tony Delk and Rodney Rogers, among others, which would help get the Celtics to their first Eastern Conference Finals in over a decade. One other good thing that Wallace did while he was in Boston was drafting Paul Pierce. 

In the 2007-2008 season Wallace was hired by the Grizzlies to replace Jerry West. Than Micheal Heisly went and hired Mark Iavoroni, whom he later fired in the 2008-'09 season, as head coach. Iavaroni was fired as Memphis was fading in the standings. Wallace hired as inten head coach. Two days later, Lionel Hollins was brought in to coach, all on Micheal Heisly's account.

The Good: He made a good move in trading Kevin Love for O.J. Mayo. Mayo is a player that Memphis can build around. Has a superior offensive skill set.  This turned out looking to be a good deal in 2009, but of course we won't know for sure until five years later.

The Bad: Many were puzzled about how easily Pau Gasol was traded to the Lakers. I am sure that the Lakers could have lured in Gasol much easier than just his brother Marc Gasol and a 2008 First Round Pick, like Donte' Green, and 2010 First Round Pick. 

He traded for Zach Randolph, who is quite possibly the worst locker room/team chemistry guy in the NBA today. He demands the ball no matter who is on the team, points fingers after losses, punched and injured a teammate in 2003, famously feuded with Nate Robinson on the bench during games in New York, and is an organizational nightmare off the court, including multiple lawsuits, guns, drugs, gangs, DUIs, a crazy sexual assault accusation in 2007, and time in juvie back in HS for stealing guns.

All-In-All:  Wallace has done below average, he has made a couple good trade but overall hasn't helped Memphis all that much.

Coach: Lionel Hollins

Review: Lionel Holllons played twelve seasons in the NBA. He played for five teams all together: the Portland Trailblazers, Philadelphia 76'ers, San Diego Clippers, Detroit Pistons, and Houston Rockets. Hollins averaged 11.5 PPG, and 5.4 APG in his career, wining one championship in Portland and having one All-Star apperance, both during the 1976-'77 season. 

On April 18th, 2007 The Blazers Retired his jersey, number fourteen. 

Hollins has been a head coach three different times in his career, all for the Memphis Organization. Hollins was hired in the 1999-2000 season as an interim head coach, then again hired in the 2004-'05 season as interim coach. Finally, in 2009 he got the permanent head coaching job.

Strengths: He is a great x's and o's coach, and he also has the ability to connect with players. He brings great experience and commitment to the city of Memphis.

Weakness: He is most pronounced in half-court sets.

Starting Line-Up: 

PG: Mike Conley, Jr.

The Spin: Conley has done average as a point guard for Memphis in the past two seasons. Many people are wondering if he will live up to the potential he has. The hiring of Hollins should help that.

Remember back when Hollons coached for the Vancouver Grizzlies? Mike Bibby was a struggling second-year guard for the Grizzlies. When Hollins came in, he helped Bibby and let him call plays on his own. Bibby blossomed as a player, and has been good in both his stint as a Sacramento King (All-Star) and now playing for Atlanta. Hopefully the same can happen for Conley, Jr.

SG: O.J. Mayo

The Spin: In my opinion, Mayo should have gotten Rookie Of The Year. Averaging 18.5 PPG, Mayo was a good scorer for them. Mayo is a physical guard who can play either backcourt position. He has a complete offensive game, able to shoot from deep or power to the basket and finish. Mayo also takes on all challenges at the defensive end.

SF: Rudy Gay

The Spin: Few players in the NBA have the combination of talent and skill Gay has. His high-flying style of play and great mid-range game have made him a great pick by Memphis in 2006. Gay averaged 20.1 PPG in the 2007-2008 season, and 18.3 PPG last year. Gay and Mayo will make a great scoring tandem in a couple of years.

PF: Marc Gasol

The Spin: Gasol was included in the trade to the Grizzlies for his brother Pau a year and a half ago. Since then he has been a great double-double threat, achieving 17 of them last year. Gasol is a great rebounder, and can make a powerfull front court tandem with Hasheem Thabeet.

C: Hasheem Thabeet

The Spin: If Thabeet can improve his offensive game, he can be a complete center in the NBA. Thabeet is known as a great shot blocker, which will help Memphis have a big presence in the lane when on defense. If he can develop fully, Thabeet can be great pick for the Grizzlies.

Key - Bench Player: Zach Randolph

The Spin: It will be a great risk signing him, as he has had a history with the law (see above). Randolph is a double-double machine, though; he had 29 double-doubles last year in only 50 games. He can be a spark coming off the bench for the Griz, as he knows how to score fast and easily.

The Grizzlies are full of young talent as their youth movement is in full affect. With players like Gay, Mayo, Thabeet, Gasol, and Conley Jr., the Memphis Grizzlies are piled with talent. The team is certainly heading in the right direction.

I don't think the Grizzlies can contend in 2009, but in the coming future, look for them to be a great force.


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