2011 NBA Playoffs: Memphis Grizzlies Have Claws, but What Does the Future Hold?

Dannie HaynesContributor IMay 11, 2011

OJ Mayo, Zach Randolph, Mike Conley
OJ Mayo, Zach Randolph, Mike ConleyJed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

We are experience a changing of the guards in the NBA landscape.

The Los Angeles Lakers are gone, experiencing a stunning sweep at the hands of the gritty Dallas Mavericks. The Boston Celtics appear to be on their last stand, with Rajon Rondo’s injury all but ending any chance of climbing out of their 3-1 hole.

Chicago and Atlanta are battling through a physical second round matchup; the same can be said with Oklahoma City and Memphis.

Wait a minute. Memphis?

Yes, the Memphis Grizzlies.

Coming into the playoffs, it seemed like the second coming of last year’s Oklahoma City Thunder team. Young, hopeful, and taking on one of the NBA’s great dynasty’s in the San Antonio Spurs.

Only the Grizzlies were able to knock off the Spurs. With ease.

Is this run into the second round, where they currently hold a 2-2 series tie with the Thunder, really just an extended run of good luck, or are these Grizzlies showing their claws?

The Grizzlies optimize everything the NBA stands for. Grit, determination, heart and of course, youth.

With an average age of 25 and only Shane Battier older than 30, there is no reason to doubt that the Grizzlies can’t become a regular in the postseason. So, while we wait to see what kind of damage the current roster can do this postseason, let us look ahead to next season, and what can be expected for the Grizzlies.

First and foremost, they can expect to have Rudy Gay back. Since his injury, the Grizzlies have rallied together to put on an impressive display of grit and determination, but it is obvious that Gay is an instrumental part to any success the Grizzlies will hope to have in their future.

Look for a strong bounce back from Gay, who is no doubt upset about missing out on this year’s playoff run.

The second major question: what to do about Marc Gasol? He is a restricted free agent who has shown immense progress over his tenure in Memphis. He will undoubtedly receive a ton of attention during free agency, but the Grizzlies will do everything in their power to retain the skilled big man.

What the Grizzlies will have to decide on is who to trade with the logjam of guards OJ Mayo, Tony Allen and Xavier Henry. Mayo and Allen have been imperative to the team’s success, but Henry’s potential may be too much to overlook.

One of these three should be moved in order to free up more time for the others, with Mayo being the most likely on his way out. Henry offers many of the same skills as Mayo and is a cheaper option.

Allen’s leadership and defense are far too important to this team’s identity to ship away.

Finally, what will be the fate of Shane Battier? His contract is expiring this year, and there is no chance he commands anywhere near his $7 million salary. He seems drawn to Memphis and is the kind of character guy who would take a pay cut (as well as a role reduction) in order to help this team grow and be successful.

With a starting lineup of Mike Conley, Allen, Gay, Zach Randolph and Gasol, mixed with a strong bench consisting of Darrell Arthur, Henry, Greivis Vasquez and Sam Young, the Grizzlies possess the depth and skill needed to go deep in the playoffs.

All they need is a chance. That chance is now.