Team Name: Memphis Grizzlies
Last Year's Record: 41-25 (2nd in Southwest Division, 4th in Western Conference)
Key Roster Losses: O.J. Mayo, Dante Cunningham
Key Roster Additions: Jerryd Bayless, Wayne Ellington
Rookies: Tony Wroten (25th Overall)
What Significant Moves Were Made During the Offseason?
The Grizzlies lost arguably their best outside shooter, O.J. Mayo, this offseason, prompting many to wonder how they were going to replace him and how will the league's worst 3-point shooting team add depth in their most glaring deficiency. Well, enter Jerryd Bayless and Wayne Ellington.
The Grizzlies signed Bayless to a 3-year, $6 million contract in hopes that he not only would be able to play off the ball as a two guard, but he could also backup Mike Conley at the point guard position. The knock on Bayless in his young career is that he's loaded with talent, but has yet to realize it completely, while also struggling to define a role in the NBA -- is he a shooting guard or is he a point guard? Bayless will play both roles, spelling Conley when needed and also running alongside Mike in certain sets. He posted career-bests from beyond the arc, making 1.4 per game at 42.4 percent.
Again, with the Grizzlies completely struggling from the 3-point line last season, any stretch offense will be a big help. As for Ellington, the Grizzlies moved Dante Cunningham in order to pick up the two guard from Minnesota. The trade made sense for a lot of reasons, but mainly because the Grizzlies had re-signed Marreese Speights and Darrell Arthur to backup Zach Randolph and because Ellington also gives the Grizzlies another guard who can step out and hit the occasional three.
The other "major move" made was the selection of Tony Wroten in the NBA Draft, at pick No. 25. Wroten is an athletic guard who has great length and has a fantastic defensive presence. The knock on him is that he can play a little out of control at times, but more importantly his jumper has been declared MIA. Because he's just 19 years old there is hope that he can improve his jumper, but the immediacy isn't as important because the Grizzlies actually do have some depth at both guard positions.
What Are the Team's Biggest Strengths?
The Grizzlies have two strengths, the first of which is their defense. They were 5th in the NBA in points allowed per game, at 93.0 per, while leading the league in both steals (631) and forced turnovers (1,130). They Grizzlies play some of the best off-the-ball defense in the NBA, picking steals by clogging lanes and pressuring the ball. They have a great compliment of perimeter defenders (Mike Conley, Tony Allen), lengthy passing lane agitators (Rudy Gay) and size in the middle (Marc Gasol). The great thing about the Grizzlies defense is that while they've proved to be one of the top defensive-minded teams in the NBA, they really will only get better from here. It will be great to see their continued improvement on defense.
The second strength they possess is in their interior offense. Between Gasol and Zach Randolph, the Grizzlies have two of the best low-post scorers AND, yes, low-post passers. Gasol is, really, one of -- if not the -- best passers in the post. Couple that with the ability of Rudy Gay to work the passing lanes and Mike Conley to use his speed to collapse the defense, and the Grizzlies pose a major threat on offense inside the paint.
What Are the Team's Biggest Weaknesses?
Easily, the team's biggest weakness is their 3-point shooting. Easily.The team was 27th (277) in 3-pointers made, 28th (849) in threes attempted and 25th (32.6%) in 3-point percentage. That, and the Grizzlies lost their best long-range shooter, O.J. Mayo, in the offseason. Mayo, who signed with the Mavericks, was the only Grizzlies player to make more than one 3-pointer per game.
The good news is, they've added Bayless and Ellington, and amazingly we're now seeing the development of 2nd-year guard Josh Selby who is making two threes per game over during the preseason, after earning co-MVP honors in the Las Vegas Summer League thanks to his 3-point shooting. So, there is hope on the horizon -- plus, Conley is making threes in bunches during the preseason -- but this team is a far way away from being a serious 3-point shooting team.
What Are the Goals for This Team?
The Grizzlies goal -- after having their most successful season in wins total and getting home-court advantage in the playoffs -- is to join the elite ranks along with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs as serious title contenders in the West. They continue to be on the "next tier," outside of the top 3, but this season the Grizzlies need to step it up.
They need to prove that both Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay can coexist, because if they get through an entire season with both players healthy and can't find a way to compete for the title, they're going to have to look to take this team in another direction. It's going to be a big season for the Gay-Randolph combo.
What Do the Grizzlies Do About Lionel Hollins?
Coach Hollins enters the season as a free-agent-to-be, and it's going to be a wonder what will happen with Hollins, and when will it happen. There are a few things to consider here. First, the new ownership group led by Robert Pera will have to decide what to do with Hollins, so the approval on the sale needs to be made first and foremost before Hollins gets an extension.
Secondly, I think they want to see if he can coach Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph into a dual All-Star tandem before they decide whether or not it's best served in getting rid of one of the players (Gay) or getting rid of the coach for not being able to coach them into a highly usable duo. It may not seem like a big deal to outsiders, as to whether or not Hollins gets re-upped, but he is responsible for the Grizzlies current identity as a defensive-minded, "grit and grind" team we've come to know -- and hopefully, love.