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Mike Conley And Marc Gasol Can Take the Grizzlies To The Next Level

The time to win is now. How can the blossoming duo of Mike Conley and Marc Gasol take the Grizzlies to the next level?

Andy Lyons

Tony Parker and Tim Duncan. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal. These might be a few examples you think of when I mention iconic duos in the NBA. And while the Memphis Grizzlies are a small market franchise, they have an up-and-coming duo in Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. While Mike Conley arrived in Memphis in the 2007 draft, Marc Gasol entered the scene in 2009 via one of the biggest trades in Grizzlies history. And as Marc Gasol has improved, so has Mike Conley. Now, when you picture one of them, you almost have to picture the other as well. But as they both enter their primes, one has to wonder if they can achieve the next level, which is leading their team to the ultimate goal: a championship. For some years, these two have been the face of the franchise. Fans hope that Marc Gasol will soon be resigned, and that the team will follow suit with Mike Conley the next summer.

So, future contract worries aside, how can Mike and Marc take this team to championship level this season?

1. Both Gasol and Conley need to have legitimate All-Star seasons. With Marc and Mike on the floor together, the Grizzlies scored 108.1 points per 100 possessions and allowed 107.6 points. On the other hand, the Grizzlies allowed 113.5 points per 100 possessions and scored 106.9 points when they were off the floor. Last season, when both started, the Grizzlies were an astounding 39-16. Mike upped his game last season as he averaged 17.2 ppg. Marc, on the other hand, was out for 23 games last season and averaged 14.6 ppg a season after being named NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2012-13. Many consider Mike Conley an All-Star snub last season. And while some might not think becoming an All-Star is that important, it is a title nevertheless. It's sort of an award for having an awesome season. Therefore, Mike and Marc need to have explosive seasons and land spots on the All-Star team (however, I really hope they won't have to wear those terrible sleeved jerseys... but that's a discussion for another time). Let's take the example of the duo of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal in the three seasons they won the NBA championship together. As a side note, in those three years, Kobe and Shaq were on the All-Star teams. This is not to say that if both Gasol and Conley make the All-Star team this season, then the Grizzlies are a shoo-in for the title, but it would be encouraging nevertheless.

2. Along the same lines as the previous point, Gasol and Conley need to make the first All-Defensive team this year. Because defense is a pivotal and iconic point of this team, Gasol needs to show the league why he was the 2012-13 Defensive Player of the Year by at least making the first All-Defensive team. Mike Conley, also a spectacular defender, needs to reach this accomplishment, since he has only ever been on the second All-Defensive team in his career. The impact of these two on the defensive end is reiterated by my first point, in which I said the Grizz allowed 113.5 points per 100 possessions when they were off the floor. This team is Grit n' Grind. This is what currently defines the Grizzlies. We're muddy. We're tough. And we have really good defenders.

3. Lastly, Mike and Marc need to lead the team to a 55+ win season. Dave Joerger has one year of coaching under his belt, and the Grizzlies managed to get to 50 wins last season despite a ton of injuries. No excuses this year. As long as the Grizzlies' main components stay healthy, I expect Mike and Marc to help rack up some wins. And while the record isn't entirely dependent on these two guys, their impact is so huge that you can't ignore how they influence the team's record. And the proof is in the pudding. Mike and Marc need to lead this loaded roster to a record-breaking season. Honestly, I'm sick and tired of not having home court advantage. So, go grab one of those top four spots!

The greatest teams in NBA history often had a threesome or duo to lead them to the championship. The Grizzlies aren't any different. This season, Conley and Gasol need to show the league what Memphis is made of. They need to show the fans that they're committed to bringing a long-awaited parade to Beale Street.