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Memphis Grizzlies 2014-15 Preview: Can a next-level Marc Gasol take Memphis to the Finals?

Will a healthy Marc Gasol make the difference for the Grizzlies?

Joe Murphy/Getty Images

Memphis Grizzlies

Last Year's Record: 50-32
Key Losses: Mike Miller, James Johnson, Ed Davis
Key Additions: Vince Carter, Beno Udrih (re-signed)
2014 Draft Picks: Jordan Adams, Jarnell Stokes

1. What were the moves of the off-season?

This summer the Grizzlies only added one new player with a guaranteed contract (Carter) to their roster while they saw the exit of Miller, Johnson, and Davis, players who played a respective 20.8, 18.4, and 15.2 MPG last season. The reasoning behind what was a relatively inactive off-season is placed on their faith in what Vince Carter has left in the tank, the possible emergence of a hit-or-miss player in undersized SF Quincy Pondexter, the idea that the court general Marc Gasol will be playing at a higher level after coming off an MCL injury last year and looking rather fit in FIBA play just weeks ago, and the rare concept in Memphis that the Grizzlies' two 2014 draft picks can possibly make an early impact.

Other than that, the only moves were Grizzlies owner Robert Pera firing the CEO and assistant GM, letting head coach Dave Joerger interview in Minnesota and return to sign an extension with the Grizzlies after intense bro talks, and reinstating Chris Wallace, architect of the current Grizzlies core, to a full GM role. It sounds crazy, but most everyone in Memphis would probably agree that the ownership and leadership of the franchise is heading in an exciting direction that includes a lot of progressive tactics which sometimes starkly contrast to the ownership of the late Michael Heisley.

2. What are the team's greatest strengths?

The Grizzlies have had a top-level defense on the court for four years running (ever since the arrival of Tony Allen), and there's little reason to see that degrading with how their roster is constructed. Although Dave Joerger might finally implement a few tweaks to the bruising style that Memphis is now known for, I still expect the Grizzlies to use the combination of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph in an inside-first approach that will effectively wear down opponents and keep the Grizzlies heading to the foul line. The key and question, as it has been for a few years now, is can the Grizzlies find the right kind of playmaking and shooting on the perimeter to complement their inside game and turn them into a bonafide contender?

Although they're still a fairly green ownership group, the clarity that seems to have flooded the management level feels like it could pay some serious dividends sooner rather than later. I think the front office's approach is going to allow the players to find a level of mental comfort that helps Dave Joerger get the most out of what is probably the deepest Grizzlies team the franchise has ever had. The Grizzlies are now an older team, but they have enough youth in the right places to make a lot of noise in a filthy Western Conference this year.

3. What are the team's biggest weaknesses?

Three point shooting ad nauseum. Memphis got some help from Mike Miller last season, but he just didn't shoot enough volume to patch up the glaring hole in the Griz offense that is perimeter shooting. Outside of Marc Gasol or Tony Allen somehow developing a long-range shot, the Grizzlies are counting on the injection of Vince Carter's happy 3P-trigger to make the impact they need from beyond the arc. They could also look to getting Jon Leuer, a very efficient tweener forward, or Beno Udrih more consistent roles to help in the regard of three-point shooting, but we've yet to really see Dave Joerger be able to work his roster 10-deep in an effective manner -- something the Grizzlies are likely going to have to do to keep up throughout the long, arduous NBA season.

4. What are the goals for the 2014-15 Grizzlies?

They want a ring. And from the way they talked during media day, it sounds as if they genuinely believe they can compete for one this season. The Grit'n'Grind era of the Grizzlies has a small window as presently constructed, and the core of the team knows it. Players are looking fit and very focused; there's just an urgency surrounding the Grizzlies that is very palpable. Outside of hoisting the Larry O'Brien, the Grizzlies desperately need to start developing draft picks after striking out for several years. Mike Conley is quite literally the only player on roster, outside of this year's draft class, who was drafted by the franchise. Additionally, one of the more interesting developments from Grizzlies media day was Marc Gasol's emphasis on wanting to take on a more aggressive role this season and "pilot the team." Marc reaching that goal would undoubtedly help accomplish the first goal.

5. Can the Grizzlies win the West?

I can't say that I see the Grizzlies getting past the Spurs, and that's because they haven't done so ever since that crazy upset in 2011. San Antonio has their number, and until I see the Grizzlies win the head-to-head regular season series against the Spurs, I won't be able to make a Finals prediction for Memphis. I do, however, think another Western Conference Finals appearance is in the realm of possibility. The Grizzlies are very deep and possibly looking to get better before the trade deadline. If they (both the players and Dave Joerger) hit an early stride and stay healthy I could see them possibly getting a top-4 seed, but there isn't any room to try figure things out for a few weeks in the West. The Grizzlies got a 7th seed with 50 wins last season, and there's reason to believe they could win more games this year and still end up in the same position.


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