Now that the 2016-17 NBA season schedule has been out for a while, it’s time to move past our rapid reactions and start to take a deeper dive into what lies ahead for the Memphis Grizzlies.
There’s a lot to sink your teeth into, though. 82 games spanning six months is a lot to take in, and it’s easy to get lost looking over the schedule in its entirety. So, to make things a little easier, we’ll be breaking the schedule into bite-sized pieces, taking one month at a time to analyze the trees in hopes of getting a better look at the forest.
For each month, we’ll start by taking a look at the opponents on the slate, as well as their record from last season. Then, we’ll pick out what look to be the hardest and easiest stretches. Lastly, we’ll try and get a feel for what the Grizzlies record might be in each month. For this part, I’ll try to be conservative. It’s still early, but it’s still best to not get hopes up too high.
Today, we’ll kick things off by looking at October and November. Most of our looks will encompass a single month, but given that there are only three games in October, it just doesn’t make sense to look at it on its own.
Unlike last season, which saw Memphis open with an absolutely brutal schedule, this season’s early slate of games looks much more manageable. As Joe mentioned in his first thoughts on the season, the Grizzlies are going to get familiar with the young Thibodeau-coached Timberwolves early on. Those games should be fun to watch, and will provide the Grizzlies with a chance to make some hay against a Western Conference opponent who may be fighting for a playoff spot come next spring.
As it turns out, the young Wolves are the final game of what should be the toughest part of the opening month of games for Memphis. On November 12, the Grizzlies kick off a four-game road trip that starts in Milwaukee before veering deep into the heart of the Western Conference playoff battle: at Utah, at the Clippers, and at Dallas. If that wasn’t enough, following the Dallas matchup, the Grizzlies head back to Memphis to face Minnesota in the second game of a back-to-back.
Those games will test the mettle of the Grizzlies early, and more importantly, will provide a good look at how Memphis stacks up against some of their biggest competition for the playoffs. If they can weather that storm, though, and manage to go 4-1 (or even 3-2), fans should feel good.
After the rough start to last season, Memphis’ opening five games look a little less daunting this year. That isn’t to say that these games will be easy. Minnesota has plenty of young talent and a new coach; the Wizards are only a year removed from making it to the second round of the playoffs; the Pelicans just added more weapons to complement Anthony Davis. But it’s nice to look at the start of the year and not see Golden State and Cleveland looming right out of the gate.
It’s an incredibly long shot, but if the Grizzlies are able to get off to a hot start, if Fizdale is able to get the players to buy-in early, 5-0 isn’t impossible. Still, it might be best to temper expectations and simply hope for 4-1.
So much of this is dependent on how well Memphis looks coming out of the gate. If they’re able to start hot, they should be set up for a solid first month. Figuring conservatively, the Grizzlies could take 12 of their first 19 with a good start, even if they stumble on their tough road trip.
If they don't get ahead of the pack early, though, Memphis risks digging itself into a hole that it’ll have a hard time climbing out of. This schedule sets the Grizzlies up for a good start to the new season, and that’s not something they can afford to waste.