This has been an offseason of the highest of highs and lowest of lows in terms of projections for the Memphis Grizzlies. There are some, as our Jay Siskin pointed out here, that feel that Memphis nailed their offseason moves (adding Chandler Parsons, re-signing Mike Conley, solid draft) and should still be a force in the Western Conference.
Then, there are others such as Kevin Pelton who are not so enthused by what Memphis has done with their roster. Pelton released his projections for the NBA using ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus system earlier today, and they are NSFGF (Not Safe For Grizzlies Fans). He has Memphis as the nine seed, winning only 39 games in the 2016-2017 season. This would of course end their current playoff streak at six straight appearances and would undoubtedly be seen as a tremendous letdown and even failure for the Grizzlies organization.
So why such a drastic drop? Real plus-minus, according to Pelton, "takes into account teammates, opponents, and additional factors. When used along with playing time projections, it's proved to be a very accurate predictive tool overall."
And in fairness to Pelton, it has done things correctly (as he points out in the piece that you can read here if you are an ESPN Insider) like project the rise of the Golden State Warriors and how well the Portland Trail Blazers did last season. On the other hand, this system missed on the Toronto Raptors and Houston Rockets this past season and never seems to look too favorably on the Grizzlies. Here is Pelton's take on Memphis-
Yes, the Grizzlies strengthened their starting lineup by signing Chandler Parsons, but their bench is incredibly thin and several starters (including Parsons) are major injury risks. Gulp.
His focus is the same as those who are hesitant to be excited about the upcoming season for Memphis - the bench is weaker and injuries are a major concern. This is fair. But many analytic measurement systems that focuses on age, pace of play, point differential, etc. have been wrong about Grizzlies projections in the past. The team's roster (ironically, considering John Hollinger's presence in the front office) is not attractive to these predictions very often, and the Grizzlies are one of the few teams who consistently outperform expectations because of their ability to win close games and compete at a high level despite key players aging and potential health worries.
If the roster stays healthy and the young players contribute off the bench, this Grizzlies team will be a force in the Western Conference behind Golden State and perhaps San Antonio. If things go south in terms of health and development of the bench? Pelton's projections may become reality.
A realistic argument could be made for the Grizzlies as a contender for the three seed, just as you can logically see the Grizzlies as fighting for their playoff lives come March and April. The best part is? We have a whole season to figure that out.
What do you think? Is Memphis a contender or a pretender this coming season?