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Lofty Memphis Expectations, More Grizzly Disappointment

Maybe we all over-estimated the Grizzlies.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

How high were your expectations for this 2016-17 Grizzlies season? Think about that for a second. Did you expect them to win 50 games with a newly reinvented ‘Big Three’? Perhaps three max contract players is automatically supposed to boost you to the top of the league?

I have to admit that I had high expectations. 50 games seemed attainable. Maybe even more. We won 50 games or more in three of the last five seasons (that’s including this season) with a less expensive roster and lower expectations. We even won 42 games last year using 28 different players! Surely with the bad luck we had last year, we would be rewarded with a great team and even greater results.

But alas, it hasn’t been so. The Grizzlies are 40-34 right now with eight games to go. The over-under for this season was 43.5, that means at worst the Grizz would have to go 4-4 to match that number. Perhaps Vegas knew more than I did about this Grizzlies team, even before the season started.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not a secret that Grizzlies fans are frustrated. In the offseason, the front office took a gamble and signed free-agent Chandler Parsons to a max deal, four years-$94 million. I thought it was a good decision, and I still do. But that investment hasn’t returned any value just yet. The Grizzlies spent much of the season trying to work Parsons into the rotation, which caused the team to drag dead weight through most games.

I won’t blame Parsons for the lack of production of this Grizzlies team. Enough people have done that, and I don’t fully blame him anyway. I honestly think that the expectations for this team may have been too high from the first game. Memphis started the season strong, there were two winning streaks of 5+ games before December 11th. The peak of the first half came when the Grizzlies went 2-1 in a three game stretch against Golden State at home and two games against Cleveland. At the end of that stretch, the Grizzlies were 18-9.

More recently, the Grizzlies are 6-10 post all-star break. But my argument is, this is exactly what the Grizzlies are capable of. Memphis can beat the elite teams in the league, but they can also lose to the bottom of the NBA. Some of it is player performance, some of it has to do with coaching consistency. Considering those factors, perhaps the Grizzlies are just playing to their ability.

Winning 50 games and clinching home court advantage this season may not have been possible. We have an All-Star center (the best center in the league), an elite point-guard (who is over-shadowed because he is in a small market), and then what? Throw in a few helpful pieces, an aging bully in the post (Z-Bo) and an ex-“first team all defense” player (Tony Allen). This team is good enough to beat any team, but the pieces around the “Core Four” aren’t experienced or skilled enough to push this team over the hump.

I love the Grizzlies, and I understand the expectations that fans have for this team. I am asking Grizz-Nation to understand the circumstances this team finds itself in. I wish they were different too, but maybe this team is playing to the best of their ability. Perhaps they are the seventh best team in the Western Conference and aren’t just slumping right now. Maybe this is the team we have to accept and stop making excuses for.

My suggestion: prepare for a series against the scary San Antonio Spurs. I’m not saying that winning the next eight games is impossible, go look at the schedule, the opponents aren’t very good. I am merely suggesting that we finally accept that this is a .500 team, and we should be proud of that. There are a lot of teams in the NBA that won’t end the season with a record over .500 (16 teams by my estimation). As a fan, root for the team to win games, but understand that this team is playing to the best of their ability.

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