It is Wednesday night, April 10 2019 and all of the Grizzlies’ starters are in street clothes watching their teammates take on the Golden State Warriors.
No, they aren't all injured like Grizz fans may be used to, instead they are resting for the upcoming playoff series. That’s right, the Memphis Grizzlies have returned to postseason play where they belong.
Wouldn't it be an amazing thing to see that very scenario come into fruition? It is certainly a possibility heading into this new season, but what exactly would it take for it to happen?
Outside of remaining healthy for an entire season, the Grizzlies are going to need some career years from a handful of players in order to compete.
The Western Conference is loaded. Barring anything crazy, it is safe to assume that there will be 10-11 teams competing for a spot in the playoffs. If the Grizzlies hope to be one of the final 8 teams standing come season end, who will need to step up this season?
The Conductor is back and it is almost like a free agent signing. Last season Mike Conley was hoping to build off the best season of his career in 2016-17, but injury unfortunately derailed those plans.
Conley ended 2016-17 with a win share of 10 games, the most of any player for Memphis that season. Mike actually had the 18th most win shares that season. To put that into context, James Harden had the most at 15 win shares.
Theoretically, adding a career year Conley back to the lineup adds 10 wins to this team which would put them at 32 wins this season.
Houston Rockets’ Chandler Parsons is a pipe dream these days, a faded memory. It is certainly possible however to get very close to the Dallas Mavericks version that the Grizzlies threw the bank at. Prior to his arrival in Memphis, Parsons played at least 61 games in every season of his career. He has played a combined 70 in two seasons on Beale Street.
Chandler has combined for a sad 1.3 total win shares during his time in Memphis while he averaged 5.56 win shares per season in Houston and Dallas. If Memphis can get an average Chandler Parsons in 2018-19, he could add 4 more wins to last year’s total.
This would put the Grizzlies at 36 wins, only good for 10th in last year’s Western Conference.
Marc Gasol has had seasons of 11.5 (2012-13) and 10.2 (2014-15) win shares in his career, the most of any player on the Grizzlies current roster. It is pretty unrealistic to expect Gasol to play like he did when he was 28 and 30 years old as a 34 year old. According to various analytics, last season was by far Gasol’s worst season of NBA basketball in which he did not miss more than 20 games due to injury.
With Mike Conley back leading the team, it is not unrealistic for Gasol to return to his 2016-17 form in which he accumulated 7.7 win shares. The team has picked up a number of high IQ players as well as solid defenders, so Marc will be able to focus less on coaching on the court, and get back to playing.
A four win share uptick from Gasol would bump the Grizzlies to 40 wins on the season.
Other Statistical Info:
If Kyle Anderson contributes exactly what he did in San Antonio last season (his best career season), it would be a 2 win improvement over the Memphis win share leader from last season, Tyreke Evans. I would argue that Anderson will only continue to improve as a professional and possibly reach the 9-10 win share range. But for now, we will leave it at what his best career season provides.
Garrett Temple could easily provide 2-3 win shares along with a more experienced Dillon Brooks.
A best case scenario for the Grizzlies would sit them at around 46 wins which would have still left the Grizzlies on the outside looking in last season. For 2018-19, it will be an all fight for the Grizz to scratch their way into the bottom of the playoff picture, but with the new additions, and some hopeful returns to form, anything is possible.
Stats provided by basketball-reference.com