Last week, I had the chance to go watch Mission: Impossible-Fallout, and to put it simply, the reviews did not lie. Even though I hadn’t seen any of the previous ones, it was one of the most fantastic, thrilling, and entertaining action moves that I have ever seen.
It was also beyond absurd.
Here’s a SPOILER WARNING (in a Grizzlies column?).
During the third act of the movie, three of Tom Cruise’s fellow agents have to fight their way to two separate nuclear bombs before they detonate. However, they can’t defuse the bombs without the detonator, so with time running out, Tom Cruise also has to get in a helicopter and chase Henry Cavill (who is also in a helicopter for some reason) to get the detonator before time expires.
Oh, and on top of that, the agents who are trying to defuse the bombs can only cut the wire with just one second left on the timer because, drama! And they just had to hope that Cruise had gotten the detonator from again, another helicopter, in time.
This may all sound extremely dumb (and it is), but it’s just like any other action movie. The heroes needed every absurd thing to go right. But when all those things did, they were able to accomplish something fantastic.
The Memphis Grizzlies are going to need some Mission: Impossible magic next year.
As I said last week, the Grizzlies will need nearly everything to go their way in order for them to return to the playoffs next year. And when you consider what they will have to overcome in order to do so (injuries, age, and playoff-caliber teams like the Nuggets, Blazers, and Pelicans), it seems almost absurd to expect them to be able to do it.
However, it’s not impossible.
Mike Conley may or may not be healthy. Unfortunately, recent events such as the signing of Shelvin Mack and him being kept from participating in full-contact at the Team USA practice would seem to indicate otherwise. He may just not be ready.
But what if he is?
Marc Gasol showed some clear signs of regression last season, and when you consider that he will be 34-years-old next season, that shouldn’t be really surprising. His shooting percentages fell off of a cliff, and he just generally didn’t look like the same player that has anchored the Grizzlies over the last eight years. He may never be that player again.
But what if he still is?
After two seasons in which he has only played 70 games, there really doesn’t appear to be a real reason to count on Chandler Parsons this coming year. He may have shown flashes of being the player that he once was this past year, but it doesn’t really matter if he can’t stay on the court. He may never be a reliable contributor for the Grizzlies.
But what if he is?
While he may have nearly limitless potential, you can’t expect Jaren Jackson Jr. to come in and take the league by storm from day one. He’s only 18-years-old, and he probably won’t even start ahead of JaMychal Green on opening night. Although he may become great later in his career, he probably won’t be an impact player from day one.
But what if he is?
There are many more question marks on the Grizzlies roster—and with question marks, comes potential failure. As the well-built house of cards that their roster is, the Grizzlies will need every card to fall into place. If even a single cards falls out of place—if Mike Conley or Marc Gasol get hurt or can’t be close to the player that they were—then the whole house could collapse.
On the other hand, if the house holds together, it could look fantastic.
Though the Grizzlies certainly will remain an unpopular pick for the playoffs, the roster has excellent potential. With the additions of Jackson, Kyle Anderson, and Garrett Temple, the Grizzlies have never had the abundance of versatile defenders and playmakers that they have now. And when you consider that they will have more perimeter firepower than they have ever had before, it is possible for them to have their best offense in franchise history while still retaining their defensive identity.
So what is the hard ceiling for this team?
If everything—Conley/Gasol are healthy, free agent acquisitions fit well, Jaren Jackson is great from day one—goes right, it wouldn’t shock me if they are not only in the playoff race, but also competing for home court in the first round (if you think they have the ability to make the playoffs, then it’s not much of a stretch to think they could snag homecourt considering that seeds 3-8 in the Western Conference were separated by two games last year. Teams like the Portland Trailblazers, New Orleans Pelicans, and the Utah Jazz have also done nothing to significantly improve their rosters this offseason).
As unlikely as it may sound, this is what the dream scenario looks like for the Memphis Grizzlies. This situation would be a possible storybook ending (especially if Gasol opts out at the end of the year) for the Conley-Gasol era in Memphis, a chance for them to go out in a blaze of glory one last time.
Storybook conclusions certainly haven’t been easy to come by for the Grizzlies over the last few years, and this time will likely prove to be no different. Memphis will just have to hope that some old sayings have some truth to them.
“Only in the movies and in Memphis.”