The wait for the 2018-2019 season is particularly trying for Grizzles’ fans. Very few teams have seen more roster turnover than Memphis. As a result, in the opinion of many, very few teams have improved more than the Grizzlies. This has resulted in a heightened sense of anticipation across the city. Many have high hopes, and rightfully so. While significant improvement is a very likely possibility, it is also very likely the better play does not lead to the playoffs.
For many in a fan base accustomed to winning, no amount of improvement will prevent a feeling of disappointment for again missing the postseason.
Whether that perspective is justified or not, it is certainly a reality for the Grizzlies. As a result, those who focus only on the playoffs are likely to be unsatisfied as the season goes along. However, even if the season proves disappointing, there are other potential successes that could add enjoyment to the games. The way to find that enjoyment is to not only focus on the Grizzles as a team, but also the players themselves.
Several players who will have a significant role on the Grizzlies this season will also have the chance to achieve significant personal milestones in their careers. This includes franchise icons and newcomers. A few of the players have the chance to establish marks few others in NBA history have met. Others will be making their first true impact in the NBA. For the roster as a whole, this could be a special season for many.
In terms of the Grizzlies franchise, the names Marc Gasol and Mike Conley are found near or at the top of every major all-time franchise statistical category. Gasol is currently the career leader in field goals, two pointers, free throws, defensive rebounds, and blocks. Mike is currently the career leader in three pointers, assists, and steals. While they are the clear leaders in these categories, there are others where they are neck and neck.
This season should provide a friendly competition between the two Grizzly greats. Conley has played two more games, while Gasol has played 771 more minutes and scored 595 more points. While Conley should eventually take over the lead in all categories in the future, a strong season from him could close the gap. Hopefully, good health will give him the chance to do just that.
The one major category that is not currently held by Gasol or Conley is total rebounds. Of course, former Grizzly and eternal franchise icon Zach Randolph sits at the top of that list. Marc’s pursuit of that record should be a fun early season story line for fans to follow. With his 126th rebound of the season, and 5,613th of his career as a Grizzly, Gasol will achieve that milestone. This should occur 15 to 18 games into the season. In terms of representation in franchise record books, this will make Gasol and Conley one of the most decorated duos in NBA history.
Looking beyond the Grizzlies, both Marc and Mike also have the chance to further prove how rare their versatile games have been over the past decade. With 79 threes, Conley will become the first player to make a 1000 three pointers as a Grizzly. Furthermore, Conley will become just the 11th active player and 28th player overall in NBA history to have 10,000 points, 1,000 threes, 1,000 steals, and 4,000 assists. Once Mike achieves this goal, the Grizzlies will now have had five of these 28 players suit up for them, the most of any NBA franchise. Allen Iverson, Vince Carter, Mike Bibby, and Kyle Lowry all have achieved this stat line in their careers.
Gasol can also easily achieve a historic career stat line rarely seen in NBA history. With 109 assists, Marc will reach 2500 for his career. He will become only the 3rd active player over seven feet tall to achieve this standard. Furthermore, Marc will become just the 4th active player and 18th overall in NBA history to have 10,000 points, 1,000 blocks, 5,000 rebounds, and 2,500 assists in a career.
The significance of these numbers is to show how rare it is to find players who have added value on both ends of the court for a decade. The fact that Grizzlies fans have been able to enjoy these two versatile players on the same team is truly special. To put it into context, the only other duo of teammates that can claim to be in the exclusive groups Gasol and Conley are looking to join is Manu Ginoboli and Tim Duncan. The other duo that comes very close is John Stockton and Karl Malone. Each of those four players is either a current or future Hall of Famer.
It is obvious that Gasol and Conley are not nearly as successful as the other players in the aforementioned duos. In fact, there have been many far more successful duos throughout NBA history. The purpose of the comparisons is to further prove how truly special Gasol and Conley are. It is no coincidence that the two other duos mentioned played in smaller NBA markets like Memphis. The reason these duos come from smaller markets is because these players had an appreciation for how much their fan bases appreciated them. That connection proved to be a reason as to why each player wanted to stay throughout his career and achieve the success he did.
Marc Gasol and Mike Conley have been two of the most underrated players in the NBA throughout their careers. The ability to find success despite being underrated by others has long defined the city of Memphis and its citizens. This shared characteristic has created a connection throughout the years that is hard to find anywhere else. As a result, experiencing Gasol and Conley being validated as one of best duos in NBA history this season should be something the Grizzlies’ fan base can truly cherish.
Stats provided by basketball-reference.com