As we drudge through the dog days of the offseason, Sports Illustrated came out with their annual rankings of the Top 100 NBA Players. Rob Mahoney and Ben Golliver joined forces to put together this list which keeps the conversation going through these months. Throughout this week, they have released parts of their rankings starting with Part One (100-51) on Monday, Part Two (50-31) on Tuesday, and Part Three (30-11) on Wednesday.
As expected, the Grizzlies only had two names to show for on this Top 100 list. It is of course Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. Gasol came in at #40 overall, and Conley finished four spots ahead at #36.
By now, the Grizzlies’ fans know what to expect with superstar talent. Gasol and Conley run the team, but unfortunately, for most of last year it was only Gasol on the floor. Marc was the guy for the Grizzlies last season. Even though the season did not go as expected, Gasol still led the team through the long season. In last year’s rankings, he came at #24.
As the article first suggests, Gasol’s decline was inevitable because he is an aging center who is 33 going on 34 years old. This, with a “junk season” dropped him down to #40 in the rankings. Mahoney then discusses his playmaking ability. It is in part what kept the Grizzlies as contenders all these years.
Personally, I feel like dropping 16 spots is a slight on Gasol after not having any competent players around him for most of the season. Yes, I understand that Father Time is undefeated, but Gasol still averaged solid numbers last season and is still in the conversation for one of the best true centers in the game. Even as Mahoney did point out the playmaking ability of Marc, I do not think he gave enough credit to how Gasol impacts every facet of each game on both sides of the court. If Gasol played in a bigger market, he would get the respect he deserves.
For context, two spots below Gasol are Otto Porter at #41 and Blake Griffin at #42 (all about the small victories). Two spots ahead were Jayson Tatum at #39 and Steven Adams at #38.
Unfortunately, injuries struck Conley this past season which impacted his ranking. In last year’s ranking Conley came in at #18. This rating showed how dominate he really was. As the superstar point guard, Mike Conley was the pulse of the Grizzlies when healthy. Even as Gasol is a playmaking force, Conley showed he was the turning point of this team. With injury surrounding him, #36 is a respectable spot.
As the first sentence says, all Conley’s rating is based off the injury bug he has developed over the past two years. He is one of the best point guards in the league that demands that respect. No one has seen the pure talent Conley can show on a nightly basis which gets pushed to the back of the NBA conversation after months of injury.
Again, if Conley was in a bigger city, he would be among the most talked about players in the league. He suffers from Memphis being a smaller market even as he loves what Memphis brings to him on a nightly basis. It is incredibly exciting to see Conley finally coming back from injury after a long break from the game. He will bring the stability with Gasol that we have not seen in a very long time.
Mahoney brings up how creative Conley is at point guard, and I, for one, am very excited to see it in motion with a new season to start with. I do feel like he should be rated a few spots higher than where he is, but at the same time, injury should affect Conley since he has missed sometime.
Again, for context, two spots below Conley are Paul Millsap at #37 and Steven Adams at #38. Two spots ahead were Cint Capela at #35 and Donovan Mitchell at #34.
The biggest thing to remember as a Grizzlies fan is that they have two of the top 40 players in the league. This means more than people realize. Since the NBA is a star driven league, Conley and Gasol can take the Grizzlies to another level that no one expects. They can push this team to a more competitive level than expected before. The main key is that these two finally stay healthy for a full season. If this can happen, the Grizzlies are in a prime shot to contend for that lower playoff spot in the Western Conference.
This Top 100 is fun to debate about, but at the end of the day, it is a great reminder that the Grizzlies have some talent to show off to other teams. Conley and Gasol can run the show even at an older age. This season will show really how impactful they can be.