2013-2014 Memphis Grizzlies Season Preview
The Memphis Grizzlies are coming off of their best season in franchise history, winning 56 games in the regular season and advancing to the Western Conference Finals. The level of success they were able to achieve is even more impressive when you factor in that they were in their first year under new ownership, made changes to their management group and traded their leading scorer Rudy Gay midseason.
Getting swept out of the playoffs by the San Antonio Spurs was a bittersweet ending to an otherwise landmark season for the Grizzlies. The roster is still relatively the same, but there’s a major change on the sideline with Dave Joerger now serving as the team’s head coach after Lionel Hollins’ contract was not renewed.
- Yannis Koutroupis
In & Out
Additions: Kosta Koufos, Mike Miller, Jamaal Franklin, Nick Calathes.
Subtractions: Marreese Speights, Darrell Arthur, Keyon Dooling, Austin Daye, Tony Wroten.
Five Guys Think…
The Grizzlies new ownership and management prioritized continuity this offseason, to a certain extent. The roster, aside from some upgrades to their second unit, looks largely the same as last year’s team that advanced to the Western Conference Finals and set a franchise record for wins in the regular season with 56. However, they promoted Dave Joerger to head coach, replacing Lionel Hollins, who they could not come to terms with on a contract extension after his current deal expired. Hollins deserves an immense amount of credit for the job he’s done with the Grizzlies, but he was difficult to work with and Joerger was ready for the opportunity. The foundation of being defensive and post oriented that Hollins built should go unchanged, but a slight tempo increase could give this team the push they need to become the best team in the West. They’re second to the San Antonio Spurs, who swept them in the WCFs, in the Southwest Division on the outset, but they’re not separated by much.
2nd place – Southwest Division
- Yannis Koutroupis
Every team in the league wants to play small ball, and many of those teams have had great success doing precisely that. The Grizzlies, however, continue to buck that trend by playing a huge frontcourt and making their own identity by beating up opponents defensively rather than outrunning them on the offensive end. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph make for arguably the most imposing frontcourt in the league, and Ed Davis and Kosta Koufos give them great depth at the position, as well. Memphis was also able to hold onto Tony Allen, the crux of the team’s defensive identity, and Mike Conley, Jr. has firmly established himself as one of the league’s best point guards. There’s still a lot to love here, and Memphis has a great shot at winning the toughest division in basketball.
1st Place – Southwest Division
– Joel Brigham
The Grizzlies are coming off of an embarrassing showing against the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals, but they’re still an extremely tough match-up and legitimate contender. While they’ve replaced head coach Lionel Hollins with Dave Joerger, they’re bringing back their entire starting lineup of Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Tayshaun Prince, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, which means they’ll once again be one of the top defensive teams in the league and boast one of the best frontcourts in basketball. Unlike some of the newly assembled contenders, Memphis should have an edge when it comes to their chemistry and continuity. Not to mention, their second unit will be much-improved with the additions of Kosta Koufos, Mike Miller and Jamaal Franklin (not to mention another year of experience for Ed Davis). The Grizzlies will be one of many teams capable of contending in the competitive Western Conference.
3rd place – Southwest Division
- Alex Kennedy
If the old adage ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ holds true the Memphis Grizzlies could be in for a tumble in the standings this season. Departed head coach Lionel Hollins improved the Grizzlies’ win percentage each season since taking over the helm in 2010 but the team’s revamped front office ultimately decided to part ways with the veteran sideline general over the summer. Memphis promoted lead assistant David Joerger to the top spot and while his resume is far from shabby there’s always a concern about team chemistry and trust in these situations. The talent is certainly in place with Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley at the top of the rotation. Veteran forward Tony Allen serves as one of the team’s alpha dogs in the locker room while the offseason trade for center Kosta Koufos is being overlooked by many. Expect another playoff appearance from the unit but keep an eye on the team’s response to its new head coach.
3rd Place – Southwest Division
- Lang Greene
Last season’s 56 wins were quickly forgotten about once the Grizzlies were unceremoniously swept out of the playoffs by the San Antonio Spurs. After seeing many of the teams in the Western Conference make moves to bolster their rosters, the Grizzlies enter the 2013-14 season as a major question mark. Aside from re-signing Tony Allen and signing the amnestied Mike Miller, the Grizzlies were relatively quiet this summer. The continued improvement of Mike Conley and teams—such as the Golden State Warriors—fully embracing small ball ensures that the decisive advantage that the Grizzlies have on the interior with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol will persist. That alone should ensure that Gasol and company win at least 45 games, but in the Southwest Division, the Houston Rockets will threaten them. Still, the expectation here is another 50-win season, but another year of playing second fiddle to the San Antonio Spurs. The transition from former head coach Lionel Hollins to Dave Joerger should be seamless, with the team retaining its identity on both ends of the floor. However, barring something unforeseen, it will likely just be another above-average season in Memphis that ends in the second round of the playoffs, at best. And, oh yes, no division crown.
2nd Place — Southwest Division
— Moke Hamilton
Top Of The List
Top Offensive Player: Zach Randolph. The Grizzlies offense is all about balance. They have three players in Randolph, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley who averaged just over 14 points a game last season, with four others who averaged seven or more. However, when they need a bucket Randolph is often their best option thanks to his offensive versatility, ability to play through contact and soft touch. He also creates extra opportunities for himself by being an active offensive rebounder.
Top Defensive Player: Marc Gasol. On a team that is as good as the Grizzlies are defensively, it’s difficult to just pinpoint one as the best. Tony Allen was an All-Defensive first team selection, but Gasol, a second team All-Defensive selection, won the Defensive Player of the Year award. As the final line of defense and their captain on the defensive end, Gasol is probably the most deserving, but his teammates, Allen especially, are not far behind.
Top Playmaker: Mike Conley. It took some time for Conley to make the transition to the NBA, but the Grizzlies were patient with him and have since reaped the benefits. Conley is coming off of his third-straight season averaging six assists a game, a team-high. He averaged a career-best 14.6 points a game last season; the continued growth in his scoring ability only makes playmaking easier as it forces defenses to focus more on him.
Top Clutch Player: Mike Conley. When Gay was traded Conley became the Grizzlies’ best option in the clutch. Not only is he their best creator, but he can also finish in the paint, shoot from outside and make his free throws. Randolph and Gasol are also viable threats with the game on the line, but Conley has earned the right to be the one who things run through with the game on the line.
The Unheralded Player: Tony Allen. Allen is one of the best examples in the league of someone whose statistics do not reflect the impact he has on the game. He almost never has the best line in the box score, but the role he plays is invaluable. Allen embodies everything that Grizzlies basketball is about. He doesn’t take plays off, thrives when defending the best in the game and values winning over individual success.
Best New Addition: Kosta Koufos. The six-year veteran is coming off of a career year in which he averaged eight points and nearly seven rebounds a contest for the Denver Nuggets. He’ll serve as a quality backup to Gasol and be able to comfortably play in either the high or low post.
- Yannis Koutroupis
Who We Like
1. Zach Randolph - Randolph has changed the way that he will be remembered once his career is done with the success he has had with the Grizzlies since being traded to them by the Los Angeles Clippers during the 2009-10 season. He’s been an intricate part of the team’s rise to prominence; the grittiness and toughness he plays with has helped form the team’s identity. He’s coming off of his second All-Star appearance and is entering what could be a contract year if he decides to decline his player option for $16.9 million.
2. Marc Gasol – Gasol is coming off of a banner year in which he was an All-Star and the Defensive Player of the Year. An argument can be made that the 28 year old is now the best center in the league with how much he impacts the game on both ends of the floor. Along with being the team’s defensive anchor, he ranks third in points (14.1), second in assists (4.0) and second in rebounding (7.8).
3. Mike Conley – The Grizzlies faith and confidence in Conley has been rewarded. The point guard position is as deep with talent as it has ever been and while Conley’s name rarely comes up when talking about the best in the game, he’s proven that he can hold his own against whoever he is matched up against. He’s continually improved in recent years and at the age of 25 there’s no reason to believe that the development is going to stop. Another career year could be in store with the increase in tempo the Grizzlies plan on implementing.
4. Tony Allen – The shooting guard position in the NBA is full of players who strike fear in the opposition because of their offensive abilities. Allen is one of the few shooting guards, if not the only one, who strikes fear due to his defense. His name is always one of the first to come up when talking about the elite perimeter defenders in the league. He’s coming off of a first-team All-Defensive team selection and along with the reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol is one of the main reasons why no drop off should be expected in the Grizzlies’ defense despite the departure of Coach Hollins.
5. Mike Miller – Every young team hoping to compete for a championship needs a veteran presence, someone who has been there before on multiple occasions and knows what it takes to get the job done. That’s exactly what Miller, a two-time champion with the Miami HEAT, is. While Miller is in the final stages of his career and unlikely to be a major contributor night in and night out during the regular season, he will make an impact on this team that goes beyond what the stat sheet indicates. And as he’s proven throughout the last two postseasons, when his number is called he’ll be ready, no matter how long it’s been since he’s seen consistent action.
The Grizzlies have one of the best interior duos in the league in Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, who were the catalysts behind the Grizzlies second-best rebounding differential of +3.6 last season. The trademark of the Grizzlies, though, is their defense. They allowed only 89.3 points a game last season, the top mark in the league. They’re also among the league’s best in turnovers forced (14.7, 6th in NBA) and least committed (13.3, 4th). Their experience and familiarity with each other should be major strengths next season as well, even with a new head coach taking over.
- Yannis Koutroupis
The Grizzlies aren’t as bad on the offensive end as they are good on the defensive end, but it’s too close for comfort at times. They averaged just 93.4 points a game last season; only three teams averaged less. A lot of their offensive struggles stem from Conley being their only true playmaker on the perimeter and their lackluster shooting from beyond the arc (34 percent, 24th in the league). Their bench was one of the worst in the league last season in terms of offensive production, averaging just 27.4 points a contest.
The Burning Question:
Can Dave Joerger adequately replace Lionel Hollins?
Lionel Hollins was not without faults, but he took the franchise to heights it’s never seen. He has left big shoes for Joerger, a first-year head coach, to fill. Systematically they’ll play the same, but can Joerger implement it as well? And, how will a locker room full of strong personalities react to tough stretches under his watch? Those will be the true indicators of whether ownership made the right decision to let Hollins go.