Liam Romero | October 10th, 2018
The Memphis Grizzlies have had a rough time in the Western Conference in recent years. Plagued by injuries this past season, the Grizzlies are looking to come into this next season fighting in an already voracious Western Conference. Can the Grizzlies improve in the West? Can fans expect another season of tanking and poor performance?
Recap of Last Season
The 2017-2018 Memphis Grizzlies were a mess. Finishing with a 22-60 record, the Grizzlies finished last in their division and fourteenth in the Western Conference. The team even suffered their worst defeat ever to the Hornets in a 79-140 decimation. Memphis went through two coaches last season and finished third to last in fan attendance. Statistically, the Grizzlies finished second to last in the league in scoring with 99 ppg and ranked 26th in defensive rating.
Their starting point guard, Mike Conley, fell to injury and played twelve games last year when he had surgery for a small bone intrusion in his left heel. Tyreke Evans led the team in points with 19 ppg but only played half as many games as Marc Gasol who averaged 17 ppg. Evans led the team in assists with 5.2 apg while Gasol also led the team in blocks with 1.4 bpg. After the Conley injury, the starting five fluctuated and the team never had consistent starters. Dillon Brooks, Ben McLemore, and Chandler Parsons made their way into the starting lineup and performed pretty well, combining for 26 ppg on 44% shooting. Memphis started the season off very strong, winning six of their first ten games, but after Mike Conley went down, so did their season. At one point halfway through the season, the Grizzlies lost eighteen straight games.
Memphis’ biggest issue is their lack of pace on offense. In a league dominated by fast-paced offenses running the court, the Grizzlies ranked 26th in the league in offensive pace. This coupled with being ranked dead-last in the league for shooting percentage.
The Grizzlies didn’t make any offseason moves so their offense will remain relatively the same as that of last year. The big difference Memphis will experience this coming season will be the return of key players that previously didn’t play much. Marshon Brooks and Mike Conley, are expected to return to the team, they played less than half the season last year. The Grizzlies’ offense is looking brighter for this season. If Mike Conley can stay healthy, Memphis can certainly see more success this season. In the frontcourt, Marc Gasol and JaMychal Green will have a lot of weight on their shoulders as they are the only big men on the roster as of now.
With players like Conley and Brooks, expected to play more next season, Memphis’ offensive efficiency statistics are expected to increase. Last season, the Grizzlies had an offensive rating of 104.5, but with the return of starter-caliber players, this rating will certainly skyrocket. Overall, the Grizzlies offense this season will certainly be better than the previous year, but still barely enough to make a dent in the Western Conference. After the 2017-2018 season, the Grizzlies have a lot of work on the offensive end of the court.
Under the assumption that the Grizzlies are building off last year’s defensive rating of 110, which ranked 26th in the league, Memphis has a lot of work. Under Mario Chalmers and Marc Gasol who led the team in steals and blocks with 1.6 spg and 1.4 bpg, Memphis can expect a boost as new additions to the team will be playing more often. With Mike Conley and MarShon Brooks expected to play a lot more this season, the Grizzlies are anticipating a boost to their defensive statistics.
Memphis’ strongest defense statistic last season was their opposing points in the paint per game as well as their opposing assists per game and points per game, all ranking in the top thirteen in the league. This may not necessarily be the result of a great defense, but rather a slower game. Nonetheless, Memphis had good defensive statistics despite not having many good defensive players. The Grizzlies can certainly build upon their decent defense this upcoming season.
Memphis’ weakest points on their defense going into this season will be their blocks per game and steals per game, both of which they ranked among the worst in the league. The Grizzlies need their frontcourt to work on their help defensively to block more shots, especially in the second quarter where they give up almost thirty points on average. To get more steals per possession, the Grizzlies need to play faster so they can get more possessions.
The Grizzlies’ bench isn’t as productive as other teams in the Western Conference. As previously mentioned, Memphis never had a solid starting lineup. Though never having a consistent bench, only six players on the team averaged over ten points per game. With the lineup listed on NBA.com, the Grizzlies’ second team next season only combines for 26 ppg. Memphis has four point guards as well as three shooting guards on the bench, but lack power forwards.
If Mike Conley and Marc Gasol play the usual minutes, they may render much of the Grizzlies’ bench futile. The best player coming off the bench for the Grizzlies is forward, Dillon Brooks, who averaged 11 ppg last season behind Kyle Anderson. Their new rookie center, Jaren Jackson Jr., will run in the second string behind Marc Gasol. Jackson was chosen with the fourth pick in the 2018 NBA draft coming out of Michigan State. Playing under Gasol can help Jackson grow into a great force as he is possibly one of the most underrated big men in the league.
I predict that the 2018-2019 Memphis Grizzlies will grow off the team from the previous year, but not a lethal power in the Western Conference, let alone the Southwest Division. I believe that Grizzlies fans can expect another season of tanking as the Grizzlies seek to rebuild their team. Given the lack of new and younger talent along with no new effective acquisitions or trades in the offseason, the Grizzlies aren’t looking bright. A lot of questions surround the likelihood of Mike Conley playing to his potential next season, and with a massive contract, the Grizzlies may be stuck with expensive, injured players. Grizzlies fans can only hope for the best next season.
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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images