The Memphis Grizzlies are currently 36-26 and are the ninth seed in the Western Conference standings. They have been making a push for the last couple of months and are just a half game back for the final playoff position. There are many reasons for the success that the Grizzlies have been having, but one player that they absolutely need to step up down the stretch of the season is Tony Allen.
Allen was one of the main reasons that the Grizzlies were able to reach the Western Conference Finals last season, but he has been unable to play consistently this season. He has had some injury issues and age seems to have caught him a little bit, but the Grizzlies desperately need him to snap out of his funk and play the dominant basketball that he was playing at the end of last season.
So far this season, he has played in 36 games, starting 27 of those appearances. He is averaging 10.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.7 steals per game. Those numbers show that he is still capable of stuffing the stat-sheet on any given night, but the Grizzlies need him to show up and play at a high level every night. His athleticism has been inconsistent so far this season, but he still has been able to up his scoring average.
Why is Tony Allen the X-Factor for the Memphis Grizzlies this season? Quite simply, he is the best defender on the team and they will need him to step up in a big way against the premier players in the Western Conference. Kevin Durant and James Harden among others will likely be the assignments that he draws come playoff time. If the Grizzlies want any chance to return to the Western Conference Finals, they are going to need a big performance from Tony Allen on the defensive side of the basketball.
The Grizzlies certainly have the necessary pieces to make some noise once again, but they are going to have a very difficult road. Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Houston, Los Angeles Clippers, and a couple more teams are all going to be tough opponents in a seven game series. Tony Allen is the type of player that will need to bring energy on the defensive side of the basketball at all times, and will need to score the ball at a decent clip as well to take the pressure off of Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol.
Overall, the Memphis Grizzlies are still very confident that Tony Allen will pick his play up down the stretch of the season. He is playing his way back into full strength after missing quite a bit of time due to injury, and he has looked fairly good for the most part since returning. Tony Allen has to continue improving and playing at a high level for the Grizzlies to have a chance this season.
Evan Massey is a Staff Writer for HoopsHabit.com. Follow Evan on Twitter at @Massey_Evan.