With the NBA playoffs almost upon us, each of the sixteen teams who will eventually make up the post season will have dreams of going all the way and be crowned the NBA Champions of this season. Of course for some this is still merely a pipe dream, while for others it is the absolute end goal, with any other result deemed a failure. With that in mind we take a quick and lighthearted look at how each team can potentially do once the playoffs start.
Why They Can Win It All
The Memphis Grizzlies left it late to secure their position in the 2014 postseason, but they also managed to squeak into the seventh seed with a last day victory over the Dallas Mavericks. While there are no easy games in the playoffs (at least not in the Western Conference), this has given the team some momentum to enter the postseason with, a priceless thing to have at this time.
Zach Randolph is a good place to start when talking about what’s good about this team. He may not have encapsulated the “grit and grind” mentality quite like guard Tony Allen does, but he does give this team 17.4 points and 10.4 rebounds a night. He may not talk all that much, but with game like that he doesn’t really need to. Marc Gasol is the best player on this team, but injury limited him to 59 regular season games, all of which he started. Still though, last year’s Defensive Player of the Year has still chipped in with 14.6 points and 7.2 rebounds. An underrated aspect of his game is the 3.6 assists a game he gives this team, good for second in the league among centers. With big men Gasol and Randolph putting in this kind of effort, the Grizzlies can and will wear you down.
Point guard Mike Conley has begun flirting with elite status in the most stacked position in the league, and is having his best season yet leading this team. Watching him play, you can see that he has learned what plays to make at the right times, something that was not always true and frustrated fans in the past. His 17.2 points a game surpasses his previous career high of 14.6 set last year. Also his Player Efficiency Rating of 20 (league average 15) is the highest it has ever been and proof that he has slowly become very important for this franchise. His 6.5 assists a night place him a respectable sixteenth in the league in that category, again putting some more proof into the fact that this guy is pushing to become an elite point guard, but is not quite there yet. Still though he has certainly won many fans over with his ever improving level of play.
Why They Might Exit Early
Memphis is known as a team that plays hard every night and fights for every possession, that is its identity. You might think that effort may also lead to them being a top rebounding team, but you would be wrong. The team rank 19th in the league in rebounding (42.4 a night) and can certainly be out rebounded in the paint on that evidence. With Randolph and Gasol on the team it is strange to think that they can be beaten for rebounds inside, but it is possible. The worry here is that their frontcourt is what makes this team so formidable. Tony Allen is an elite defender and Conley can get to his spot and do a lot of things for this team. The blunt truth their though, is that there are better backcourt tandems in this league. So if the big boys up front, their most physically imposing and best players, are getting beaten in key areas, this team can expect to struggle and not last very long in a loaded Western Conference.
Fatigue is an issue as well. After a slow start, last season’s conference finalists expended a lot of energy firstly to get back into the playoff race, and then to actually clinch a spot. This team must be tired with all that it has taken them to get to this point, but there is no real let up for them before the big dance begins. Other teams have loosened up rotations and rested key players, but this team couldn’t, and that may come back to haunt them. Also, a matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder is about as tough as it can get. So even without looking too much at statistics, which go out the window when the playoffs, or ‘second season’ begin anyway, the Grizzlies certainly have their work cut out for them.
Tony Allen. A special mention must go to rookie Nick Calathes, he has provided some nice pop off the bench and even started seven games for the team during the season too. Mike Miller could have been the guy to fill this spot, but deadeye shooting aside, it’s clear he has been banged up for about three years now. Still his 7.1 points off the bench is something. On another occasion, this would have gone to Tayshaun Prince instead. But Allen is the heart and soul of this team. His nine points and 1.7 assists per game are pedestrian numbers. The fact he only played in 55 games and started 28 is a part of the reason for this team’s struggles, and that just shows you how important he is. He has been defending opponent’s best players for years now, and truly relishes the task. He is the heart of this team, and whether it is on the court on sitting on the bench, the Memphis Grizzlies are a better and tougher team when he is around them.
How They’ll Do
It’s a pity the Western Conference is so tough, as the Grizzlies are going home in round one as a result. The Thunder are just too complete a team that are further along in their path to glory to slip up to this team. It’ll be a five-game series, with Memphis taking a win because they are capable of doing so. It would be interesting to see how far this team could have gone in the weaker Eastern Conference, they would have been a real banana skin for higher seeded teams there. But since we can’t change geography this team goes packing in round one.