The Memphis Grizzlies have won more than 60 percent of their games over the past three seasons and won 50 or more (or been on pace to in the lockout shortened 2011-12 season) games in each of those years. This is a feat only replicated by three other teams over that timespan: the Miami Heat, the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder. So obviously they are in great company and have been one of the more successful teams in the recent NBA.
Putting aside the messed up situation with the coaching staff, front office and ownership, the Grizzlies have other trouble brewing. Zach Randolph turns 33 before the start of next season. Mike Miller, if retained, is already 34. Tony Allen is 32 years old and still has three years left on his deal. Tayshaun Prince is done. Even Marc Gasol is already 29, and while he is unlikely to decline, it looks like he’s the best he’s ever going to be. Ed Davis hasn’t totally panned out as Z-Bo’s successor, and the Grizzlies might be unable to retain him in any case. They don’t have many young assets, and owe a first rounder which is top-five and 15 through 30 protected in both 2015 and 2016, top-five protected in 2017 and 2018, and unprotected in 2019. It’s not great to be a small market team that owes picks, especially since your only players younger than 26 right now are Jon Leuer, Nick Calathes, Kosta Koufos, Jamaal Franklin and Ed Davis.
It’s very difficult for a team like Memphis to go from fringe contention to being a serious threat for a title in the way the current NBA works. You don’t have a chance to improve your draft standing in the lottery, free agents aren’t clamoring to take a pay cut to fight for a title with Memphis and unless you make a hugely lopsided trade, it’s really difficult to get significantly better.
The growth has to come from within, and the following graph discusses what to expect from each of the top players on the Grizzlies heading into future years. Based on how statistically similar players have performed and how they have improved or declined.
(Will be using PER, which, while not always the best indicator of performance, does offer good insight into year-by-year development)