The goal for the Memphis Grizzlies going into the upcoming NBA season should be to win it all. They have a team that is very capable of doing just that. Last season they fell just a bit short in the brutal Western Conference when they advanced to the conference semifinals before losing to the eventual champion Golden State Warriors in six games.
The Grizzlies held a 2-1 lead before the Warriors stormed back to take the series, but as it turned out it was as tough a series as the Warriors had in their championship run.
What would it take for Memphis to lift up the championship trophy at the end of the 2015-16 season? Actually, it would not take all that much. With Marc Gasol the Grizzlies may have the best center not named Dwight Howard in the game today. Mike Conley is a very underrated point guard but he is about as good as there is. He averaged 15 points and five assists per game a year ago.
Memphis went 55-27 in the regular season last year, which was good enough for second place, one game behind Howard’s Houston Rockets in the Southwest Division, tied with the San Antonio Spurs.
While it is true that Memphis was just one of several Western Conference teams that could be picked out of a hat once Golden State was assured of the top seed, there is no doubt they have the roster to win the championship this season. Golden State jumped all the way from a team that was knocked out of the first round the previous year to World Champions. They did not accomplish this by getting a superstar player like the Cleveland Cavaliers did. They got there with the help of Draymond Green.
It is true that Steph Curry had a career year and Andrew Bogut finally made a contribution, but the guys who put the Warriors over the top were Green, Marrese Speights and Andre Iguodala.
The Grizzlies would need Conley, Gasol and Zach Randolph to play at their best to win it all, but they too have some guys who could very well step in and contribute mightily to help get them to the championship.
Graphic via star telegram
Who are these guys who could put Memphis over the top? How about Russ Smith? In the Orlando Summer League, Smith looked a lot like his college days when he helped lead the Louisville Cardinals to a National Championship and two straight Final Fours appearances. A backcourt that features Conley at the point and Smith coming in to relieve him looks very good in this point guard driven league.
There is also Jarnell Stokes who is going into his second season. He is a very talented forward from Tennessee and he could become a good backup to Randolph. Or how about Jeff Green who averaged over 13 points per game last season? He only played in 45 games because of injuries. He could be that guy who has a breakout year and puts them over the top.
The Grizzlies need a “best case scenario” to happen for them to win the NBA Championship. But, other than possibly the Cavaliers, who doesn’t? Can the Warriors repeat if Curry or Green or Klay Thompson fall off a bit? If Howard and James Harden don’t dominate can the Rockets get there? No.
The Grizzlies have enough talent that if all goes well and they catch a break or two, they could very well go all the way. Going into a season, that is all one can ask.
Graphic via bealestreetbears