One of the more underrated stories of the off-season has been the Memphis Grizzlies. For the last two seasons this has been a team simply regarded as a team that no one wants to see on their side of the playoff bracket due to their physical and aggressive style of play.
But this is an intriguing year for them because they are trying to make the transition from middle-of-the-pack team to championship contender. For all teams walking that fine line, this is often the most difficult task to accomplish.
But the Grizzlies will have no choice, if they are going to justify their $70 million payroll, 11th in the NBA.
Will they be able to make that leap?
That answer will come this season. If the Grizzlies are to take the next step at becoming a contender, they’re going to need their bench to produce.
The bench unit for the Grizzlies left plenty to be desired last year, finishing 19th in the league in points. Add to the fact that Zach Randolph missed much of the regular season with a knee injury. As a result, Marc Gasol and Rudy Gay had to overexert themselves to keep their team in the top half of the playoff bracket.
A bad bench doesn’t become as problematic in the postseason, but the poor play of the Grizzlies’ subs became their undoing in last year’s first round against the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers bench outscored the Grizzlies bench 41-11 in the seventh game of their playoff bout.
This year, the team will lean heavily on Tony Wroten and Jerryd Bayless to fill the void that OJ Mayo left and carry the second unit. Both of whom are good athletes and aren’t afraid to attack the paint. Their offensively talented back-up power forward Marreese Speights will also be a big factor.
It appears the core of Gasol, Randolph and Gay has reached its ceiling in terms of talent. It will be up to the back-ups to vault the Grizzlies to contender status.