The Memphis Grizzlies aren’t that different from last year.
After getting to the Conference Finals, they brought back their core and stayed under the tax. All in all, that has to be considered a success, but it definitely leaves them behind the San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder in the West. Truth be told, it will be a struggle for them to get as far as they did last year with the same core unless they see serious development from some of their players.
This is not out of the question, though.
Possibly the best candidate for a big improvement is Mike Conley. He was one of their better scorers last season and ran their offense. His role will continue to increase as Zach Randolph gets older, but Conley has shown the ability to take on that role. The biggest thing Conley could do is keep improving his three-point shot. The Grizzlies are desperate for spacing and Conley is good, but not great from three-point land. If he can get to 38 or 39 percent, it could give a big boost to the offense. Conley is a great passer, but really only a good scorer. At 15 points a game with a true shooting percentage of 55 percent, he is above average, but for the Grizz to really make a leap, he will need to score more, and more efficiently.
The addition of Mike Miller should also help the Grizzlies maintain spacing. They will need him badly as they had so much trouble getting space last year. He will help, but do not expect the Grizzlies to make a leap on offense unless Conley is a lot better. Expect Marc Gasol to improve on offense, as well, but this team is very unlikely to be a top-10 offense.
All of this focus is on offense because that is really where the Grizzlies have to be better. On defense, they were incredible last year and have brought back the same core to keep up the excellence. Tony Allen and Gasol should once again lead a top-three defense this year.
The Grizzlies are essentially the same team from last year. That means it is unlikely they will be much different in terms of wins. In fact, their biggest difference that should help them is the absence of Rudy Gay. Without Gay, Gasol and Conley can shine and hopefully make strides. Still, this team will be thirsty for spacing and points all season. Their top defense will lead them to 50-plus wins, but not the conference finals.
Prediction: Grizzlies earn the fourth seed with 53 wins.