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NBA Memphis Grizzlies

Top-5 Players To Watch On Memphis Grizzlies

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Top 5 Players to Watch for the Memphis Grizzlies

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Spruce-Derden-USA TODAY Sports

Analysts either love the Memphis Grizzlies or think they are inherently flawed. Both, in a way, are right.

Naysayers claim the Grizzlies are not talented enough to ever win a championship, as evidenced by their lack of star power and mediocre offense. Supporters look to the Grizzlies as a team that is smartly managed and has built a team through defense and smart, small calculated moves. They say it is easy to get star players and build a contender, what the Grizz have done is much more impressive. Finally, they claim Marc Gasol is a legitimate star; just few realize it because his dominance is on defense.

The Grizzlies are both at the same time. They are a well-constructed team with a star player and some talent, but as it is currently constructed the Grizzlies will struggle to seriously compete for an NBA title. The Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs all simply have more talent than the Grizzlies. That doesn’t mean the Grizzlies aren’t a great team, but it does make one wonder what exactly the plan is. They are just under the tax and seem unwilling to go over it, so a large signing is not doable and the team is not constructed of young talent that is bound to blossom. Do the Grizzlies have even a five percent chance of winning? Maybe, it is unclear to some. Vegas has them at 35/1 odds, or around three percent.

What the Grizzlies need is for all of their older players to maintain their play and for a few surprises to happen. Then they might have a shot. Let’s look at their 5 most important assets to see what must happen for the Grizzlies to compete in the West.

Jay Cullen is an NBA writer for Rantsports.com. Follow him on Twitter or add him on Google.

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5. Marc Gasol

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Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Honestly, Marc Gasol cannot get much better. I don’t necessarily mean that in the best way possible, though. What makes Gasol endearing and effective is how he has maximized his potential. He passes well, shoots well and has incredible positioning, but never relies on super athleticism or innate talent (besides being 7-foot of course). Gasol is somewhat maxed out. What can he realistically get better at? Maybe post moves, but that is about it.

The Grizzlies need from him is to be as good as he was last year (and he was great) if they want chance at winning the West. As one of the best defenders in the league Gasol is clearly a top-10 player. He is their star, and must continue to be so, especially because he is not going to get much better.

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4. Ed Davis

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Ed Davis was slipped into the Rudy Gay trade as an afterthought, but in reality, Davis could be a game changer in Memphis. Davis is only 23 and posted some very good per minute stats last year. Davis had a PER over 17 last year and an offensive rating of around 114, both of which put him in the top fifth of players. Those numbers could come down with more minutes, but at age 23, Davis could easily get better. He is not the best defender, but if paired with guys like Tony Allen and Marc Gasol, he should be fine. If Davis can start to get more time and show his skills he could really make the Memphis offense better. The Grizzlies desperately need points and Davis knows how to create them. Davis could really be a key for them in coming years if he can get time on the floor.

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3. Mike Miller

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Miller is at best a sharp shooter that the Grizzlies desperately need. Unfortunately, he is more likely to be constantly injured and in street clothes. Miller was never 100 percent last year and though he showed flashes of greatness, most of his time was spent on the bench. The Grizz last year had absolutely no spacing, so the Miller pickup made total sense, but many question if it will do much with his injury risk.

Simply put, the Grizzlies need him to be healthy for the playoffs. If he isn’t their spacing issues will simply be exploited again by the Spurs who grinded their offense to a halt

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2. Zach Randolph

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Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Zach Randolph seems to be in the middle of a slow decline. In 2012, he was hurt for much of the year and many believe he would turn it around in 2013. It didn’t happen. He was still good, getting a PER of 18 and averaging around 16 points a game, but that is a far cry from 2011 when he averaged 20 and 10 with a PER of almost 23. He simply is not the same player and that will really hurt Memphis.

Memphis cannot expect to see the old Randolph, but they can hope he can stave off a full collapse for another year or two. His game does not depend on athleticism at all and he still has a plethora of post moves and a good shot on offense. He also is still a great rebounder and is certainly a key piece. If Randolph continues to slip in production, though, the Grizzlies could be in serious trouble.

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1. Mike Conley

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Spruce-Derden-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Conley needs to be excellent for the Grizzlies to even have a shot. Conley has been steadily improving and last year was the key to holding the Grizzlies offense together at times. Without him, I wonder if they Grizzlies could even be a top-20 offense. Luckily, he will be around for a while and should get better with time. This year he really must. If Conley can make a jump to the Russell Westbrook or Tony Parker levels, the Grizzlies offense may be able to crack the top 10 and really compete for a title.

This team is all about grit and grind defense. They will be top-five defensively. The question is can they score. Conley is the only one really talented enough to carry them to a good offense. It will be on his shoulders and while he is a great player, few expect him to be able to make that leap. Hopefully, at least for Grizzlies fans, he proves everyone wrong.