Memphis Grizzlies: Contenders or Pretenders?

By Nathan Grubel
Memphis Grizzlies
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

The Memphis Grizzlies have had playoff success over the past few years, but have not made it to where the best of the best play: the NBA Finals.

The Grizzlies have been as high as the conference finals when the team made it there last year, but each year the team falls short and does not reach the ultimate goal every team has.

Whether its been the Oklahoma City Thunder or the San Antonio Spurs, some team out in the Western Conference has been able to put a stop to the Grizzlies’ playoff success each season. The Grizzlies have made minor changes to the roster over the past few seasons, but the core of Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley has remained the same.

If the Grizzlies have not won with this core group before, will they ever truly be good enough to contend for an NBA championship?

The answer is yes, but only if the Grizzlies do not beat themselves first.

Each year, the Grizzlies seem to have the same problems on the court. Randolph and Gasol become the focus of the offense due to lack of explosive perimeter scorers, which allows the opposing team to clog the lane and double team in the post. Without proper ball movement and shot making ability on the perimeter, the Grizzlies have little choice but to throw the ball into the post and hope for the best.

Thankfully, the Grizzlies may not have to rely on that strategy this year.

Conley has improved greatly overall as a perimeter threat, taking more shots per game and being a more aggressive scoring threat than he has been in the past. Conley attacking the rim on a consistent basis is one of the best things that can happen for the Grizzlies because it allows Conley to get into the lane and either get a look himself and draw a foul, or pass it out to an open teammate on the perimeter for a score off the deep shot. His quickness gives him the ability to get into the lane almost at will, and now that Conley is showing the willingness to get into the paint, the sky is the limit for how much better he can become at maximizing his opportunities off of lane penetration.

Even though the Grizzlies are one of the worse three point shooting teams in the league (35.2 percent which is the ninth worst percentage in the NBA), they have perimeter weapons that are capable of hitting big shots in the playoffs.

Conley, Courtney Lee, Mike Miller and Tayshaun Prince have all hit deep shots when it mattered before, and Jon Leuer and Nick Calathes should also be able to provide a shooting spark off of the bench for the Grizzlies.

Memphis has capable shooters; they just need to remember to take good shots instead of forcing shots up late in the shot clock.

Memphis would be wise to avoid trying to hold out for the absolute best shot possible, and try to shoot it when there is any kind of opening. While the players should not take too many contested shots, any kind of good look found off of ball movement should be used to put up a timely shot from beyond the arc. The more a team shoots from deep and makes it at a somewhat efficient rate, the more the defense has to step out and contest the perimeter shooters, which allows guys like Randolph and Gasol more room inside to do their own thing and get good easy looks around the rim.

The Grizzlies have the personnel to keep playing solid defense on that end of the floor. Tony Allen, Conley and Gasol are not going anywhere, and Prince has even proven to be an effective defender for stretches. Calathes has also proven during the regular season to be effective at guarding either the one or the two.

As long as the Grizzlies take care of the ball, find effective perimeter shots and play defense, they can beat anyone.

Memphis is a contender.

Nathan Grubel is a Memphis Grizzlies writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @The_Only_Grubes, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google


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