COACH: LIONEL HOLLINS
A lot of crazy things happened in the NBA last year, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find many weirder than Zach Randolph turning into a franchise player and possible savior.
As crazy as that sounds, it’s more or less accurate. The Grizz, winners of a mere 24 games in 2009 and off to a slow start as a result of the failed Allen Iverson expriment, still somehow managed to win 40 games and stay in the playoff hunt for most of the season behind a guy who looked and talked an awful lot like Zach Randolph but somehow played like a completely different dude, scoring, rebounding and passing out of double-teams like a man possessed. If not for a little bad luck (and subpar play from point guard Mike Conley), this team of young uns might have made the post-season, and the nucleus of Randolph and youngsters Rudy Gay, O.J. Mayo and Marc Gasol would have been heading into this season with momentum and a rare amount of buzz from the Memphis fans.
But something else happened.
Zach Randolph happened.
Or more specifically, Randolph was fingered as a financier for a known Indianapolis drug dealer, casting doubts on his future, and the Grizzlies’ as well.
Even better, Randolph is in a contract year, and the only thing more likely to kill the chemistry of a young team than a guy with legal problems is a guy playing for a new deal.
So much for plan A.
Good news is, they’ve got some talent here, and after the dismantling of the Pau Gasol (and the disastrous trade of Gasol) teams that made a couple playoff appearances, they’ve emerged on the other side as a team with a fairly bright future.
Of course, it isn’t all roses.
To put it kindly, the drafting of Hasheem Thabeet with last years’ #2 pick was a major screw-up, especially in light of the fact that starting point guard Mike Conley is one more bad year short of official bust status, and last years draft featured Tyreke Evans, Stephen Curry, Brandon Jennings and Johnny Flynn, aka “4 guys who play the point better than Conley”. Sure, young Mike does show an ability to excel in the open-court and is awfully quick, but has not showing the ability to run a team than needs to take advantage of it’s gifted scorers.
Nevertheless, this is a team with solid starting line-up, an impressive young bench and even better, zero players in their rotation over the age of 30. Sure, there’s a good likelihood that Randolph will be gone at the end of the season or sooner, but with the Younger Gasol coming off a career season (15 points, 10 rebounds a game) and Gay locked up with a big money deal, Memphis’ best days may still be ahead of them.
What we do know for certain is they have the personnel to get out and run if they want to, and honestly this team is probably best suited to an up-tempo style. Getting out and running with guys like Connley, Mayo, Gay and the bench unit of Demarre Caroll, Xavier Henry, Sam Young, Tony Allen and Darrell Arthur sounds like good plan.
Of course, these guys are pretty thin up front (insert Thabeet joke here), and judging by the Vegas Summer League, they are thin enough at point guard being Conley that they tried Mayo there. Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty.
What this all means (give or take) is that this team is teetering on the edge of really good or bad things, depending on how the Randolph situation plays out, and if one ball is enough to keep all these young guys happy, and most importantly, if the notoriously fickle ownership allows them to spend what it takes to compete in today’s NBA. Given that they spent big money to re-sign Gay this summer, one can only hope.
IF THEY GET LUCKY: Randolph stays out of jail, in a Girzzlies’ jersey and in control of his game. Conley catches up to the progress of the other four starters, and the bench plays with the youth and athleticism they are capable of. If it all happens, don’t be shocked to see this team win alot. Like, 50 games alot.
Yes, I’m serious.
IF THEY DONT:
Tenacious Z goes into business for himself in pursuit of a new contract and team chemistry goes to hell. Really, the season more or less hinges on that. Randolph has a proven reputation as a locker room cancer and the possibility exists that he’ll walk thru the door one day and start pulling stuff like this:
REALITY: This team has a great shot of making the play-offs, but only is Zach has his shit together. As a bonus, I’ll put them near the top as far as teams I like watching, being a true-blue fan of atheltic, fast paced Basketball. Hopefully, that’s what we’ll get.
(GRIZZLY BONUS) THERE IS AN ABUNDANCE OF FUNNY ZACH RANDOLPH PICTURES ON THE INTERWEBS
Seriously, I might need to spin this off into a feature or something…
Duneavy & Randolph: A match made in, well, last place.
I call this one “Isiah’s franchise-killing chemistry Molotov”
If anything sums up his tenure with Portland…
Randolph and Eddy Curry engaged in the wrong kind of competition (who can get fatter) in New York