We chatted with Brandon, aka bballfromgrace, at Grizzly Bear Blues about what’s up with the Grizzlies these days. We also handed out a few answers of our own over at GBB here.
1. How far do most Grizzlies’ fans see their team as having the ability to advance in the playoffs this year?
Coincidentally enough, we actually just ran a poll prior to our latest podcast episode of GBB Live, and 53% voted that they expected the Grizzlies to lose in the first round, which, for the record, is also what I expect. I’m honestly a little surprised by the pessimism. I thought fans would at least predict a first round upset. But, hey, I guess that’s where we are.
The Grizzlies have a tough road ahead. They’ll more than likely be facing off against the second best team in the league, so the odds are against them. That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Grizzlies take the Spurs to six or seven games, and an upset certainly isn’t out of the question, but it’s still a long shot, and, based on the poll results, it appears fans understand that.
2. Is there any consensus about which team the Grizzlies would match up best with in the first round?
Most people (again, myself included) tend to favor a match-up against the Spurs rather than the Rockets based on style of play. Houston is all three-pointers and at-the-basket shots, and Memphis has struggled to guard the three-point line, particularly with Zach Randolph, who, while being able to anchor the Grizzlies bench on the offensive end, is a slow-footed liability on the perimeter on defense. Against San Antonio, those problems have been a little easier to cover up. Pau Gasol, for example, is a disaster trying to guard on the perimeter.
Memphis should be locked into the seventh seed by now, so that means they’ll also avoid the Warriors, who no one wants to play, even without a fully healthy Durant. Overall, considering there wasn’t much hope for getting to the 4-5 seeds and facing off against the Jazz or the Clippers, a matchup with San Antonio is the best the Grizzlies could’ve hoped for.
3. With eight straight years of falling in the good to very good but not great range, how much longer does this team stay together as currently constructed? How wide is the window?
Based on all of the conversations that have been had over the past several months about this team (and there have been plenty), we’re probably looking at the last season of the Core 4 (Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, Marc Gasol, Mike Conley) being together. Memphis will likely want to avoid the tax, and with JaMychal Green, Tony Allen, and Zach Randolph all becoming free agents, there’s just not enough money to keep everyone unless the older guys take a massive discount. Of those players, Allen feels like the least likely to return.
As for the window, it feels like it’s almost closed at this point. The team has finally started looking toward the future. The Fizdale hire was made with an eye to the future, and there’s been at least some commitment to developing younger players. Andrew Harrison has played above expectations, while Wade Baldwin, Jarell Martin, and Deyonta have mixed playing time with the NBA team and D-League. There’s still plenty of room for improvement, but this is the most dedicated the team has tried to be toward young players in a long time. It’s a good thing.
4. The Grizzlies haven’t been winning a ton lately. Is this a coasting down the stretch and getting guys healthy for the playoffs sort of thing or a sign of real vulnerability?
It’s probably been a little of both, to be honest. Marc Gasol missed a handful of games with a strained foot, JaMychal Green missed time with a sore shoulder, Mike Conley got his eye sliced open, and so on and so forth. Over the past few weeks, the Grizzlies’ injury luck hasn’t been particularly great.
That being said, they’ve also lost some pretty bad games over the past few weeks as well. There were losses to the Lakers and the Kings, both of whom are trying to tank, and those are the losses that are more concerning. It’s certainly possible to ascribe at least some of those performances to injuries and general disinterest – the Grizzlies are sort of known for late-season swoons like this – but it’s troubling for fans nonetheless.
I think once the playoffs start, the Grizzlies should be able to flip a switch and up their level of play, but the real question will be how much of a difference that makes. I’m not convinced it’s enough to win a playoff series, but it might be enough for them to take the Spurs to six.