The Memphis Grizzlies presently sit 2 games outside of the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with a 20-19 record. Of those 39 games, Marc Gasol has only played 16 games, and Tony Allen has played only 27 games. Zach Randolph and Mike Conley, Jr. have held down the fort for the Grizzlies with both of those key players hurt, but with Gasol finally back in the lineup and Allen soon to return, the Grizzlies are ready to not only qualify for the playoffs, but also make a deep playoff run.
With the Western Conference being stacked with talented teams like the Thunder, Spurs, Warriors, Clippers, and Rockets, it may seem as though there is no room for another contender to emerge. But the Grizzlies just may be a team that could join the conversation of possible teams to come out of the Western Conference. In the debate about whether or not the Grizzlies are serious contenders to win the West, I will argue in favor of them being a contender.
The first reason why the Grizzlies are contenders to come out of the Western Conference is that they were contenders last season with basically the same roster. Last year, the Grizzlies advanced to the Western Conference Finals while seeded 5th in the conference, taking out the Clippers and the Thunder. Even though they did get swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the Conference Finals, it is impossible to ignore the fact that the Grizzlies still found themselves to be one of the final four teams standing in the NBA playoffs. If they can get put themselves into that situation with Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, and Mike Conley as their core, there is no reason to think that they can’t do it again.
The second reason why the Grizzlies are contenders is because they have actually made improvements to their roster from last season. Especially in the 3-point shooting department, which was their weakness, ranking 24th in the NBA on 34.5% shooting from down town. To improve that, the Grizzlies added Mike Miller and Courtney Lee to their roster, two guys who shoot above 40% from 3-point land. Now that they have a couple of guys who can stretch the floor and knock down threes, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph suddenly become a lot more dangerous down low because they have more room to go to work in the post as a result of the floor being more spaced out. The same goes for Mike Conley, Jr., who suddenly will have more room to attack and penetrate the lane as a result of the spacing created by Miller and Lee.
The third and final reason I think the Grizzlies are contenders is because the Western Conference is wide open at the moment. The Spurs are still the favorites to come out of the West, but after them, it’s a total crapshoot. If the Grizzlies find a way to get into the playoffs, they will have as good a chance as any team at dethroning the Spurs and winning the Western Conference. None of the other teams in the mix for dethroning the Spurs have been to the Western Conference Finals with the exception being the Thunder, who is a weaker team than they were two years ago when they reached the Western Conference Finals with James Harden. Without Harden or his replacement Kevin Martin, I consider the Thunder just as unproven as the rest of the teams gunning for the Spurs. If healthy, the Grizzlies have just as good of a chance as any team in the West at getting past the Spurs and reaching the NBA Finals.
In conclusion, the Grizzlies are absolutely a contending team should they get healthy. Especially since their style of basketball is the type of basketball that succeeds in the playoffs. They defend well, they rebound well, and they grind down their opponents by playing a very physical brand of basketball. If they find themselves in the Western Conference playoffs, I think they will be a very dangerous team, capable of not only getting past the first round, but also capable of winning the Western Conference.