Monday, January 18, 2010

From the ground up...

So has anyone noticed the Memphis Grizzlies this year? Maybe you haven't because you're so accustomed to looking for them at the bottom of the standings. This year though, they are actually 3 games above .500, and are playing some great basketball as of late. Due to their massive variety of talent, I knew that it was only a matter of time before they were challenging for a playoff spot, but I definitely didn't think that it would be going this well, this quickly.

Memphis is one of those teams that doesn't have a MVP-type player, or even a definite leader, (there is no Kobe, LeBron, or D-Wade on their team) but what they do have is a very talented group of players who can beat you in multiple ways.

~Rudy Gay is without a doubt one of the most underrated players in the league today. Most people only see his inhuman athletic ability by his spectacular dunks, but he is actually a very well-rounded player. He can get into the lane almost at will, and has the ability to draw fouls. He is also a very capable passer, and solid rebounder. I think the most underrated part of his game however, is his jump-shooting ability. When people watch highlights of him, his dunks and drives to the hoop are the only thing people notice, but he is actually a very dependable shooter, and most of his points actually come off of jumpshots. His 20.1 points is second on the team, and his 6.1 rebounds rank third on the team. Don't think he is just an offensive player though, he also gets 1.51 steals, and 0.86 blocks per contest. As I said, this team doesn't really have a go-to player, but Rudy is probably the closest thing this team has to a leader.

~Zach Randolph is a double-double machine. Since he played in Portland for the earlier part of his career, I am very familiar with him. Personally, I am not a fan of him, he is actually one of my least favorite players. I think he has a very bad attitude, and I didn't even like him when he was playing for my favorite team. He also has very poor shot selection. Personal matters aside, there is no doubt that he puts up numbers. No matter where he has played, whether it's been Portland, Los Angeles, New York, or Memphis, he has always been one of the most consistent players in the league. He manages to get 20 points and 10 rebounds EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. When I say every single night, I literally mean EVERY NIGHT. He always finds some way to get a double-double, no matter what the circumstances are. He is averaging 20.5 points, and 11.5 rebounds this season; which are both team-highs. He is also shooting 50% from the field, and 81% from the foul line; which is very impressive, especially for a Power forward. Despite all the negative aspects of Randolph's game, you can't argue with numbers like that.

~O.J. Mayo, while also being one of my least favorite players, is a player any team would like to have on their roster. He still struggles with his shot selection, at times, but that will get better as he matures. He's not really a defensive player, not a great rebounder, or even a great passer, but he can score whenever he wants. He is averaging 18.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists this season. When the Grizzlies absolutely need a bucket, O.J. will most likely be the one getting the ball, and he can usually make the shot, no matter how much defense is applied to him.

~Marc Gasol has turned into a very dependable post player. He doesn't get the same acclaim as his older brother, and has never really been taken seriously, but he is actually putting up near-All-Star numbers this season. He had a very solid rookie season, and people thought that he might be a pretty average player, but he put in a lot of work this offseason, and came back this year to prove he was way above average. He is putting up 14.7 points this season on 61% feild goal shooting, and is a solid free-throw shooter for a 7-footer shooting 66%. He has also proved that he can be a great rebounder and defensive player by grabbing 9.7 boards, and 1.5 blocks a game. Since Zach Randolph is more of a mid-range/perimeter player, most people thought that left the Grizz without a low-post presence, but Marc has actually developed a very nice low-post game. I wouldn't be at all surprised if we see him in the All-Star game in the next couple of years.

~Mike Conley has had a lot of doubters and haters since he came into the league, but the Grizzlies know how good he really is, and have put all their trust in him to be their point guard of the future. They proved this when Allen Iverson came in at the beginning of the season. Iverson was expected to come in and be the starting point guard, but Conley ended up not only keeping his starting position, but also playing more minutes. Although his averages of 10.3 points, and 4.9 assists don't seem too impressive, that is exactly what the Grizz want him to do, and they couldn't be more satisfied with him.

One Knock on the Grizzlies is their lack of a bench. Outside of rookie Sam Young (8.1 points), the next highest scoring average by a bench player is Marcus Williams with 3.9. Their bench isn't exactly the best in the league, but coach Hollins always finds a way to get a good rotation out there on every possession. They also have a lot of young talent, who haven't even come close to realizing their potential yet (Hasheem Thabeet, Lester Hudson, Sam Young, DaMarre Carroll).

The Grizzlies have come a long way in a short time. The organization has been at an all-time low, and are finally starting to have hope for the future by their recent success. The bottom of the Western Conference is stacked as usual, and the Grizzlies might not even make the playoffs (or might just be in 7th or 8th), but if one thing is for certain, it's that you definitely can't take this team for granted.

I'm out....

(and be sure to check out Hurty's post right beneath this one)
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