Wednesday, October 8, 2008

2008/09 Memphis Grizzlies Preview

Memphis Grizzlies
Last Years Record: 22-60
Key Losses: Mike Miller, Juan Carlos Navarro, Jason Collins (Minor Losses: Brian Cardinal, Andre Brown)
Key Additions: O.J. Mayo, Marc Gasol, Darrell Arthur (Minor additions: Antoine Walker, Hamed Haddadi, Quinton Ross)

1. What significant moves were made during the offseason?
The Grizzlies revamped their roster in the offseason, completing what had been started with the trade of Pau Gasol during the season. On draft night, they traded away the last of the contributors from the squad that made 3 straight trips to the postseason when they sent Mike Miller and Brian Cardinal to Minnesota along with Jason Collins and the rights to Kevin Love in exchange for the rights to O.J. Mayo and the contracts of Antoine Walker, Marko Jaric and Greg Buckner. They also acquired Darrell Arthur in exchange for Donte Greene and a 2nd round pick.

Then they signed highly touted draft pick Marc Gasol to a contract to compete for the starting center position. They followed that up by signing Hamed Haddadi and Quinton Ross as well, to shore up the roster depth at some areas of need.

The biggest move that was made this offseason was the choice to allow Marc Iavaroni to remain as head coach of the team after rumors swirled about his possible departure. Ivy will get a second chance (as he should, IMO) to show that he can coach this young team to success.

2. What are the team's biggest strengths?
Youthful exuberance and determination. This team could achieve quite a bit more than is expected of them simply because they don't know any better. Top draft pick O.J. Mayo has been lauded for his drive to succeed and that attitude has visibly spread throughout the entire team. This collection of players doesn't intend to lay down for anyone, no matter what the odds against them might appear to be. In that way, they remind me a lot of the youthful team that arrived in Memphis a mere 7 years ago. I think that they will win more games than they probably should, just because they don't know any better.

3. What are the team's biggest weaknesses?
This team lacks experience. In all likelihood, only one starter will be older than 23 at the beginning of the season and the depth behind those starters isn't entirely tested either. The players with real experience (Antoine Walker, Greg Buckner) are on the downslope of their careers and are mostly viewed as contracts moreso than players to the majority of the fanbase. Fortunately, these young guys will get plenty of playing time to remedy that weakness, which everyone hopes will lead to some much-needed maturation. This franchise is on a 3-year plan to return to playoff levels, so talent and experience are the two key ingredients. They are working diligently on the first one, but the second will take some time.

4. What are the goals for this team?
Survival? If not that, then the goal is to display that they know what it takes to win games, even if they aren't quite good enough to do so consistently. They need to play much better defense than last year and to remain in games mentally for all 4 quarters. They have to show heart, since that has been missing from the team the last two miserable seasons. Mostly they need to show that they "get it" and are legitimate NBA talent capable of playing at the highest of levels.

5. Is there a real starting power forward on the roster?
They have 4 players capable of playing the position (Hakim Warrick, Antoine Walker, Darrell Arthur, Darko Milicic), but are any of them a legitimate answer? Warrick is a solid scorer/rebounder, but has limitations everywhere else. Walker spends too much time on the perimeter and not enough in the low post, not to mention that he is not the long-term answer for the team. Darrell Arthur is a rookie who shouldn't be expected to shoulder a tremendous role this year. Darko Milicic is a solid defender, but has issues with his offensive game and his confidence/mental approach is always a big question mark. I believe that the Grizzlies will look to trade either Warrick or Walker (or both), along with one of the young guards (likely Lowry or Crittenton) to acquire a legit PF at some point this season, perhaps a rental like Shawn Marion.

Predicted Record: 28-54

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