Grizzlies’ Defense Holds Key Next Term
The Memphis Grizzlies’ season ended in familiar circumstances in the 2016-17 campaign with a first-round playoff exit at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs.
The Grizzlies were defeated by the same opponent at the same stage of last season under the tenure of Dave Joerger. The head coach paid for the failure with his job as his side were swept by San Antonio, with David Fizdale replacing him on the sideline for the start of the new term.
Fizdale had great success at the start of the campaign, and although his side comfortably qualified for the post-season they had lost their initial momentum.
Memphis made important moves in the off-season, locking down captain Mike Conley Jr to a lucrative five-year contract extension – then the biggest contract in NBA history. The 29-year-old had arguably the best term of his career, averaging 20.5 points per game, while his shooting from distance was nothing short of outstanding.
Chandler Parsons was signed to a four-year contract from the Dallas Mavericks, although his impact was stymied by injuries, limiting the forward to just 34 matches.
Although the Grizzlies faced a huge task in their division against the Spurs and the Houston Rockets, featuring superstars Kawhi Leonard and James Harden respectively, the club still boasted the third-best defensive record in the NBA
However, their offense struggled throughout the term, culminating in their defeat at the hands of Spurs by a 4-2 scoreline in the first round of the playoffs.
We’ll now look back at the entirety of the campaign and look ahead to the new term, where the club will aim to build on their solid first term under Fizdale.
The Grizzlies began the campaign at home against the Minnesota Timberwolves, with Conley getting his side off to the perfect start to the term with a 24-point performance to secure the win. Their first road trip ended in a defeat at the hands of the New York Knicks, but the response from Fizdale’s men was to produce a strong outing to overcome the Washington Wizards in overtime.
November began with a poor run of form, losing three out of their opening four matches. Memphis recovered by edging out the Denver Nuggets by a single point at FedExForum before they reeled off a brilliant run of results, reeling off six wins on the bounce.
It began with back-to-back triumphs on the road against the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Lakers and ended with a hard-fought battle with the Philadelphia 76ers in double overtime. Marc Gasol led the way to victory over the 76ers with a 27-point performance, highlighting his importance.
Memphis ended the month on a low note with consecutive defeats to the Charlotte Hornets and the Toronto Raptors. However, those losses stood them in good stead as they were able to bounce back at the start of December, with arguably their strongest run of form of the campaign.
The Grizzlies won six matches on the spin as Gasol and Troy Daniels operated at a high level, and their run culminated with an outstanding display to defeat the Golden State Warriors, limiting the Bay Area outfit’s potent offense to just 89 points.
Fizdale’s men were unable to maintain the impressive standard of performances for the rest of the month, although they ended 2016 with back-to-back triumphs over the Oklahoma City Thunder and Sacramento Kings and a 22-14 record.
The new year started poorly for the Grizzlies, losing their opening two matches to the Lakers and the Clippers, but the response was emphatic against the Warriors. Conley produced a strong outing, scoring 27 points to lead an overtime victory at Oracle Arena, stunning Steve Kerr’s men.
Another win followed against the Jazz on home soil in a low-scoring affair, but the month would prove to be frustrating for Memphis as they struggled to kick on in their bid to move towards the 40-win mark. Gasol produced his best outing of the season to defeat the Raptors, notching 42 points, while Conley followed suit with 38-pointer to end January on a high note.
February began well as the club reeled off four victories in their opening five matches, including a triumph over the Spurs on home soil, limiting Gregg Popovich’s side to just 74 points. They lost momentum after the All-Star break, which coincided with their worst run of form in the campaign.
Fizdale’s men lost five matches on the bounce before reeling off four straight-wins. Their baffling run continued with four consecutive losses, although two wins towards the end of March secured their place in the playoffs thanks to two special performances from Conley.
The seventh seed drew them against the Spurs – more than familiar opponents, who they had given a tough time in the regular campaign. However, Leonard put them on the back foot immediately with two fine displays at AT&T Center as Popvich’s men took a 2-0 lead.
Conley got his side back on level terms with two brilliant outings of his own, but the Spurs managed to regain control of the series to secure a 4-2 series win to advance to the Conference Semi-Finals.
The Grizzlies have been quiet thus far in the off-season. They did not have any draft picks to use and were forced to trade further selections to get involved in the action.
They acquired the rights to Ivan Rabb with the 35th selection from the Orlando Magic, while they did the same with Dillon Brooks with the 45th pick in an exchange with the Houston Rockets.
Brooks was a solid player in the Pac-12 for the Oregon Ducks, averaging over 16 points per game in his final two seasons at the club, although the step up will be dramatic in the NBA.
Rabb faces a similar challenge adapting to life in the league, but he too fared well in the college game with the California Golden Bears. Second-round selections rarely make an immediate impact, although last season’s Rookie of the Year – Malcolm Brogdon – sprung a surprise.
Their free-agent moves have not been flashy, re-signing Wayne Selden Jr to a new deal, while Tyreke Evans and Ben McLemore have also penned deals Neither of those players should be able to take the club to the next level therefore it will be on Conley, Gasol and Parsons to take the club forward.
It will be a huge challenge for any club in the Western Conference to challenge the Warriors’ dominance. As a result, only bet small on the Grizzlies – if at all – on the Grizzlies at 80/1 with SportingBet to win the Conference next season.
For US betters check out this list of bookmakers – https://www.sbo.net/country/us/ – in order to get the best odds for the 2017-18 season.
- David Fizdale
- Memphis Grizzlies
- Mike Conley Jr