Here at Blue Man Hoop, we’re gearing up for the 2012-13 season by looking around the NBA to see how each team matches up with the Golden State Warriors. We’ll give you an overview of each opponent, a matchup or stat to watch and a measure of just how big a threat each opposing squad represents for the Dubs. Be sure to check out the other previews we’ve done so far on Blue Man Hoop: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, L.A. Clippers, L.A. Lakers.
Memphis Grizzlies Overview
The Memphis Grizzlies went 41-25 last season by being average (to below average) at virtually everything. The lone area where Memphis was good—very good, in fact—was on the defensive end, where the Grizzlies ranked seventh in defensive efficiency and fifth in points allowed. They earned a top-four seed last year, but were bounced by the Clippers in the first round.
This season, Memphis will be without O.J. Mayo’s assistance off the bench, but he never provided what the Grizzlies needed, which was a perimeter threat. The Grizzlies had nobody on the roster last season who could stretch the defense, and opponents hardly had to guard Tony Allen, whose offense regressed significantly after a flukey 2010-11.
The Grizzlies’ fate this year will hinge on a couple of factors. First, of course, is the health and productivity of Zach Randolph. The Grizzlies were a dark-horse title contender two years ago when he was in top form, but a knee injury derailed his 2011-12 season. If Randolph is healthy and still has some semblance of his dominant offensive game at age 31, the Grizzlies could very easily earn another top-four seed this year. If not, they could slip to the West’s bottom half.
The second key for Memphis this year will be Jarryd Bayless, whom the Grizzlies acquired from Toronto to back up the steadily improving Mike Conley. Bayless missed significant time last year, but when he played, he was remarkably effective. He posted a PER of 17.80 and had a true shooting percentage of .561. Both of those figures were career highs, and the shooting may be something of an outlier—Bayless shot 42 percent from three last year, way above his career average of 35 percent. Overall, Bayless is a big improvement over the Grizzlies’ recent subs at the point, and if he can shoot in the high 30s from beyond the arc, he’ll be a valuable asset.
And, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the Grizzlies still have a pair of very-good-but-not-quite-great players in Marc Gasol and Rudy Gay.
Tony Allen vs. Whoever Has the Misfortune of Being Covered by Tony Allen. Allen makes life hell on opposing wings. He’s big, he’s physical and he’s relentless on defense. Pity Klay Thompson (or whoever Allen covers). Allen is very much responsible for the Grizzlies’ defensive prowess, as he can single-handedly shut down opposing shooting guards and small forwards. He’s basically the NBA equivalent of a shutdown cornerback.
If the Warriors don’t move the ball effectively, or try to attack Allen to exploit his slight proclivity to commit overly aggressive fouls, they’ll be going about beating the Grizzlies in the wrong way. Both of Memphis’ bigs (Gasol and Randolph) are slow movers, so zipping the ball around and moving quickly through the lane is the way to attack the Grizz. Stay far away from Tony Allen, though.
Threat Level: 7.5/10
Memphis earns the first threat level with a decimal. They’re not quite elite and they’ll suffer bigtime if Randolph continues his decline. But if he’s healthy and Bayless fills their perimeter shooting need adequately, the Grizzlies will be a pretty significant challenge for the Warriors.