The Memphis Grizzlies are 12-13, and if the playoffs started today the Grizzlies would be left out as they are currently 11th in the Western Conference.
The Grizzlies have been up and down while dealing with Zach Randolph's injury. They won seven games in a row in the middle of January, but since January 24 the Grizzlies have been 2-7.
The goal for Memphis is to stay afloat and play good basketball so that the team can get on a hot run late in the season and into the playoffs. However, with shaky play as of late the Grizzlies will need to change some things to put themselves back into the playoff picture.
Here are the five moves that would help the Grizzlies survive Z-Bo's remaining injury time, and put them into the playoffs for a second consecutive season.
After Mike Conley's team leading seven assists per game, the next best assist line belongs to center Marc Gasol's 2.7 assists per game. Gasol's 68 assists on the year are more than both backup point guards Josh Selby and Jeremy Pargo's total of 57.
Conley is playing well, but could potentially see an improvement in his field goal percentage if there was an adequate backup to spell him.
Don't laugh, but Kirk Hinrich could give the Grizzlies a great push if the team traded for him. I realize Hinrich is averaging four points and 2.9 assists per game this season, but he is coming back from an injury and the rust seems to have gotten pretty bad.
If the Grizzlies pick him up now and get him familiar with the offense, Hinrich could be healthy enough to play big minutes late in the season.
He could run the offense for the Grizzlies second unit—who at times have been letting OJ Mayo run the point. Other than Mayo they have had a hard time finding their own shot.
JR Smith found himself stuck playing in China for the entire season after the NBA finally agreed to a new CBA. The season is almost over, and Smith will likely look to return to the NBA.
In China, Smith is averaging great numbers with 35.2 points, 7.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. He is not expected to average these kinds of number when back in the NBA, but his 49.4 percent shooting from three-point range in China has plenty of teams interested.
He would make an immediate impact by hitting three-pointers. Some may say that he would not fit because of his similarities to Mayo, but I think Smith could come off the bench as the relief for Rudy Gay at small forward.
At 6'6" Smith would be tall enough to guard opposing forwards, and provide a mismatch with his speed and athleticism.
During their seven game winning streak through the middle of January, Speights was averaging 24.6 minutes per game. During the 2-7 stretch the Grizzlies are currently in, he is only averaging 16.3 minutes.
Clearly, when Speights is effectively playing more minutes the Grizzlies are better. The key word there is effectively, because his production went down as well as his minutes through those two streaks.
If the Grizzlies want to make the playoffs, they need more production out of Speights. In the last nine games Speights has only broken 10 points one time.
Since Z-Bo went down, the Grizzlies have vastly improved their play in transition and their ability to score on fast breaks. But they need to go back to the formula they followed during last years playoff run, scoring in the paint.
This means running more plays through Marc Gasol, who is the number one option down low without Randolph. It also means more post looks to the aforementioned Speights.
In improving the transition game, the Grizzlies adjusted and have seen Rudy Gay flourish as a result. Now Gay should make a couple of adjustments of his own and start posting up guys when the matchup is right.
Gay is 6-foot-8-inches tall and weighs 230 pounds, he should make use of his large build and start bruising down low.
If they can dominate the paint like they did in last years playoffs, they can make a big run as the playoffs get closer.
Everyone knows that the Grizzlies sixth man is OJ Mayo, but some may not know that Dante Cunningham is the next man to come off the bench.
Cunningham was picked up before the season started to take over for Darrell Arthur, who is out for the season. Arthur has been under the radar, but could have had an explosive year this season.
Last year in just 20.1 minutes he averaged 9.1 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. Arthur was a great energy player coming off the bench.
Cunningham has shown some flashes of good play this season, and he is hitting 47 percent of his shots from the field. The Grizzlies second unit needs to start doing a better job of passing the ball to Cunningham so he can hit more mid-range jumpers.
If Cunningham gets more looks and improves his free throw percentage (now a lowly 65 percent), the Grizzlies will be scoring more, thus putting them in more games.
Cunningham won't be Darrell Arthur, but he can help put this team in the playoffs in his own way.