NBA Playoffs 2012: Why the Memphis Grizzlies Are Legit Contenders in the West

Cody CurrieCorrespondent IIApril 5, 2012

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 15:  (L-R) Marc Gasol #33, Zach Randolph #50, O.J. Mayo #32 and Tony Allen #9 of the Memphis Grizzlies before play against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Seven of the Western Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 15, 2011 at Oklahoma City Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Memphis Grizzlies have been one of the most underrated teams in the NBA the past few seasons.  

They toppled the No. 1 seeded Spurs in last season's playoffs, then pushed the Thunder to their absolute limit in a thrilling seven-game series before bowing out.  Yet no one seems to consider them a threat in the Western Conference.  Those playoff series provided invaluable experience for the Grizzlies' young players.

Memphis boasts an excellent frontcourt rotation with Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, and Marreese Speights coming off the bench.  All three are potential double-double players every game.  Gasol is one of the best centers in the NBA ,and Randolph is capable of putting up 20-10 numbers on any given night.  

They have a talented, young point guard in Mike Conley and have solid wing players in Rudy Gay, OJ Mayo and Tony Allen.  Recently signed Gilbert Arenas can provide a scoring spark off the bench once he gets back into rhythm.

Gay is one of the best small forwards in the NBA and is an excellent scorer from anywhere on the floor.  He is excellent when driving into the lane and can shoot the outside jumper as well.  

Allen is the best perimeter defender in the NBA this season and has the ability to lock down the best scorers in the league every time he takes the floor.  

Mayo is an explosive scorer when he heats up, and he provides instant offense off the bench for the Grizzlies.

This season, Memphis has shown that they can play with the best teams in the NBA with impressive wins over both Oklahoma City, and the Lakers on the road and at home against the Bulls, Pacers and Mavericks.

Their size and depth are their strengths, and they give them the ability to compete with any team in the NBA.  They are as athletic as any other team and thrive off of getting steals and scoring in the fast break.  

These strengths will give them a considerable advantage come playoff time over the course of a seven-game series.  

The Grizzlies pulled off a stunner last season, knocking off top-seeded San Antonio in the playoffs.  They showed their talent and heart, pushing the Thunder to their absolute limit in a thrilling second-round series.  

This season, with their playoff experience and flat out talent, they are ready to take the next step and become legitimate contenders in the Western Conference.