Spruce Derden-US PRESSWIRE
To say that the Memphis Grizzlies have nothing to fear heading into this season is tempting. They’ve seen a key player go down for an extended period of time in each of the last two seasons (Rudy Gay in 2010-11 and Zach Randolph in 2011-12) and adapted around the losses.
Without Gay, the Grizzlies finished the 2010-11 regular season 15-8 and made it to the Western Conference semifinals.
After Randolph went down last season, the Grizzlies reshaped their offense and went 23-14 without him to jump in the middle of the Western Conference playoff picture when he returned.
Aside from their ability to overcome injuries, the Grizzlies generally manage to score just enough to support their swarming defense. The Grizzlies were 20th in scoring average last season and 13th among playoff teams. In 2010-11, the Grizzlies were 12th in scoring average and eighth among playoff teams.
The Griz were No. 13 in points per 100 possessions among playoff teams last season and No. 11 the year before. The defense-minded team was 12th in margin of victory last season and 10th the season before, beating opponents by just a little more than two points per game.
The Grizzlies have a balanced scoring attack, but two issues could hinder them. After losing O.J. Mayo to free agency, the Grizzlies will look to relatively unproven young players to replace Mayo's scoring presence off the bench.
Josh Selby looks to take on a bigger role in his second NBA season. Even after his remarkable Summer League performance, one can’t be sure how he’ll do when it counts.
Jerryd Bayless could be key for the Grizzlies off the bench. The issue with Bayless is that while he has shown flashes of brilliance, he hasn’t averaged 10 points per game in a full season. Last season, Bayless averaged 11.4 points per game and 18 per 36 minutes, but played only 31 games due to injury. In 2010-11, he averaged 9.2 points per game, and just seven per game as a reserve.
Tony Wroten could be a significant contributor in his rookie year, but his offensive game revolves around slashing to the basket.
The other issue is whether Zach Randolph will come back to full scoring form. After returning from injury, Randolph averaged 11 points per game and 15.8 per 36 minutes while shooting just 46.2 percent from the field in 24 regular-season games.
In the playoffs, Randolph returned to form after a rough Game 1 against the Los Angeles Clippers, shooting 49.2 percent from the field before a rough Game 7. If Randolph struggles and the Memphis bench doesn’t produce, then the Grizzlies will have a hard time keeping up with opponents.