A No. 4 playoff spot is a very fair standard of regular-season success for the Memphis Grizzlies. The Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder will easily be the top two teams in the Western Conference standings.
If Tony Parker and Tim Duncan can maintain condition and Kawhi Leonard plays as expected, the Grizzlies could have a hard time passing them for the Southwest Division crown.
Meanwhile, Memphis is fully capable of topping the Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets, the two teams that are on the same level as them.
The Clippers have plenty of scorers to complement Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Jamal Crawford, Caron Butler, Eric Bledsoe and Lamar Odom give Paul plenty of options, but Vinny Del Negro may not know how to use them.
Del Negro could also lose his team like he did last season.
The Nuggets are loaded with talent. Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari and Evan Fournier form an exciting young collective. Putting them with Andre Iguodala and Andre Miller is ideal. Iguodala is a do-it-all player who provides great leadership. Miller is a great guide to have behind Lawson.
However, as impressive as this team looks, no one player stands out enough to push the team into the top four spots in the conference. Iguodala is the best player on the team, but he's the wrong player to have as the best player on the team.
Ideally, Faried will break out. However, he'll take more than a year to go from being a rookie phenom to one of the beasts of Western frontcourts. That simply doesn't happen overnight.
Both the Grizzlies and Nuggets have balance, but the Grizzlies' balance is much better than that of the Nuggets. Having three players who are top-five at their positions (Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol) and another who's top-seven at his (Mike Conley), is better than having Iggy and several hot pieces.
The Grizzlies are very good, but not quite capable of racing the Lakers and Thunder for 60 wins. As Rob Mahoney of Sports Illustrated said, "We know what this team is capable of, and few teams defend so effectively throughout their entire rotation."