NBA Basketball: Are the Memphis Grizzlies Legitimate Contenders in the West?

Barry Leonard@@barryleonardjrAnalyst IIINovember 14, 2012

The Memphis Grizzlies continued their impressive start on Wednesday with a 107-97 victory at Oklahoma City. The win was the sixth in a row for Memphis, which currently sits in second place in the Western Conference.

As good as the Grizz have looked to start the year, do they have what it takes to be real contenders come playoff time?

Early signs point to yes.

The Grizzlies play a tough brand of basketball that could wear down any team in a seven-game series. The frontcourt combination of Marc Gasol, Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph may be one of the most underrated in the entire league.

Against the Thunder, those three combined for 62 points and 23 rebounds. Gay paced the scoring with 28 points.

The defense and rebounding abilities of Randolph and Gasol make it tough for any team to go inside. Throw in the frontcourt of Mike Conley Jr. and Tony Allen, and Memphis becomes one of the most complete teams in the West.

With the win at OKC, Memphis has proven that it has what it takes to go on the road and win in a hostile environment, something that will need to be done to be successful in the postseason.

After finishing the 2011-2012 season 41-25, Memphis was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Los Angeles Clippers in seven games.

The current roster has eight players who were around last year, giving the Grizzlies valuable experience and familiarity with each other.

The Memphis bench is deep and has been very solid thus far. Four players—Wayne Ellington, Marreese Speights, Jerryd Bayless and Quincy Pondexter—are all averaging double-digit points off the bench.

If the Grizzlies can stay healthy, they should find themselves in one of the top four playoff spots.

With the first-round loss from 2012 fresh in their minds, look for them to play with extra grit and tenacity when that time comes.

The mix of both solid offense and defense make the Grizzlies one of the more dangerous teams in the Western Conference. Heading into the Wednesday night game at Oklahoma City, they ranked sixth in points scored and seventh in points allowed.

The Grizzlies host the undefeated New York Knicks in their next game on Friday. That's another ESPN national broadcast and a chance to show the world that they are for real in 2012.