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Memphis Grizzlies: The Surprise Team Out West Next Year?

OAKLAND, CA - MARCH 30:  Rudy Gay #22 of the Memphis Grizzlies shoots against f the Golden State Warriors during an NBA game on March 30, 2009 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. 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 Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
ani uContributor IJuly 12, 2009

The Memphis Grizzlies have faced scrutiny for the Pau Gasol trade, and the fact that they haven't done well in the past couple of seasons.

But will next year be the year when the young Grizzlies show up and become a playoff team?

They are a young and very athletic group with Gay, Mayo, Conley and new draft pick Hasheem Thabeet.

Conley came into his own in the second half of last season when he didn't have a backup point guard fighting minutes with him. From February to April he averaged 14.7 points, 5.7 assists and 1.7 steals a game. With a good off season, he can improve those numbers greatly.

Gay had sort of a down year from his 20 points per game average he had in 2007-08 season. He still averaged 18 points a game, which is still impressive, but expect him to score about the same next season with Mayo and newly acquired Zach Randolph.

Mayo had a great rookie year averaging 18.5 points, 3.2 assists, and shooting 38 percent from three-point range. Mayo was the runner up for Rookie of the Year last year losing to Derrick Rose. His sophomore season will be more important next year, to see if he was just a one-year wonder, or is he a legit all star player.

Mayo helps spread the floor out on offense, and takes pressure off Conley and Gay on offense.

Zach Randolph is a 20/10 guy, but has had trouble with his teammates and coaches his whole career. He does put up big numbers, but at times tries to play like he is a guard and puts up stupid shots (there are videos on YouTube making fun of him).

Nonetheless, if Randolph can put his act together, and try to play like a team player, Memphis can make really big strides next season.

Hasheem Thabeet brings a defensive presence in the post that Memphis has never had. They won't need him to be a scorer, but to be a hustle player that can shut down the paint on defense.

Expect Thabeet to be an x-factor in games, and the guy who help make stops to build momentum for the team.

If they bring in Allen Iverson, expect him to come and play his heart out to rebuild his reputation as a lethal scorer. He can be that explosive sixth man that would bring energy and excitement to Memphis fans, and I believe he is the missing piece for them to make it to the playoffs.

They have insurance in their front court with Spaniard Marc Gasol, who averaged 11 points and seven rebounds a game. Playing time will be limited with Randolph and Thabeet, but he will still put up solid numbers.

Look out for Darrell Arthur. He came into his own in the second half of the season, and expect him to improve on that coming into next season.

I've read on Web sites, and I've been hearing that Oklahoma City could have a breakout year next season, but Memphis is a team that has some serious talent. If they can play together and not get injured a lot, expect them to make a run to get in the playoffs in a tough Western Conference.

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