Memphis Grizzlies Report Card, Part 1: Defense Needs More Effort

A. Enslen ButlerContributor IFebruary 11, 2010

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 20:  Zach Randolph #50 of the Memphis Grizzlies shoots the ball over Darius Songaila #9 of the New Orleans Hornets at the New Orleans Arena on January 20, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  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. Mandatory  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The Memphis Grizzlies are still in the playoff hunt at the midway point of the 2009-2010 season.

Not bad for a team that has lost its last four games before the All-Star Break.

Stat of the Week: The Southwest Division is the only NBA division where every team has a winning record. Dallas leads the division, but last place Memphis is only 5 1/2 games behind with a 26-25 record.

So how did the team do? Let's get out the red pen and grade the team. No curves allowed.

Midterm Grades Part 1:

Offense B+: This was an A for most of the first half. But losing six of the last seven games cost them their A.

But overall, Zach Randolph has been better than expected. Randolph is the top offensive rebounder in the NBA. Marc Gasol has progressed. Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo have been effective as well. But once again, everyone predicted Memphis would have no trouble scoring points.

Defense C: Memphis can be effective playing defense.

The Grizzlies can score, but they are not going to outscore a team like Los Angeles, Cleveland, etc. every night. To me, it looks like there are some games where they make defense a priority (i.e. the win over the Lakers on Feb. 1). There are games where they do not (the 109-102 loss to a Minnesota team that is clearly inferior).

The playoffs are within sight for the team. Defensive effort will decide whether they are a lottery team or a playoff team.

Part two will have grades for Coaching, Front Office, Bench, and Rookies. Part two will also have second-half predictions about the Grizzlies.

Note: Listen to the podcast "Memphis Grizzlies Report " for more news and opinion about the Grizzlies.