Finished 40-42, fourth in Southwest Division, 10th in Western Conference
Additions and Re-Signings
Rudy Gay via re-signing, Xavier Henry via draft, Dominique Jones via draft, Greivis Vasquez via draft, Tony Allen via free agency, and Acie Law via free agency.
Ronnie Brewer via free agency
Following three straight seasons of winning less than 30 games, Rudy Gay and the Grizzlies appeared to have had enough of their losing ways. With a little help from Zach Randolph and O.J. Mayo, Gay and the Grizzlies got their wish and saw a 16 game improvement from the 2008-'09 season when they finished the season 24-58 and last in the Southwest Division for the third straight season.
Now that they know the feeling of winning, the feeling of a postseason is next.
The Grizzlies secured themselves as a possible postseason threat by re-signing Rudy Gay over the off season to a deal worth nearly $20 million per year over the next five seasons. Gay's astounding athletic ability and consistent jump shot enabled him to drop 20 points and grab six rebounds last season. His three-point shooting dwindled as he dropped below at least one three-pointer per game for the first time since his rookie season four years ago.
How many games will the Grizzlies win?
Gay's versatility and length only adds to his multi-dimensional game that would allow the now fifth year small forward to join the ranks of an elite NBA player. How he plays in the upcoming World Championships could also impact the way critics view Gay as a leader for the Grizzlies. Although Rudy is not a statistical leader for Memphis, it's his ability to make big plays throughout a game that won his team 40 games for the first time in four years.
Rudy dropped a career high 41 points in a December 13th win against the Miami Heat where he made 15 of his 28 shots and hit three of four from beyond the arc.
Surprisingly, the statistical offensive leader was Zach Randolph who averaged 21 points as well as a team high in rebounds with 12 to earn his first All-Star appearance. Memphis was Z-Bo's third team in the past two seasons and showed an immediate impact with the team as he averaged a career high four offensive rebounds, good for second in the league.
Randolph has been criticized for being lazy at times and having terrible judgement, but it seems that we could be seeing a new side of Zach after the productive season he had with the Grizzlies. Randolph was only one of eight players to average a double-double in points and rebounds. If Randolph can consistently average numbers like that for the next few seasons, the Grizzlies could become a low seed in the Western Conference in due time.
The development of O.J. Mayo will also play as a huge factor in the Grizzlies future. So far, so good for the Griz as Mayo has averaged 18 points on 45 percent shooting in his first two seasons as the starting shooting guard.
The team should also be very pleased to see Mayo's turnover decrease from 2.8 to 2.2 last season, as he also continued to impress with his range. O.J. has nearly hit two three-pointer's per game over the past two seasons.
For the past two seasons, Mayo has done nothing but impress the Grizzlies. He does require some work as a more well-rounded shooting guard as he is not a significantly good rebounder and passer. The 18 points per game is enough for a well-balanced team like Memphis, but three assists and three rebounds for a shooting guard is only a disappointment and needs to increase if the club wants to be a 45-50 win team.
Mayo was the team leader when it came to three-point shooting, but he should get significant help with the arrival of Kansas forward Xavier Henry. At nearly two three-pointer's per game last season, Henry's impact could be seen immediately due to the team's lack of depth when it comes to three-point shooters.
Xavier has also been recognized by recruiter's as an intelligent basketball player with an NBA ready body at 6'6" and 210 pounds. Both of these attributes are critical to a young basketball player's future and for Henry to possess it as a 19 year old joining a developing team in the Grizzlies will only impact the team in a positive light if he doesn't lose the jump shot that garnered him recognition at Kansas.
While Marc Gasol has filled in nicely at the center position averaging 15 points and nine rebounds, the Grizzlies are wishing the best more for their 2009 second overall pick in Hasheem Thabeet. Mostly everyone already knew that Thabeet wouldn't be anything near a prolific scorer, but the team was definitely expecting more from Hasheem when he joined the team.
In 68 games last season, and a stop off in the D-League, Thabeet only averaged three points, four rebounds, and a block last season in extremely limited time. Memphis fans can expect to see a lot more of Thabeet in the upcoming season as the back-up center after Gasol filled in at above expectations.
The Grizzlies are a team with ambition and now that they know what winning feels like, they can attempt to transition that to the post season where they have been swept in all three of their postseason appearances. Whether they will make the postseason in 2010-'11 is not too big of a stretch, it will be a few years and a lot of development if the Grizzlies want to become actual contenders.
Projected Starting Lineup
PG-Mike Conley, Jr.
This is part 14 in a 30-day series of previews for each NBA team for the upcoming 2010-2011 season. My profile contains the other teams that I have already previewed.