The Memphis Grizzlies were not a bad team last year.
Not exactly glowing words for a franchise, but for the Memphis Grizzlies, who have been dismal since making their third-straight postseason appearance in 2005-2006, it's a sign of improvement.
Chris Wallace took over for Jerry West as general manager of the Grizzlies in 2007 and the transition period was, to put it lightly, rough.
The Grizzlies again became the laughing stock of the NBA after they essentially handed a championship over to the Lakers with the trade of Pau Gasol and the team even took a gamble with Allen Iverson; Iverson proceeded to play a handful of games for the Grizzlies, go to the Sixers, then gamble his way out of the NBA.
The Grizzlies were markedly improved last year.
They finished the season at 40-42 and were in serious playoff contention midway through the second half of the season until an influx of injuries hurt the team's chances to compete in the extremely tight Western Conference playoff race.
Zach Randolph had his most complete season as a pro, notching his fourth 20-point, 10-rebound season and making his first All-Star game displaying improved shot selection and camaraderie with teammates throughout the duration of the season.
O.J. Mayo had a solid second season, playing 82 games and improving his field-goal percentage from his rookie year. Mayo has shown the ability to defer to his teammates and also play excellent defense when motivated. Mayo's shot selection, at times, can be questionable, but Mayo can also rattle off points in a hurry and has shown a propensity to perform well in clutch situations.
Rudy Gay, who signed a five-year, $81.6 million dollar deal in the offseason, had an excellent season. Gay scored nearly 20 points per game while collecting six rebounds per game. At 24-years-old, Gay showed that he has not tapped the ceiling of his potential.
Gay has also spent his offseason with Team USA, where he has performed very well under coach Krzyzewski, often playing power forward for the team and highlighting his versatility.
The Grizzlies have a good nucleus of players who have displayed an ability to work well together.
An individual considered an afterthought in the Pau Gasol trade, Pau's brother Marc has turned in to a very solid NBA player.
Marc Gasol averaged 14.6 points and 9.3 rebounds per game during the 2009-2010 season while also finishing third in the league in field-goal percentage and 12th in the league in blocks per game.
Gasol should continue to improve as he becomes more acclimated to the NBA game and adds moves to his low-post game.
Gasol seems to be working on extending his game to implement the mid-range arsenal his brother Pau has that will allow him to conserve his body through an 82-game season.
The Grizzlies didn't make any gigantic signings in the offseason other than the substantial albeit slightly egregious contract they gave to Rudy Gay.
However, the Grizzlies made a solid move in bringing in Tony Allen. Allen provided tenacious defense for the Celtics and can guard multiple positions very efficiently. Allen is also a great team player who is content with filling a role and will be a very valuable bench addition to the current Grizzlies' roster.
The Grizzlies also had a solid draft selecting Xavier Henry with the 12th pick, although contract negotiations between Henry and the Grizzlies seem to be at a stalemate.
The Grizzlies seem interested in signing Henry, Henry still seems interested in going to the Grizzlies, but the Grizzlies unusually demanding contract offer that would require Henry to meet a set of quotas in order to receive the full compensation for his contract seems to be a point of contention for the ink being dried on the contract.
If the Grizzlies manage to sign Xavier Henry, they will add even more depth and youth to the plethora of talent they have at the guard and small forward positions.
The Grizzlies have a ton of young players that could elevate the franchise to the playoffs this season.
Hasheem Thabeet, who was the No. 2 pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, had a pretty poor rookie season.
He was assigned to the NBA Developmental League—the highest drafted player ever to be sent to the NBDL, and ended up the season averaging three points and three rebounds per game.
Thabeet can do nothing, but improve this season.
He is clearly an adept defensive presence with a great propensity to block shots. Thabeet's size commands a lot of attention and makes him a stalwart as a defensive presence, but his lack of offensive skills make him a liability on an end of the court where Thabeet doesn't advantageously use his size.
Thabeet also averages a foul for every five minutes that he is on the court—he simply didn't seen confident being on the floor in his rookie season.
This year will be an important one for Thabeet.
Sam Young is another player who should improve in his second season.
Averaging over seven points per game while only playing 16 minutes per game in his rookie season, Sam Young was extremely productive toward the end of last season where injuries saw his playing time increase. In eight consecutive games at the end of the season where Young saw over 20 minutes of game action, he scored in double figures.
Young is a very athletic small forward out of Pittsburgh who, at 25 years-old, is mature for a second-year player and could, if he continues to elevate his performance, see his playing time and productivity exponentially increase.
In addition to Young and Thabeet, Mike Conley, DeMarre Carroll and Darrell Arthur are all young players for the Grizzlies who should improve this season.
The Grizzlies could sneak in to the playoffs in the Western Conference.
With the Phoenix Suns losing Amar'e Stoudemire this offseason, it would seem that there is a playoff spot to be had in the Western Conference.
Of the teams in the Western Conference that didn't make the playoffs last year, the Grizzlies and the Hornets are the teams most likely to grab the final open spot.
It will be an interesting race to see which team ascends to the playoffs this season.
For the first time in a while, I wouldn't count out the Grizzlies.