While the Memphis Grizzlies' record might not reflect it, the team has played fairly well as a whole this season, and there are plenty of reasons for continued optimism for the season in Memphis. Several of Memphis' most important players are on pace to have career seasons, and there is still a good chance the Grizzlies can recover from their slow start and make a trip to the postseason this year.
Memphis has dropped two games in a row, both losses coming at home, but both also coming against veteran teams. The Grizzlies were crushed by the Dallas Mavericks 106-91 on Wednesday night in their second match-up of the season, which is now tied at a game a piece. They also came up short in overtime Saturday night against the Boston Celtics 116-110 after they failed to overcome a slow start to the overtime period.
Many fans are worried this will be another disappointing season for the Grizzlies, but if you look beyond their 4-6 record, there are plenty of positive things happening with the team so far this season.
Of their six losses this season, only one came against a team that wasn't in the postseason last year (Golden State Warriors). Two of the teams Memphis has fallen to thus far, the Phoenix Suns and the Mavericks, the Grizzlies also have beaten this season, as they have played each team twice.
They have had one of the toughest schedules in the NBA to start the season, in my opinion, with only three of the their first 10 games coming against teams that didn't reach the playoffs last year (Kings, Timberwolves, Warriors). Memphis has won two of those three games, which is an important fact in the sense that teams need to be able to pad their records against equally or less talented opponents.
Which Memphis Grizzlies starter is most important to their success this season?
Several key players for the Grizzlies are also stepping up individually this season, and they are playing at a very high level and posting career-high numbers in many statistical categories.
Rudy Gay was third in the league in scoring with 25.6 points per game heading into Saturday's games, according to ESPN Stats. That is nearly eight points above his career average, and if he can continue to post numbers like that, Gay is on pace to make his first career appearance on the All-Star team, and could potentially cement his status as a superstar in the NBA.
He is currently posting career-high stats in almost every category, and he isn't showing any signs of slowing down.
Mike Conley has also shown great improvement this season in his overall game and is showing fans, as well as critics, that he was worth the extension Memphis gave him earlier in the season. Like Gay, Conley is also posting career best numbers in many categories and has done an excellent job of running the offense this season. Prior to Saturday's games, Conley was second in the NBA in steals with 3.11 per game.
As long as he can remain healthy, Zach Randolph is having another All-Star caliber season this year. While his scoring is slightly down compared to his career average, only by one point, most of his numbers are up this season compared to his career numbers. While Pau Gasol is clearly the best power forward in the NBA this season, Randolph is once again one of the Top 5 in the league, and should make his second consecutive appearance in the All-Star game this season.
If Memphis' starting group can continue to produce at the level they have in their first 10 games of the season, the Grizzlies should make a strong run late in the season and be in prime position to snatch a mid-to-low playoff seed. They have an experienced, young core that will be an advantage late in the season while several other teams in the Western Conference will be struggling to stay fresh and play at a high level.
In the short term, the Grizzlies still have a fairly rough schedule for the remainder of November, including games against the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic. However, they should finish their final eight games of the month with a record around 5-3, putting them at 9-9 on the season. If they can steal a win against either Southeast division powerhouse, that could be a confidence-boosting win that has the potential to send Memphis on a very successful run for a few weeks.
It's extremely important for Grizzlies fans in Memphis to continue to show support for the team at games and show up with an active attitude because this group has the potential to be very special at home if they have a strong following. As someone who lives in Memphis, many basketball fans in the area follow the Memphis Tigers much more passionately than they do the Grizzlies.
If the same enthusiasm and support were shown for the Grizzlies, their chances of having a memorable season would increase drastically.