NBA Playoffs 2011: How Far Can Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph Carry the Grizzlies?

Sam YoungerContributor IIMay 4, 2011

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 01:  Forward Zach Randolph #50  and Marc Gasol #33 of the Memphis Grizzlies celebrate a 114-101 win against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game One of the Western Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 1, 2011 at Oklahoma City Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

When someone asks you to name the top superstars in today's NBA, the first people that come to mind are Lebron James, Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose, right?

Wrong! For these playoffs, that is.

New players have stepped up, and none have been bigger (literally) than Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies.

Randolph has been a journeyman his entire career; he's always been a solid player, but his attitude has moved him from Portland to New York to LA.

Finally, in Memphis, it seems as if he has found a home. The big man orchestrated a stunning first-round upset of the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs, and played brilliantly in a Game 1 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, before struggling a bit in Game 2.

Zach Randolph is a big guy (6'9'', 260 lbs), and has been able to overpower opponents easily since coming into the league in 2001. However, recently he's added better moves into his arsenal, including a sweet mid-range turnaround jumper.

Against the Spurs, the Grizzlies continuously turned to Randolph in the clutch and he did not let them down. He buried a three to seal Game 3, and scored eight consecutive points to propel a Game 6 victory. His free throws have been a pleasant surprise, as he has hit 85 percent of them so far.

Marc Gasol was part of the deal that sent his brother, Pau, to LA in 2008. At the time, the deal benefited the Lakers, as Pau helped them to three straight Western Conference titles and two NBA championships.

However, in these playoffs, Marc has been the better Gasol.

While Pau struggled against the New Orleans Hornets, Marc dominated down low against the overmatched Spurs. He put up averages of 14.8 points and 12.1 boards a night. He will be very important if the Grizzlies hope to pull off a second consecutive upset, this time against the Thunder.

He has a very tough task on his hands, as he must battle Kendrick Perkins—one of the more physical players in the NBA.

The Grizzlies have split the first two games in Oklahoma City and can take control of the series if they win the two at the FedEx Forum, where they went a very good 30-11 during the regular season. Against the Spurs, they won all three games at home.

My prediction is that they continue to win in Memphis, and stopping the Thunder in their rowdy arena was enough for a 4-2 series win.

However, their inexperience will prove too much of a burden against either LA or Dallas in the Conference Finals, ending their Cinderella run a game short of the NBA Finals.