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Did anyone see Memphis' meteoric rise up the West's pecking order coming? By bowing out on the verge of the Western Conference Finals as the eighth seed, the Grizzlies showed that, when at their peak, they can beat anyone, even over seven games.
On the way, they showed development all over the court. Zach Randolph turned into the best post scorer in the NBA. Marc Gasol made the Lakers doubt trading him for his brother just a little bit. Mike Conley consistently made a positive impact and showed maturity in decision making. O.J. Mayo hit several clutch shots and didn't make any trouble. Tony Allen ran around the court doing Tony Allen things better than ever before.
What's astounding is that the Grizz accomplished all this without their best player, Rudy Gay.
The return of Gay next year will create issues if free agent Shane Battier returns with him. Gay, Allen, Sam Young and Battier all need minutes to make an impact. Any way they slice it, they'll have plenty of talent on the perimeter with who prevails from that group and Mayo and Conley in the backcourt.
The Grizzlies have the luxury of contemplating a trade of their best player, Gay, because of how much his team improved without him. The haul they could get, or stockpile of high draft picks, means that they could be considerably better within a couple years.
Washington and Detroit need athletic, scoring small forwards and top-10 picks in the draft. If Memphis traded Gay for one of those picks, it could quickly end up with someone like Tristan Thompson.
The post is also in great shape with the freshly-signed Randolph secured long-term. Marc Gasol, he of the astoundingly rapid improvement, is not under contract. There's no reason to believe that he won't re-sign with the promising Grizzlies because of the major role he played in their rise this season.
So...what can they possibly do to improve? The starters are not great but play so well together, as we've seen, and the bench is stellar.
One thing sticks out, and that's Hamed Haddadi, the backup center. Can't general manager Chris Wallace do better? Aside from going small when Gasol goes out, the Grizzlies should look to mend the backup post.
Otherwise, the Grizzlies appear to be in fantastic shape for next year and far into the future.