Grizzlies: Next Season's Dark Horse NBA Team to Come out of the West

Cody CurrieCorrespondent IIJune 10, 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

The Memphis Grizzlies went on a Cinderella playoff run in the team's first playoff appearance in the post-Pau Gasol era. They pulled off the major upset against the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs, then pushed the Thunder to the brink of elimination before their magic ran out during Game 7 in Oklahoma City.  

Just a thought—the Grizzlies did all of that without their superstar, Rudy Gay, who sat out the playoffs after having left shoulder surgery. Imagine what the Grizzlies could have done had they had their primary perimeter scorer available to throw up against Kevin Durant and the Thunder.  

While Gay was out, the inside duo of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol proved to be one of the toughest duos in the entire NBA and they bullied teams in the paint. The Grizzlies gained some valuable experience, knocking out a perennial powerhouse in San Antonio and almost eliminating the most exciting young team in the league in the Thunder.  

While OJ Mayo is likely on his way out with the majority of the Grizzlies' young core under contract for the next few seasons, the Grizzlies have plenty of options to count on on the offensive and defensive end.  

They have Zach Randolph doing his work in the paint and Rudy Gay and Mike Conley scoring from the outside. The Grizzlies have a tough inside defender in Marc Gasol and two lockdown perimeter defenders in Tony Allen and Shane Battier. Battier can also knock down the open three-pointer and is a good clutch shooter.

The Grizzlies have the pieces to contend for the Western Conference Crown and they gained valuable experience from last season's playoffs. They gained confidence after knocking out the Spurs and pushing the Thunder to the limit.  

With their youth, they will remain competitive for a long time and could turn out to be one of the premier NBA teams in the coming years.