Rudy Gay would absolutely be on this list if not for his shortened season. After returning from the FIBA tournament, Gay seemed motivated and determined like never before. Through 54 games, Gay showed a visible effort on the defensive end and put up the best shooting numbers of his career (47% FG, 40% 3P, 81% FT).
But this season, and more importantly this postseason, were all about the Memphis Grizzlies’ big men and their improving point guard. All three contributed greatly to their first-round upset of the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs and their impressive second round.
Zach Randolph is a beast. Channeling my inner Andy Samberg, the once troubled power forward played “Like a boss!” in these playoffs. Although his defense hovers around average, Randolph is a dominant low-post scorer with some decent range. He is a superb rebounder and has averaged double-digit boards six times in his 11-year career.
After losing more than 50 lbs before the start of the 2009 season, Marc Gasol finally showed up as a legitimate NBA player. Currently, the league now views him as a good NBA player.
With less of a load to carry around (and I think half of the weight was in his beard alone), Gasol is an agile and quick center who can cover a lot of ground. Although his rebounding and scoring took a step back this season, his blocks went up and his shooting range improved. When Gasol is on top of his game, the Grizzlies are a hard team to beat.
Memphis likes to pound the ball inside with their two big men, eventually wearing down the opposing team. In fact, their offensive strategy reminds me of sitting in between two fat people on an airplane. Eventually, their girth exhausts you. You stop fighting and resign to your uncomfortable fate. And, their just might be some elbows thrown.
Mike Conley proved he was worth that generous contract he received before the season. Conley set career highs in points, assists and steals this past season, as he emerged as a quality game manager.