The Memphis Grizzlies are facing high expectations for the first time. They won a playoff series for the first time in franchise history last season by beating the San Antonio Spurs in six games, and then took the Oklahoma City Thunder to Game 7 in the Western Conference semifinals.
Also, Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley has locked up Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Rudy Gay and Mike Conley to big contracts.
The basketball world will be watching closely to see if the Grizzlies can step up.
What is certain is the identity of the team. The Grizzlies are known for tough defense and selflessness. Read along to learn what to expect from the Grizzlies this season.
The Grizzlies spread the points around. Last season, the Grizzlies featured five players averaging at least 11 points per game (Randolph, Gasol, Gay, Conley and O.J. Mayo). Randolph led the way with 20.1 points per game.
While observers will reasonably be looking to see whether Gay will break out, he likely won't score too much more than the rest. He didn't take many more shots per game than anyone else, as he averaged 16.1 field-goal attempts per game to Randolph's 15.8. In 2009-10, Randolph averaged 16.5 attempts per game to Gay's 16.1.
Mayo was close behind that season with 14.4 field-goal attempts per game.
In each of the last two seasons, four players averaged at least 10 field-goal attempts per game.
This isn't a team that features one player taking 30 shots each night and averaging 25 or 30 points per game. With everyone passing it around (seven players last season averaged two assists per game) and everyone taking shots, no player stands out night after night on the score sheet.
The Grizzlies' ethos is one of tough defense. They force turnovers like no one else in the NBA. Last season, the Grizzlies led the NBA in steals (771) and turnovers forced (1,367). Four Grizzlies players averaged at least a steal per game (Tony Allen, Gay, Conley and Mayo).
The advanced metrics show even more prowess on defense. Randolph and Hamed Haddadi each had defensive rebounding percentages better than 25 percent. Everyone in the rotation had defensive ratings better than average. Randolph, Gasol and Conley each had more than three defensive win shares.
Grizzlies players are rapacious on defense. Tony Allen is nicknamed "Grindhouse" for his grinding defensive play. He puts tight pressure on opponents and gets in passing lanes. Gasol and Randolph apply pressure in the paint.
The Grizzlies have strong team chemistry. Besides selfless dedication on both ends of the floor, players hang together. On multiple occasions, players came together for workouts during the lockout. Also, several players did Impact Basketball in Las Vegas during the summer.
Gasol and Randolph have such a strong bond that Randolph stated in the fall that if the lockout persisted he'd play in Europe with Gasol. "I want to talk with him and stick with the big fella," Randolph said.
One thing to look for is whether the Grizzlies' big men grow tired as the season wears on. Currently, the Grizzlies have no backup power forwards or centers. The Grizzlies rescinded their qualifying offer for Haddadi. According to The Commercial Appeal, it's because they're hoping to give him a smaller deal, not because they're pessimistic about his receiving a visa to return from Iran.
The Grizzlies are trying to sign Dante Cunningham, a restricted free agent from the Charlotte Bobcats.
The guards are plentiful in Memphis, as the Grizzlies have seven guards on the roster.