There is no doubt the Memphis Grizzlies are a team on the rise.
They upset the Western Conference’s number one seeded San Antonio Spurs as an eighth seed in the first round of the 2011 NBA playoffs and tested the Oklahoma City Thunder in the semifinals in seven games. And Memphis did all this without their injured star player – Rudy Gay.
However, this begs the question: Can Memphis be that much better when Gay returns to the team? Zach Randolph believes so.
“When Rudy comes back,” Randolph said, “we’ll be a team to be reckoned with.”
You know what? Z-Bo might be right.
This team has a nice balance of solid veteran players, young players and a coach, Lionel Hollins, who can get the best from the team.
Randolph and Marc Gasol (if he resigns) form a formidable duo. Darrell Arthur, Greivis Vasquez, O.J. Mayo, and Mike Conley add a youthful punch on the court while Shane Battier and Tony Allen provide the veteran leadership.
Add the fact Rudy is putting in the work in this offseason and, according to him, he is feeling great which should put a smile on Grizzlies fans across the globe.
“I feel good man, real good. I’m just trying to go real hard, trying to test it [his left shoulder], and just get myself all the way back and cleared [medically] by the start of the season. But everything’s been going real good.”
Now bring back a healthy Gay and his career 17.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and all this gives the Grizzlies a fantastic outlook heading into next season and beyond.
You also cannot discount the valuable experience the team gained in the playoffs. It only did wonders for the team’s growth. They proved to themselves they can get it done without Gay and considering the Western Conference’s landscape, Memphis is poised to be a team to beat.
The Spurs seem to be on their last legs with their aged core, the Hornets are still searching for an identity, the Rockets are stuck in neutral now with the loss of Yao Ming to retirement, the Suns’ best days are behind them, the Blazers are a mess with their front office and have roster questions to answer (see Brandon Roy), and the Jazz are a few players away from being good again.
This leaves the Lakers, Thunder, Mavericks and the Grizzlies as the top team in the West.
If they can resign Gasol and Gay is back to his former self, Memphis might be challenging for the Western Conference crown for years to come.