In the midst of a storyline packed NBA season, a flare-free, stouthearted western conference team has been forgotten about- the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies are currently the most disrespected team in basketball. They boast a stunning 39-13 record and are currently second in a loaded Western Conference. Yet they are consistently looked over when talking about championship-contending teams, and are only sending one player to the All-Star game this weekend–Marc Gasol. The success is recent as well, as the Grizzlies have won 13 of their last 15 games.
So why isn’t anyone talking about the veteran team down in Tennessee?
First and foremost, they’re not your prototypical 2015 NBA team. The Grizzlies play a brand of basketball that is more pf an early-1990s style. It’s physical, it’s tough, and it’s playoff-style ball. They don’t stretch the floor and kill you with the three-point shot or run in transition and fill up the top-10 plays list with alley-oop dunks. But they do a lot of other things extremely well, like pass the ball, play defense, and score in the paint.
Their extremely stout defense is headed by two of the best perimeter-defenders in the NBA– Mike Conley and Tony Allen. They’re one of the best teams in the league on the defensive side of the ball and 7th in opposing points in the paint per game.
Additionally, the Grizzlies are extremely unselfish and willing to share the rock. Marc Gasol is widely regarded as one of the best passing big men in the league. Mike Conley is a crafty point guard who always seems to be flirting with double digit assists. Add that together with some players who can put the ball in the basket and you have an extremely efficient offense.
Although their backcourt shines on defense, their frontcourt is superior on the offensive side. Gasol, Zach Randolph, and newly acquired Jeff Green combine to be the best front court in the league. They are so good down-low that they actually lead the league in points in the paint. Down-low domination and lock-down defense are key components of a deep playoff run.
What may have propelled the Grizzlies into championship contention was the aforementioned trade deadline-deal for Jeff Green. The 6’9 Georgetown alumnus gives Memphis much needed versatility. He can play the three or the stretch-four, and he filled the weakest hole in the Grizzlies line-up. He currently is averaging 16 points and four rebounds.
The “Grizz” are a legitimate playoff contender. With just two less wins than the beloved Golden State Warriors, they receive a fraction of the credit they truly deserve. Gasol and Randolph have a myriad of post moves, while Conley has a knack for making clutch plays. Their gritty, win-ugly mentality may not be the most aesthetically pleasing, but it sure wins games. The Grizzlies are going into the All-Star break with the 3rd best record in the NBA; if they can follow it up with a 60 win season, and a deep run into the playoffs, it’ll force the basketball world to realize that the Grizzlies a far from being a team in hibernation.