Mavericks Division Preview: Memphis Grizzlies

By Rami Michail
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The Dallas Mavericks don’t just play in the toughest conference in the NBA; they play in the toughest division.

Along with the Mavericks, the South West Division consists of the Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Pelicans, and San Antonio Spurs.

Last season the Mavs, Grizz, Spurs, and Rockets all made the playoffs and finished with 49+ wins.

We can expect the division to be just as tough, if not tougher, this year as well.

Previous Previews: Spurs | Rockets

Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies were able to finish last season with a 52-30 record. They would face the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round. They’d push OKC to seven games, but without Zach Randolph (game seven suspension), their season would end in the first round.

Key Additions

  • Vince Carter (SF/SG)
  • Jordan Adams (SG)
  • Michael Beasley (SF/PF)
  • Jarnell Stokes (PF)

Key Losses

  • Mike Miller (SF/SG)
  • Ed Davis (PF/C)
  • James Johnson (SF/PF)

2013-2014 Leaders

  • PPG: Zach Randolph (17.4)
  • RPG: Zach Randolph (10.1)
  • APG: Mike Conley (6.0)
  • SPG: Tony Allen (1.6)
  • BPG: Marc Gasol (1.3)

Dates

  •  Oct 20th @ Dal (Preseason)
  • Dec 9th @ Mem
  • Jan 19th @ Mem
  • Jan 27th @ Dal
  • March 20th @ Dal

Q&A

Andrew Ford joins us to answer some questions on the Grizzlies and their matchup with the Mavs this season.

Editor’s Note: Andrew Ford is a banker by day and a blogger by night. His work can be found on SB Nation’s Grizzly Bear Blues, Upside & Motor, HoopChalk, Crabdribbles, Timberpups, and inRecruit. He can be reached at andrewford22@gmail.com. You can and SHOULD follow Andrew on Twitter – @AndrewFord22

Former Mavericks’ Hero Vince Carter is the Grizzlies big offseason addition. How do you see him fitting in with his new team?

I see him fitting in exceptionally well. He provides so much of what the Grizzlies need offensively. He can play the role of spot-up perimeter shooter, but perhaps his most significant asset will be his ball-handling ability. A secondary ball-handler has been needed for some time now to help take the load off of Mike Conley, and Carter could be just what the doctor ordered. Additionally, throwing his veteran presence into an already veteran locker room will only help.

Season after season the Grizzlies have been labeled as the “dark horse” championship contender. Do you believe this team still has enough to contend for a championship or has that window closed?

I do believe the Grizzlies still have a legitimate shot at hoisting the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy at some point in the near future. Many might say the window will have closed once Zach Randolph finishes his tenure in Memphis, but an argument could be made that the window won’t close as long as the duo of Conley and Marc Gasol are still around.

They are clearly who the team is being built around, and if the front office plays their cards right, who knows? Of course, this season could be their best chance yet at winning a championship. The Grizzlies are a balanced team that has arguably more floor spacers than ever, and they are a great defensive team. If they can stay healthy, this could be the season that rival’s their run to the Western Conference Finals merely two seasons ago.

Mike Conley has quietly climbed his way up the PG ladder year after year. Is this the season we see him take that next step and possibly make an All-Star case?

It’s a real shame that Mike Conley hasn’t made an All-Star game yet. He’s had a case the past two seasons. The numbers are there, but he’s up against stiff competition that happens to get more attention than him because of style of play, and that’s unfortunate. If the Grizzlies are to make a serious run in the playoffs, they will need Conley to have his best season yet. He’s improved steadily year after year, and if the Grizzlies start hot out of the gate, maybe he finally gets the attention he deserves and becomes an All-Star.

Including their preseason matchup, the Mavs and Grizzlies will see each other five times this season. Which matchup(s) will your eyes be glued on?

Marc Gasol vs. Tyson Chandler should be fun, at least when the Grizzlies are on offense. Gasol has said he plans to be more aggressive this season, and Chandler will provide a true test for one of the most well-rounded centers in the entire NBA.

Tony Allen vs. Monta Ellis is one to watch as well. Allen chasing any terrific scorer all over the court is always a spectacle. Chandler Parsons had a monster game against the Grizzlies last season where he hit ten threes, and it’s unlikely that the group has forgotten it. The good news for the Grizzlies this season is that they should have much more defensive versatility given their offseason and additions and everybody returning healthy.

What will the Mavs do that will give the Grizzlies trouble in their match ups?

The simplest answer is get the ball to Dirk. Last season, he torched the Grizzlies for 24, 20, 26, and 30 in four games. The Grizzlies haven’t had an answer for him defensively, but who has? Perhaps a leaner, more agile Marc Gasol could provide a stiffer test for Dirk this season.

They will likely rely heavily on the pick and roll and try to draw Zach Randolph out to defend it. He’s been a bad defender in the pick & roll because of his lack of mobility, and it’s astonishing that teams don’t attack him in that way more often. Additionally, if last season is any indication, the Mavs will force the Grizzlies to commit a gross number of turnovers.

What about the Grizzlies will the Mavs struggle against the most?

The Grizzlies big men posed problems for the Mavs defense last season. Randolph and Gasol had a couple monster games apiece in the four match ups between the teams. Dirk can’t guard Z-Bo at all, and it allows the Grizzlies to make a killing off of the high-low between Gasol and Z-Bo against the Mavs. Additionally, with more firepower added in the backcourt this offseason, the Grizzlies are seemingly in a better position to take advantage of the Mavs porous defense and hurt them in more ways.

These two teams were separated by just one game last season. Where do you see them both finishing in the stacked West this year?

If the Grizzlies stay healthy, they are fully capable of being a top four team in the Western Conference. I’m not sure it will pan out that way though, and the Grizzlies are more than capable of losing games they have no business losing. As for the Mavs, they had a great offseason, and they look poised to be better than an eight seed in the playoffs this season. Both teams are capable of top six finishes, but in a crazy West, I wouldn’t bet on anything. Once again, there likely won’t be much difference between the five seed and the eight seed in the West.

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