The Grizzlies are quickly turning their season around, proving me wrong and quietly establishing themselves as contenders in the West. They have climbed to the fourth spot in the Western Conference standings, winning 12 of their last 15 games, including victories over Dallas, Philly, Denver, and Indiana.
This team may have what it takes to be just as deadly this year as they were in the playoffs last year, especially once Zach Randolph is back in action. Z-Bo may return as early as tonight against the Lakers, which means his performance should be peaking right before the playoffs. But even without him on the court, Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley have been getting the job done. The Grizzlies’ balanced attack makes them a difficult team to defend as almost anyone can get hot in a hurry. In fact, Memphis has five players scoring in double digits every night, while their valuable fill-in man Marreese Speights is right below that mark at 8.8 ppg.
The Grizzlies’ Achilles heel could end up being their rebounding (41.5 rebounds per game as a team, which is 23rd in the league), but for the time being, Memphis is winning games thanks to their starting rotation. The bench leaves much to be desired aside from OJ Mayo, but Memphis, being led by defensive specialist Tony Allen, is only allowing opponents 92.1 ppg, seventh-best in the league. The Grizzlies also lead the league in steals, averaging just under 10 per game.
With Z-Bo’s possible return Tuesday, the Grizzlies may have a temporary rough patch getting adjusted to playing with their star big man, but Marreese Speight has done such a great job filling in during Randolph’s absence that Memphis should be able to ease Z-Bo back into the action. The Grizzlies were not particularly impressive at the beginning of the year, but are quickly shaping up to be the team we’ve expected since last year’s surprising playoff run: the team that nobody wants to play. If everyone stays healthy, the Memphis Grizzlies could be dangerous in the postseason.