are like...........Middle America.
The Grizzlies are like Middle America, which is largely ignored by the coastal urban elites and the mainstream media. Living in Southern California for the last decade and a half, it is easy to forget that there is life outside of California and major cities like New York, Miami, and Chicago. The Rust Belt cities, the Heartland, Southern states and most of Middle America seems like another world to most native urban and suburban Californians. But just as the United States would not be quite the same without Middle America, the NBA is a lot more interesting with a team like the Memphis Grizzlies.
I remembered a conversation I had with a friend about St. Louis. While she was living there, she told me that St. Louis was about five to seven years behind Chicago. The Grizzlies play a style of basketball that something out of the late 1990s and early millennium. They have two skilled big men who can post up. They don't shoot a lot of threes. (They rank in the bottom ten in percentage, and next to last in attempts.) They start an old school pass first and get my teammates involve point guard, who actually plays defense. The Grizzlies also have an us against the world, chip on their shoulder mentality led by their crazy Grindfather, Tony Allen. However, just like Rust Belt and Southern Cities, underneath the old-school, outdated-ness, the Grizzlies have subtle creativity and quiet innovation. Mike Conley is a very good point guard who can make both creative and clutch plays. Marc Gasol is one of the most skilled players in the NBA. I love watching him run the offense from the high post and throwing ridiculous passes.
The Grizzlies' owner, Robert Pera, is an Silicon Valley billionaire who is younger than some NBA veterans and founded a company with products and services that I don't quite understand. Even with their overlooked skills and effective if middle of the row offense, the Grizzlies' identity is defense and blue collar, which makes them not as sexy as the three point happy Rockets and Warriors, the explosive offense of the Clippers, the passing and movement of the Spurs, the combustible personality of the Thunder, or Mark Cuban and Chandler Parsons.
Obviously, something that is not sexy is not necessary bad. I am still seeking to find a place with a lower cost of living, better air quality and less traffic. As you get older, you don't need L.A., New York, or Chicago as much as you think you do, unless you're Carmelo Anthony and Lala. I would gladly take a place similar to where ex-Grizzlies Bryant Reeves can afford a home that is 15,000 square feet as long as it is about one hour away from a major airport. The Grizzlies and Middle America are not sexy, but the latter is not necessary a bad place to be and the former maybe the best team in the Western Conference even if no one embraces them.
Every team in the ridiculously competitive Western Conference has flaws. Even if Jeff Green improves his shooting, the Grizzlies may be one shooter and a bench scorer (since Vince Carter has suddenly look like he is 38 years old) short of being a complete team. But in reality, the only two complete teams in the Western Conference are the old but never dead Spurs and the unproven turnover prone Warriors. The Grizzlies match up well with the Warriors and maybe able to Grit and Grind their way pass the Spurs. The Clippers are my favorite team. But maybe it is my Midwestern and darn near Southern roots that causes me to root for the Grizzlies when they play certain teams, and I dislike them a lot less than the Thunder, Warriors, Lakers and Rockets. I root for the Grizzlies like I root for cities in the Rust Belt, the South and Middle America to have a rebirth and I root for the average working American. The Grizzlies are a team owned by a new school billionaire and led by two guys who had privileged childhoods, but somehow they are still blue collar underdogs.
Grizzlies Watchability Essay
The Grizzlies are near the bottom of the league in pace, but are 11th in the offensive efficiency. And of course, they sport a top 10 defense. This is not the Larry Brown era Detroit Pistons, or the current Charlotte Hornets. The Grizzlies have players such as Gasol, Zach Randolph and Conley who can make plays and put the ball in the basket. The Grizzlies will not put up 110 or 120 points on a regular basis, but they are an entertaining watch on both sides of the ball. Tony Allen is entertainment all by himself. You never quite know what he is going to do next while intuitively playing amazing defense or missing four lay ups in ten seconds. Jeff Green will amaze you for two games and underwhelm you for four, which is why he is not a star, but a decent (maybe not even good) complimentary player. If you like old school and subtlety, their three stars are a must watch. Conley is anti-spectacular and will never make any highlight type plays, but he will help you win games, does everything well and plays both sides of the ball. Randolph's old school post game is a relic from the past. And Gasol is the perhaps the best all around center in the game with his ability to protect the rim, rebound, make mid-range shots and pass. The Grizzlies are a solid team and a quietly entertaining one for people who loves nuance and defense.
Paul Tee's Prognosis
The Grizzles traded for Jeff Green because they know this year is probably their best chance to make the NBA Finals. Their window will probably be the next two to three years. Marc Gasol will stay in Memphis. Zach Randolph will play out his extension. Mike Conley will work toward his early 30s, where many point guards fall off or slowly fade away. The Grizzlies will be a very good playoff team as long as Conley and Gasol are on the roster. However, their chance to win the Championship has to be in the next few years while other teams sort things out, before Stephen Curry hits his prime and the Spurs become even stronger building around Kawhi Leonard. They have gotten a career shooting year from Courtney Lee and a semi-renaissance from back up guard Beno Udrih. This could be the year for Grit and Grind. The Grizz plays well against the sexy teams, the Warriors and the Clippers. They probably will overpower the Blazers and the Mavericks. And they have multiple guys to slow down James Harden. From a match up stand point, there are two teams that give them problems, the Thunder and the Spurs. Thanks to the Thunder's early season injury woes, the Thunder will likely end up with the 8th seed and could be ousted in the first round. The Spurs can match the Grizzlies' defensively and they are light years better offensively than the (still) shooting challenged Grizzlies. Kawhi Leonard can do everything Tony Allen can, plus he knows how to play offense. Assuming OKC gets the 8th seed (even resting his players, Pop will do everything in his power to keep the Spurs out of the 8th slot, and I am convinced that even Blake-less, the Clips will not fall past 7th) and loses, and if they can avoid the Spurs, the Grizzlies might be the safest bet to make the NBA Finals out of a crazy Western Conference. Then again, even if they have to go through the Spurs, this year might be the Grizzlies' time.