After an inspired playoff run two years ago, which saw them shock the top seeded Spurs in the first round, expectations were high in Memphis heading into last season.
A 41-25 record earned them the fourth seed, but home court advantage didn't help as the Clippers eliminated them in seven games.
The Grizzlies still boast one of the best starting fives in the West, including a very strong front court, but if they are going to be dangerous this season, they will need to replace sixth man O.J. Mayo who is now in Dallas.
A Healthy Z-Bo - Randolph missed time last year with a tear in his MCL and his absence hurt the team. Randolph avoided surgery and came back near the end of the season, but wasn't the same dominant version of himself that helped the Grizzlies the year before. With all reports pointing to the Grizzlies power forward being back to form, the club could be sharpening their claws for the coming season.
The Big Boys
Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph form a formidable one-two punch in the frontcourt.
Rudy! Rudy! Rudy! - He may not grab headlines, but Gay has become a driving force in Memphis and is one of the most underrated players in the league. Gay is an athletic scorer and works hard on the defensive end as well. The only knock on his game is a lack of consistence, since he tends to be a streaky player. Regardless, he has averaged between 18 and 20 points per season for the last five years in Memphis.
Stepping Up On D - The best thing about the Grizzlies team is how well their individual parts play as a whole. Gay is a star, but he is more than willing to play within the system and defend. Tony Allen is an excellent perimeter defender and has backup in Randolph and centre Marc Gasol. The Grizzlies grind on their opponents and that is especially effective in the post-season.
Crunch-Time Scoring - In last year's playoff loss to the Clippers, it became evident that Memphis didn't have anyone to step up and knock down shots if Gay was struggling down the stretch. A healthy Randolph remedies that issue by drawing defensive attention and opening up shots for others, but when points are hard to come by in the final minutes, Memphis needs to know they have a clutch scorer to rely on.
Get ready for the season with the latest from TSN.ca.
Depth is an issue, but their frontcourt has the Grizzlies in the top 10.
26th ranked Rudy Gay is a quality scorer and rebounder at the small forward spot.
Next Man Up - Two years ago, the Grizzlies let Shane Battier leave. This off-season it was O.J. Mayo. Those moves have allowed them to keep their core intact (Randolph, Gasol, Gay, Conley), but they will need players to step into more prominent roles this season. Jerryd Bayless, Josh Selby and Tony Wroten will all be asked to contribute.
X Factor: Zach Randolph
Have we mentioned how important Randolph is? Well, let's talk about it some more. If Randolph recaptures the form he had two years ago, Memphis can challenge anyone in the league and that includes teams like the Thunder and Heat. When Randolph is able to draw double teams, the Grizzlies offence runs better and when he is able to bang defensively, they are incredibly tough to score on. The pieces are in place, but Randolph is the key to the team's success.
What to Expect
Barring injury, Memphis will punch their ticket to the post-season. What happens once they arrive in the playoffs will depend on how their secondary players perform and on whether they can find the chemistry they had perfected in 2010-2011. The Spurs, Thunder and Lakers are the favourites in the West, but none of the upper echelon teams want to deal with a seven game series against the Grizzlies.
Tim Chisholm's Offseason Grade
After handing out massive extensions recently to Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, the well finally ran dry and the Grizz had to let O.J. Mayo walk and make mostly under-the-radar moves to replace him.
They inked Jerryd Bayless and drafted Tony Wroten jr., and both may have a chance to make an impact this season, but with all of the improvements in the West the Grizzlies look like they've taken a step back by mostly standing still.
They are going to be banking on health and internal growth getting them further this season.