By signing their key players to contract extensions the past couple of years, the Memphis Grizzlies have a solid starting five. However, their bench production has been average at best which has held them back a bit. The Griz need to upgrade the talent behind their starters this off-season, but that will be difficult to do since the team has very little cap flexibility in free agency.
Memphis Grizzlies (41-25 last year)
2011-12 Season Summary:
Despite losing in the first round of the NBA Western Conference Playoffs, it was a banner year for the Memphis Grizzlies’ franchise. They finished with the best record in team history despite being without star power forward Zach Randolph for more than half of the season.
Randolph suffered a knee injury just four games into the year that caused him to miss about two and a half months of action. His absence combined with reserve power forward Darrell Arthur missing the entire season because of a torn Achilles tendon, left Memphis fairly thin up-front.
Coming off his monster contract extension, Marc Gasol once again held down the fort in the middle. With a shortage in numbers, general manager Chris Wallace had to make a deal early in the season, acquiring Marreese Speights from Philadelphia. The duo played well together with Speights even remaining in the starting line-up at times after Randolph’s return.
Not much changed on the wing for the Griz. Rudy Gay did return from an injury that cut short his 2010-11 season and re-emerged as Memphis’ go-to scorer. Tony Allen brought his grittiness at the two with O.J. Mayo serving as the team’s sixth man. Mike Conley once again failed to wow anybody with his play at the point guard spot.
Like the frontcourt depth was an issue in the backcourt. Besides Mayo, Memphis didn’t get a ton of production from their other guards, even trying to revitalize Gilbert Arenas’ career.
2012-13 Projected Depth Chart:
C: Marc Gasol/*Marreese Speights
PF: Zach Randolph/Dante Cunningham/*Darrell Arthur
SF: Rudy Gay/Quincy Pondexter
SG: Tony Allen/*O.J. Mayo/Josh Selby
PG: Mike Conley/*Lester Hudson/Jeremy Pargo
NBA Free Agents:
*SG-O.J. Mayo (RFA)
*PF-Marreese Speights (RFA)
*PF-Darrell Arthur (RFA)
*G-Lester Hudson (RFA)
C-Hamad Haddadi (UFA)
G-Gilbert Arenas (UFA)
2012-13 Team Salary: approximately $62.4 million
1. Hold the Mayo:
With O.J. Mayo becoming a restricted free agent, Memphis has a decision on whether or not to offer him a long-term extension. The Griz could also just extend the qualifying offer of almost $7.4 million and see if any other teams offer Mayo a big contract which would give Memphis the option to match that contract. I’m not sure Mayo is worth an extension, especially a pricey extension, but the Grizzlies’ hand might be forced this summer.
2. Frontcourt Depth:
With Speights and Arthur both restricted free agents, Memphis might need to find depth up-front if they choose not to re-sign them or either player is plucked away by a different team. Memphis only has their mid-level exception to use and is already over the expected league salary cap which puts them in a tough financial situation.
3. Point Guard:
Memphis had a difficult time find a true back-up for Mike Conley at point guard. Jeremy Pargo and Josh Selby tried to fill that role this past season and the team even picked up veterans Gilbert Arenas and Lester Hudson late in the season to see if they would be the answer. I am not sure any of those guys are the long-term answer so the Griz might be better off finding a more stable option.
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David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.
You can follow him on Twitter at David_KmiecikFollow paulmbanks