What are the Memphis Grizzlies Western Conference Hopes?

By Lucas M.

The Memphis Grizzlies enter the All-Star break on a three-game winning streak, though the jury is still out on the team’s long-term chances of success after they traded Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors. So what can Memphis do in the playoffs when they make it there?

The Grizzlies are currently 33-18 in the Southwest Division, good for a distant second behind the ever-excellent San Antonio Spurs. Their brand of basketball is unique in the modern NBA; they pound teams in the paint with a combination of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, two of the best bigs in the entire league. While the rest of the NBA has gravitated toward playing small ball, with players like LeBron James and Kevin Durant playing power forward or even center, the Grizzlies are committed to an old-school idea of what big men can accomplish. Of course, their defense is sensational as a result; Memphis is second in the league in points allowed, giving up just 90.2 points per game. A large part of that success has to do with one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, Tony Allen, who started the year off badly but has been rounding into form.

“Tony has been playing outstanding,” Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said. “His defense has been outstanding. Early in the game focus was a problem. He was gambling and giving up buckets, but as the game wore on he got into it. Usually there’s one guy who’s not having a good night because of Tony Allen.”

While the loss of Rudy Gay to the Raptors undoubtedly hurts the Grizzlies, his game wasn’t how they make their bread and butter; with a combination of the two big men, stingy defense, and occasional outbursts of three-point shooting from the likes of Tayshaun Prince (acquired in the Gay trade) and Wayne Ellington, the Grizzlies have a tried and true recipe for playoff success. They’ve also become a more selfless team, particularly since Gay’s departure.

“The ball movement is getting contagious,” Hollins said. “Everybody is moving the ball. It’s nice; giving goals to Zach (Randolph), guys cutting. The whole team is just looking to make the extra pass and the extra play.”

The Memphis Grizzlies are currently 30/1 odds to win the NBA title, making them the ninth-highest favored team.  They’re getting 13/1 odds to win the Western Conference, where they’re the fifth  most-favored squad. Memphis has also been rock-solid against the spread this season, posting a 29-21-2 ATS record. However, perhaps the best Grizzlies bet you can find is this: 8/1 odds to win the Southwest Division. The Spurs are 7.5 games up on the Grizz right now, but that is far from a stranglehold on the proceedings, and there’s a lot of basketball left to be played. Stranger things have happened, especially late in the season in regards to the San Antonio Spurs’ roster management. Perhaps Gregg Popovich, the wizard-like coach of the Spurs, will analyze the playoff seedings and decide it’s more detrimental to finsh no. 1-overall than it would be to wrap up at no. 2. Also, the Grizzlies are fully capable of getting hot; their eight-game winning streak at the beginning of the season proved that. Taking the Grizz to win either their division or the entire West is not necessarily a crazy decision.