• Derek Steiner

Why the Grizzlies Can Be Even Better This Season

*Photo via AP

Thanks to an established winning environment and a little bit of help from a well-timed film from Hustle and Flow director Craig Brewer, the Memphis Grizzlies abated the fears of all Memphians by resigning the big guy. Marc Gasol signed a brand spankin’ new deal worth $113 million for five years, assuring that Grit and Grind basketball in Memphis will continue. With their core four of Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, and Gasol locked in for another season, this team is going to be good, no question. But what have they done to prove that they can make it out of the brutally competitive Western Conference?

Like movie going audiences this summer, let’s ignore the Fantastic 4. We’ve established that they’re our studs. No need to further gush about them. The key for the Grizzlies, and for any championship level team for that matter, are their role players. Two signings snuck under the radar but will pay off mightily.

When the Grizzlies lost to the Warriors in six games this past spring, critics blamed Memphis’ lack of shooting. It’s a broken record. We get it. Tony Allen can’t shoot. But Tony needs to be on the floor. The Grizzlies defensive rating is 8.7 points better when he’s on the floor and opponents shoot 6.9 percent lower! So how did our front office address this issue?

Memphis went out and signed Public CLIP enemy #1, the notorious Grizz killer and “alleged” Rihanna paramour, Matt Barnes. He’s the epitome of a player you hate unless he’s on your team. And now he’s on our team. Not only does Matt Barnes fit into Memphis’ hardheaded defense first mentality, but Matt can shoot the three.

His 36.2 percent behind the arc would’ve been the third highest on the Grizzlies last year. Barnes provides the flexibility to keep Allen on the floor and add shooting without losing their defensive edge. Let’s face it, Vince Carter shooting 29.7 percent from three just wasn’t cutting it. Throwing Barnes into a rotation with marksmen Courtney Lee and Jordan Adams should make coaches think twice before packing the paint. Marc and Zach, meet your new best friend.

*Photo via Getty Images

For their second signing, Memphis filled a gaping hole in their rotation by finally signing an athletic power forward to back up Z-Bo…and at a bargain price. Signing a deal for three years worth 17 million, Tennessee native Brandan Wright chose less money to play for his home state team with championship aspirations. With all do respect to Kosta Koufos (signed with Sacramento for four years at 33 million), Brandan is a much better fit off the bench. Kosta was a terrific player who just didn’t have the skillset necessary to justify minutes behind Z-bo and Marc.

Memphis desperately needs that athletic four that can play above the rim and change the flow of the tempo. Brandan is that guy. While spending last season bouncing around a handful of teams, he managed to never let his field goal percentage drop below 57.1 percent. He’s lanky, efficient, and has the right attitude. Let’s hope he thrives in Beale Street blue.

This is going to be a special Grizzlies team this year. Another year of deep playoff experience combined with a pair of sneaky good signings make this team worth keeping an eye on. Any rankings that have them outside the top ten is just silly. As of now, Vegas has the Grizzlies chance of winning the championship this year at 30-1. I’m not condoning gambling, but if you like making money...

Stats and info courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com, ESPN.com, Commercialappeal.com, Vegasinsider.com

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