The last time the Memphis Grizzlies made the postseason in the Western Conference, it was 2006. They had won 49 games, sneaked into the West playoffs, and they happened to be led by a young center named Pau Gasol. Nowadays, the scene has changed — Pau has two rings with the L.A. Lakers, the Grizzlies have moved on, and they've now got Pau's brother manning the middle every night. Marc Gasol is just one of many young pieces the Grizz are building around for the future.
2009-10 Record: 40-42 (fourth in Southwest Division, 10th in Western Conference, missed playoffs)
Celtics' record vs. Grizzlies: 18-11 all time, 1-1 last season
Familiar faces: Tony Allen (played first six years of NBA career with Celtics), Rudy Gay (played two seasons at UConn), Hasheem Thabeet (played three seasons at UConn)
Key additions: Allen (free agent), Acie Law (free agent), Xavier Henry (draft), Greivis Vazquez (draft)
Key losses: Allen Iverson (remains a free agent)
Burning question: Can Rudy Gay prove he's worth the max money?
The Grizzlies sat down at the beginning of this summer to work out a new deal with their franchise player, and it didn't come cheaply. The Grizz will now be forking over $82 million between now and the summer of 2015 to keep Rudy Gay in a midnight blue jersey.
Will it pay off? Gay is a fantastic athlete and a well-polished scorer, and he continues to grow with age. But is he an elite superstar in the league right now, at 23? Is he, as all NBA players love to boast, a "max guy"?
All signs point to … not really. Gay averaged 19.9 points per game last season in Memphis, but he was all too often a second option after Zach Randolph, or even a third after O.J. Mayo.
Maybe now that Gay's a rich man, he'll get the rich man's treatment in Memphis and become the undisputed alpha dog. But if we've learned anything from the last few years, it's that you can't win a title in this league by overpaying for bad contracts. The Grizzlies need to get back on the right track by finding the value in every single dollar. They'd better hope they get the right value out of Gay — that would be a good start.
2010-11 outlook: Gasol, Gay and Mayo are all going to have monster seasons, as will Randolph. But the Grizzlies' depth is the real problem. Will their second unit step up and make them into a playoff team? Anything's possible, but don't hold your breath. The Grizzlies are still a couple of pieces away from being a fully-loaded contender in the West. Adding T.A. was a nice move, but he might not be enough.
Did you know? Hasheem Thabeet didn't discover basketball until age 15. It was then that he began watching and eventually playing (and dominating) pickup games in his native Tanzania, and from there he was an instant success. Thabeet spent three years at UConn before being taken by the Grizzlies with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 draft.