New contributor to The Barn, Matt Burnham, breaks down three key reasons why the Grizzlies will surprise the majority of pundits and make a playoff appearance for the eighth time in nine seasons. Currently, the Vegas odds makers have Memphis slated to win 34.5 games this season. Matt thinks they will achieve 43 wins and squeak into the playoffs. Here’s why:
Mike Conley is Back
The most underrated player in the league is going to be healthy for a full year. Perhaps the best player that nobody knows, Mike Conley, will play a full season. For his career, he averages 14.3 points and 5.7 assists. You might think those numbers are somewhere between pedestrian and solid for a guy who has been a starting point guard for eleven seasons, but his impact goes beyond the major statistics. When last seen healthy in the 2016-2017 season, Conley ranked 22nd in the league in player efficiency rating, which was higher than other point guards Kyrie Irving and Kyle Lowry, and just a tick below John Wall. His defensive ability, leadership, and high basketball IQ is exactly what you want in a young team. Conley’s impact will tremendously assist the development of guys like JaMychal Green, Dillon Brooks, Jevon Carter, and 4th overall pick in the draft, Jaren Jackson Jr.
— NBA (@NBA) October 11, 2018
New Kid On the Block
Speaking of Jaren Jackson Jr., the former Spartan will be the best rookie this season. His size, length, and his skills on defense will allow him to stay on the floor in games against the league’s stars. Another thing to keep in mind is that the Grizzlies lack natural scorers. JJJ will be granted freedom to take shots and put the ball in the hole. He has the ball handling skills and shoots well enough to be a factor in today’s league. In fact, it is arguably within the Grizzlies’ best interest to give Jackson free reign. If he is seen as the future of the franchise, they should give him that playing time and experience. He has an unselfish floor general running the point and he has the perfect mentor playing the 5. Expect JJJ to develop at a nice pace right before our very eyes, and expect him to give Memphis fans the most excitement they’ve had in years.
— Grind City Media (@grindcitymedia) October 10, 2018
The Not-So-Wild West
The Western Conference is overrated. For years, the narrative has been that the West is loaded. Yes it still remains the superior conference, but it is not the gauntlet it once was. After the Warriors, Rockets, Thunder, and Lakers, the last four spots are totally up for grabs. The Pelicans lost Rajon Rondo who was arguably their second if not third most important player in their playoff sweep of the Blazers. Anthony Davis is showing signs of being unhappy in New Orleans. The Blazers got exposed by the Pelicans in the playoffs, it’s hard to believe they can recover and be as strong as they were last season. They might break up that back court of C. J. McCollum and Dame Lillard at some point as well. The San Antonio Spurs are not what they used to be. They downgraded from Kawhi Leonard to DeMar DeRozan, Tony Parker is in Charlotte, Manu is retired, and they have already lost Dejounte Murray to an ACL tear. The Utah Jazz are to be respected and they will return to the postseason barring injury, but they are by no means an elite team. There are other young squads like the Nuggets and Suns who might contend for the eighth slot, but they do not have the same veteran leadership and big game experience as Grizzlies.
[Feature Image: Sports Illustrated]