We’ve reached the initial team that will win a ring this year without completely shocking the populace: the Memphis Grizzlies.
Rest assured a championship for the Grizzlies, who barely made it into the postseason last year with a list of 50-32 (the 17th reminder the West is loaded), would be a surprise. Zach Randolph is 33, and Mike Miller, a crucial floor-spacing shot in the past year’s underwhelming crime, followed LeBron James to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Scoring, as always, will be a problem for the Grizz.
But this team is going to defend like mad, particularly with a slimmed-down Marc Gasol patrolling the middle forward of his 2015 free agency. Toss in Tony Allen, the NBA’s scariest perimeter stopper, and you’ve got the key components for a league-best defense.
Vince Carter remains a precious wing guardian who can run a pick-and-roll and hit the occasional three, and Mike Conley is a playoff-tested fighter who just keeps getting better.
And keep in mind, we’ve seen this Grizzlies core knock off the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder in playoff series over the previous four decades. Nobody scares Memphis from the postseason.
When the Grizzlies can stay healthy and Gasol puts a big year, they are a dark-horse contender.