Memphis Grizzlies – Beale Street Beat

October 8, 2006

Website: The Beale Street Beat
Author: Thomas McKee

Last Year’s Record: 49-33

Key Losses: Shane Battier, Lorenzen Wright (Non-key losses: Antonio Burks, Anthony Roberson)
Key Additions: Rudy Gay, Stromile Swift, Anthony Alexander Johnson, Kyle Lowry, and Christian Laettner (joke)

Significant Offseason Moves: The trading away of fan favorite, team leader, and “face of the franchise” Shane Battier was by far the biggest move this offseason for the Griz. Jerry West pulled the trigger on draft night on a deal that sent Battier to the Houston Rockets in exchange for the rights to Rudy Gay (8th pick in the draft) and Stromile Swift. There’s no doubt that Battier will be missed on and off the court, but Jerry West is very confident that Rudy Gay can be a big star in the NBA. Griz veterans are already raving about the kid out of UConn. Eddie Jones said that he has never seen someone with so much talent that works so hard. The trade also marks the return of Stromile Swift, who began and played his entire career with the Grizzlies until signing with the Rockets last summer. When the trade first happened, there were reports that Swift was unhappy about returning to the Grizzlies. However, he’s currently in camp and reportedly has a great attitude and ready to play. There was a smaller draft night trade, where West sent a future 2nd round pick to Portland for PF Alexander Johnson out of Florida State. Johnson is built like a rock and had the chance to be a rebounding machine. The Griz has one pick of their own in the draft, and selected PG Kyle Lowry out of Villanova with the 24th pick. Aside from the draft, the Grizzlies resigned veteran PG Chucky Atkins. The team also let hometown boys and other fan favorites Lorenzen Wright and Antonio Burks leave via free agency.

Grizzlies’ Biggest Strengths: Athleticism, Athleticism, Athleticism. The Grizzlies’ roster is filled up and down with guys that can jump out of the gym. With guys like: Rudy Gay, Stromile Swift, Hakim Warrick, and Dahntay Jones, there is no doubt this team is going to be fun to watch. Another strength that this squad has is its veteran leadership. The roster consists of many young players with a good deal of potential, and there are plenty of veteran leaders on the team to help the younger ones grow. Guys such as Eddie Jones and Damon Stoudemire will be very instrumental in the development of the young talent. The biggest strenghth this team possesses is its defensive intensity. Just like last year when the Grizzlies were tops in many defensive catagories, this team is going to make their opponents work for their points.

Grizzlies’ Biggest Weaknesses: Rebounding. The bottom line is that the Grizzlies have been trying to get a legit “big man” for quite some time now, and once again have come up empty handed. The loss of Pau Gasol to the foot injury he sustained in the World Championships makes it even worse. With the team’s biggest rebounding pressence out for atleast the first 2 months of the season and the loss of Shane Battier and Lorenzen Wright, other players are going to have to step up. Alexander Johnson is more than capable of being a very effective rebounder. Other guys like Stromile Swift, Jake Tsakalidis, Hakim Warrick, and Rudy Gay will also have to do some extra dirty work on the glass. The other main weakness this team has is inexperience. The team is a mixture of young players with great potential, and veterans who know their role. On paper the team looks pretty good, but it is all going to depend on how well this team jells. Only time will tell if the team chemistry is going to form or not.

Goals for this year: WIN A PLAYOFF GAME! Jerry West shook up this team with only one purpose in mind. He wants a team that will not just make it to the playoffs, but will be successful in them. The Grizzlies have made the playoffs the last 3 seasons in a row, only to be swept all 3 times. Just making the playoffs again will not be good enough for this team. It’s time to take a series past game 4. The secondary goal is to keep developing the young talent. Jerry West is committed to getting Coach Mike Fratello to give the youngsters playing time. Look for not only this year’s rookies, but second year players Hakim Warrick and Lawrence Roberts to make big contirbutions to the team.

Key for this team: Start the season strong without Pau Gasol. If other players can step up and fill the void of the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, the season will be a success. The season rests on how the team performs at the beginning of the campaign, without Gasol. If the Grizzlies can survive the first 2 months of the season without their All-Star, the sky’s the limit.

Predicted Record: 45-37
(will slip into the playoffs, and win atleast one game)