The Grizzlies are a little bit of an enigma. With young talent at almost every position and aging gunners at every other, they are a strange mix of players. Nonetheless, they remain a talented bunch with scorers galore. Still, don't look for the talent to translate into too many wins.
Jay – Whether or not Hasheem Thabeet turns out to be a bust. Even without any semblance of an offensive game, Thabeet could still make a huge impact due to his size, athleticism and shotblocking ability.
Tommy - OJ Mayo; He's a special talent with the ability to play lockdown defense, but he needs to grow as a leader and cut down on turnovers and bad shots. Especially with notorious gunners AI and Zach Randolph in town. But if THIS quote (from Mayo’s DraftExpress profile) doesn’t make you think Mayo will succeed, nothing will…
“He pushes himself as much as any player I’ve seen” Mike Procopio noted. “I’ve never seen a guy who is more focused than him. I feel bad for the guys who will have to work out against him. He reminds me of Clubber Lang [played by Mr. T] in Rocky 3 with the way he trained for that fight against Rocky. Rocky was in the disco having fun, and Clubber Lang was in some hole in the wall doing chin-ups. The guy is a nut when it comes to working out. You can see it in his eyes, he wants to be great. He’ll spend all day doing something until he gets it right. The kid cannot fail. He will not fail. He’s fearless. Some kids listen to the crowd around them, who tell them how good they are. They live on the hype. They live off the rankings of the scouting services around the country. He doesn’t. He wants to rip your heart out, serve it to you on a plate, and then do it again. The kid is a killer, he’s a total killer on the court. He’ll be a special player.”
TJ - Allen Iverson seems to be rejuvenated in Memphis and feels he has a chip on his shoulder to prove to the world that his career is not over just yet. (Note that I never said it was over; I believe he will make a solid impact in Memphis)
Biggest question mark:
Jay – How many gunners does it take to build a successful team? With a whole bunch of shot-first players, the Grizzlies are ready to test it out.
Tommy - Does Mike Conley have a chance? A truly spectacular player for Ohio State, Conley hasn't shown much explosiveness in the League and looks physically overmatched at times. Doesn't help he's had to deal with selfish players, but that's his reality now with Zach , AI and OJ around.
TJ - Zach Randolph is at a crossroads in terms of his NBA career. Will he come back to the good side or will he continue to burn his career away on the dark side? (Note: the city of Memphis might be too dangerous for Randolph to live. Did you ever hear this quote from Randolph’s high school coach? “I just don’t want the day to come where I pick up that paper and it says [Zach] shot someone, or that he was shot. Every day that goes by that I don’t see that, I feel good.”)
Most compelling storyline:
Jay – Allen Iverson’s shot at redemption. Iverson has done so much over his career that it would truly be a shame for people to remember him for last year’s underwhelming performance. If he can coax a few more wins out of this young bunch, it would go a long way towards sealing his legacy as one of the game’s greats. If not, he may be remembered in all the wrong ways. This is how he SHOULD be remembered…
Tommy - An outstanding collection of me-first gunners. AI. Zach Randolph. Rudy Gay. OJ Mayo.
TJ – While playing with the USA Select Team this summer, Rudy Gay apparently made a strong case for him to be on the 2012 Dream Team. The recognition he is beginning to receive around the league could translate into newfound confidence that makes him among the elite players in the NBA. I believe Rudy Gay will make his first all-star appearance this season.
Player to watch:
Jay – Marc Gasol. If you haven’t seen this kid play, you’re missing out. One of the better young low-post talents in the game today.
Tommy - Sam Young; I love this kid; ferocious competitior, good athlete, great defender. But how will he develop in this atmosphere?
TJ - OJ Mayo, who will be mentored by Allen Iverson. People forget who AI is but they will remember when they see a bigger version of him developing over the next few years in Mayo. Watch out because Mayo is the real deal and he is a work horse on a mission to become great.
Jay – 30-52
Tommy – 26-56
TJ – 31-51