Thunderous Intentions will begin to preview the 2012-13 NBA season by going through every team in the league and breaking down how they match up with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Be sure to check out the previous matchups we have previewed: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers.
Memphis Grizzlies Team Overview
The Grizzlies were a popular team to pick in the playoffs last season, mainly because of what they did the year before knocking off the top-seeded Spurs in the first round.
Memphis was simply not the same team last year by playoff time. Zach Randolph had been battling injuries all season and was not the same dominant player he was a year before. The dynamic of a healthy Rudy Gay as the No. 1 scoring option did not seem to mesh well with the rest of the team either.
The Clippers would go on to beat the Grizzlies in seven games in the first round, closing them out on their home floor no less.
Memphis did not do much in the offseason and really wasn’t in position to. O.J. Mayo and Dante Cunningham will no longer be with the team next year and they are being replaced by Jerryd Bayless, Tony Wroten and Wayne Ellington.
Mayo is a significant loss for this team unless Bayless can finally live up to the expectations that followed him into the league. Wroten was taken late in the first round of the 2012 NBA Draft and is believed to be one of the best passers from the draft class and a potential sleeper who could blossom into a real solid player.
The Grizzlies are still expected to compete for a high seed in the West next year. Their frontline of Randolph-Gay-Gasol is very talented and if they can figure out how to play together better, Memphis will be a force to be reckoned with come playoff time.
The Oklahoma City Thunder played the Grizzlies four times last year in the regular season and beat them three times.
They first played in the Thunder’s third game of the season which OKC won 98-95 behind 32 points from Kevin Durant and 20 from James Harden.
Randolph-Gay-Gasol combined for 59 points and 36 rebounds in the loss.
The Thunder won again on Jan. 10 in Memphis 100-95. Russell Westbrook led the way with 30 this time while Durant had 22.
OKC won at home on Feb. 3 101-94. Durant scored the final seven points of the game to close out the Grizzlies and finished with 36 in the game. Westbrook had 21 and Harden had 24.
The Grizzlies won the final meeting 94-88 in OKC. This was during a tough stretch for the Thunder when Westbrook was struggling. He had 19 on 5-for-16 shooting in this game. Durant had 21 and Harden had 14.
Mayo was big off the bench leading Memphis with 22 and hit a crucial three late to seal the game.
The Grizzlies were not a great offensive team last season despite having many weapons. Their offense was just 23rd in the league overall in terms of points per possession.
They were just 12th in the league in post-up plays despite going to that very often and having players like Randolph and Gasol.
They were best in transition where they were 5th in the league. The Thunder were just 16th in the league defending transition plays but would have the advantage vs. Memphis in every other type of play.
The Grizzlies had the 6th best defense though and did make things tough for OKC on offense. They were 6th best vs. post-up plays, 8th vs. isolation plays and 9th vs. pick-and-roll plays.
The Grizzlies were just 18th vs. spot-up plays though meaning the Thunder would be at their best moving the ball more so than usual to get good shots rather than focusing on isolation play and the pick-and-roll.
The Grizzlies only played seven games vs. the Clippers in the playoffs but they were the best team in the playoffs scoring on post-up plays. Their defense regressed overall though but again, this sample size is just vs. the Clippers.
The Thunder will play the Grizzlies three times next season. They play in OKC Nov. 14, in OKC again Jan. 31 then in Memphis March 20.
The Grizzlies didn’t make any real significant moves this offseason to change their team but still will remain a tough out for the Thunder. OKC has been able to get the upper hand in this matchup the past two seasons though and that should continue next year.
The real problem for Memphis is finding offense against OKC and they didn’t really do anything to get better at that this summer. The Thunder will continue to improve offensively however and the gap between these teams should widen rather than decrease.