The 2012-2013 NBA season is not even ten games old, and traditional powers the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers have been far from dominant, teams like New York Knicks, Minnesota Timberwolves and Los Angeles Clippers have been pleasant surprises, and the Miami Heat, OKC Thunder and San Antonio Spurs look like the cream of the crop right now. By the end of the year this may mean nothing, but the Memphis Grizzlies appear to have a chance to do real damage come playoff time, that is, if they can stay healthy as they enter the playoffs.
Right now, the sportsbooks have Miami as the favorite at around +150. The Lakers are at +300, and OKC is at around +500. Memphis is a +4000, so there is value in getting in on this bet early. The New Jersey Nets, by comparison are +3000. The Nets are a different story this year as they have improved, but anyone who thinks the Nets are more likely to win a title than Memphis should be bet against. Take their money.
Memphis is a solid 6-1 already this season. Over the past few years, they have been in the playoffs as one of the lower seeds, and they have earned a label of being the team no one wants to play.
But for the last two years, the Grizz have not been able to pair arguably their two best players due to injury. A few years back, Rudy Gay was lost to the team as he recovered from an injury, and last year Zach Randolph missed more than half the season with an injury. They were also adapting to a new coach, Lionel Hollins, who has proven to be very good. Hollins has now had a year to get the players to buy into his systems, and he has a full array of weapons at his disposal.
The weapons, which is a core that includes Randolph, Gay, Marc Gasol and point guard Mike Conley has been together for a good bit of time. Gay is averaging over 20 points a game in a season where the top scoring averages are down. Randolph is leading the league in rebounding, and is as certain a double/double every game as there is in the league. Gasol is a load, and he has every bit of toughness his finesse brother Pau is missing. Conley has a new contract and should be motivated.
Last night, the team battered the OKC Thunder 107-97. The core of Conley, Gay, Gasol and Randolph all played 35 minutes or more. And they are all in their primes, with Randolph being the elder statesman at 31. Let’s just say they will have legs that older teams like the Spurs, Celtics and Mavericks will never be able to match. They have size and favorable match ups over the Heat and Thunder. Only the Lakers can meet them head to head personnel wise at every position, but it is the Lakers super team’s first year together, with a newly hired coach who quite frankly, may not be the answer over there.
The Grizzlies also have had some people pass away this year, which at times can serve as motivation. Last month, vice president of basketball operations Dana Davis died suddenly at 56, and assistant general manager Kenny Williamson passed away after fighting off cancer for a year. Williamson especially, served as a communicator and a motivator who was known not only for his basketball knowledge, but was known as a people person. These are also the types of things that can galvanize a team.
It is early in the long haul NBA season, but at +4000, I am ready to throw a couple of hundred bucks behind them! Who knows, at the end of the year we may all be partying on Beale Street.