Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Why You Want the Memphis Grizzlies to Play in the NBA Finals

The Grizzlies are one of my favorite teams in the NBA. Often times it seems that the best defensive teams in the league are devoid of any interesting personalities. If you're not from San Antonio, there's a pretty good chance that if you could hang out with any group of guys in the league, it's probably not going to be the Spurs.

Conversely, it is often the case that the teams with the most "interesting" players (Nick Young in Philadelphia, Demarcus Cousins in Sacramento, every single player that played for the Wizards from 2003 to 2006) aren't the best teams in the league.

What makes Memphis unique is that they are undoubtedly the best defensive team in the league while simultaneously having a very fun cast of characters (Z-Bo, "Trick or Treat" Tony Allen, Jerryd Bayless).

You might not be hoping the Grizzlies beat the Thunder, and there's a pretty good chance you're hoping the Warriors reach the finals, but there are quite a few reasons that Memphis is where your Western Conference loyalties should lie.

As a great defensive team with no real superstar, it's refreshing to see Memphis competing for the title. We're in an era of the NBA where teams are clamoring to acquire one or more of the top 15 players in the league. Memphis built its team in a traditional sense: strong inside players, defensive-minded wings, and a pass-first point guard.

In addition to their defense and strong team play, they have a very fun offense to watch, even if it isn't the most effective. They may not run and gun like the Warriors, Thunder, or Knicks, but the Grizzlies shoot a fair amount of three pointers themselves. In addition to that, Marc Gasol might be the best passing big man in the league and he routinely places the ball exactly where it needs to be, allowing Mike Conley, Quincy Pondexter, Allen and Bayless to score some really high-percentage baskets. The final piece of the offensive puzzle for the Grizz is Zach Randolph. Despite a slow second half to the season, Z-Bo has picked it up in the playoffs and is starting to look like his old self with a variety of masterful post moves based around his incredible strength and body control.

Perhaps the most interesting wrinkle of the Grizzlies making the finals is that it would mean that the Thunder did not make it. This would mean Durant will have gone six seasons without winning an NBA Championship. Furthermore, the Thunder look very pedestrian without Russell Westbrook, and Durant has yet to really step up and take over since Westbrook's injury. At what point do we start criticizing Durant the way we criticize all the other superstars that haven't won a ring? We blasted LeBron for years, Dirk took a lot of heat before finally winning a championship, and the lack of a championship ring is one of the biggest holes in Allen Iverson's resume.

Finally, the most important factor in why it would be great to see the Grizzlies make the finals is that they probably have the best chance of beating the Heat in a seven game series. As we've learned from Chicago, the blueprint for beating Miami is to rebound, play 48 minutes of quality defense, and pound the ball down in the post.

If that's the kind of basketball you're looking for, well there isn't a team in the league that plays it better than the Memphis Grizzlies.

-Sean Lerman

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