The Memphis Grizzlies have started this year much slower than everyone expected. They are 3-3 with two of their losses coming against teams that failed to make the playoffs last year.
With the exception of their victory over the Warriors, the Grizzlies looked unimpressive in their wins. They needed overtime in their first home game of the year to knock off the Pistons and a stellar fourth quarter performance from Jerryd Bayless to hold off the Celtics.
Thanks to their sluggish start, a sense of uneasiness is emanating from Grizz Nation, and it is justifiable.
After all, this is the same team that had the best defense in the NBA a year ago, made it to the Western Conference Finals, returns essentially all of the same players, and last season lost only one game the entire month of November. They should not be performing this poor right?
Right, but it is too soon to hit the proverbial panic button.
Here are five reasons why it is too soon for the Grizzlies to panic…
Mike Conley’s continued improvement:
During the Grizzlies less than inspiring start Conley has continued his rise to the top of the NBA’s best point guards list. He is emerging as a serious threat for the Grizzlies on the perimeter, averaging just over 20 points and close to six assists per contest. Conley is doing a better job of finishing around the rim, and continues to be a disruptive force on the defensive side of the ball averaging 1.6 steals so far on the year. The evolution of Conley’s game will take significant pressure off of the big men in the post, and cause significant matchup problems for opposing teams.
Memphis has managed to make the playoffs in past seasons despite slow starts:
Last year’s start for the Grizzlies was more of an anomaly than the norm for the franchise. During the 2011-2012 campaign, Memphis was 14-14 with a little more than half of the schedule left to play (there were only 66 games that year due to the lockout) before going on a 27-11 tear to close out the year. In fact the last month of the season saw the Grizzlies go 13-3 to secure the fourth seed in the West. The year before that the Grizzlies started 2-1 before losing three straight games to fall under the .500 mark on November 5th. Memphis did not reach .500 again until January 29th (nearly three months later) after their win over the Wizards, and they never looked back. After that game Memphis went 22-12 in route to securing the number eight seed in the Western Conference Playoffs. While this season’s slow start is not ideal, it is nothing that this group of Grizzlies players are not accustomed to and can overcome.
There are enough tradable assets for the Grizzlies to make a move and fill a need if necessary:
Some fans might not like thinking about the possibility of a trade, but it may be necessary to fill some of the Grizzlies needs. Sure it may be hard to trade a fan favorite like Quincy Pondexter, or players with potential like Ed Davis or Nick Calathes, but people will not mind as much if it makes the team better. Moving some of the young and talented players on the roster to get more consistent shooting is always an option before the trade deadline, and you never know what happens if you add the right piece.
It is going to take time for the players to get use to a new coach:
Even though he was hired to keep some continuity in the franchise, Coach Joeger is still a new coach. Several of the players on the team are used to former coach Lionel Hollins style of coaching and way of playing, especially since Coach Hollins has coached core players like Conley and Marc Gasol for most of their careers. It is going to take some time for the players to get used to the expectations and style of a new coach.
They have over 70 games left to play:
Sure if the season ended today the Grizzlies would be a half game out of the final playoff spot, but the season is not ending today and they have over 70 games left on the schedule. If the season ended today the Suns and the Trail Blazers would be in the playoffs. Not only would Phoenix and Portland be in the playoffs, but they would be the fourth and fifth seeds in the West ahead of the Clippers, Rockets, Warriors, and Grizzlies (four teams that made the playoffs last year). Let that sink in for a minute. Not that there is anything wrong with either one of those teams, but seriously does anybody think either will be in the playoffs at the end of the year? The NBA schedule is not a 16 game sprint like the NFL’s, or a 12 game dash like college football. It is an 82 game marathon, so everyone should relax and let the season play itself out until the end.