The Memphis Grizzlies are almost an invisible team. They rarely show up in national discussions and just aren't at the center of any buzz. You could forget that they are even in the league a lot of the time. Yet here they sit with a .586 win percentage, which makes them a playoff lock. They are a decent, solid squad - even if most casual fans don't notice.
Part of their issue, of course, is that they aren't a legitimate title contender - but then neither are 25 other teams. They have won seven of 10 and are in decent form. So, what do we know about this forgotten team? Are they worth paying attention to? Can they be relevant for bettors down the stretch? Here are six factors to consider when pondering those questions:
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Marc Gasol: After struggling with injuries last year, Gasol has come back strong this year. That's not what you would necessarily expect from a seven footer who just turned 32 and is recovering from a foot injury. He is posting career highs in points and assists and is playing as well as he ever has. His usage is the highest it has ever been on this team as well. He obviously gets a lot of credit for the success of this team. Given the relatively quick dropoff in production behind him and Mike Conley, his impact can't be understated. As good as he has long been in Memphis, though, I really do wish he could be somewhere else, or even on this team with a deeper collection of talent around him. He is, to some extent, being wasted where he is.
Mike Conley: Greg Oden's buddy is having a solid year for himself as well. He's also posting career highs in points and usage and is cementing himself as one of the more consistently solid point guards in the league. That he and Gasol are being used so much and responding as well as they are, though, is really part of the problem with this team. They are doing what they are doing because they are good, but they are also doing it because they have to. There is just no one else to carry the load. Zach Randolph, the third-leading scorer, is 35 and looks like it. His production is just a shadow of what it was. This is a case of a team that has two very solid players that mask too many of the deeper issues of the team and allow them to avoid the harsh realities of having to rebuild. Better that than being continuously lousy, I guess, but it has to be frustrating for fans to solidly be fine but never be a true threat. I mean, the team is the seventh choice to win the Western Conference at +4000 right now. That's a pretty nice return, but I would suggest it would be truly impossible to make an argument that there is even a fraction of an ounce of value in that bet.
Toney Douglas: This is only really a footnote, but I have always liked the veteran since his days at Florida State, so he deserves some attention. After two 10-day contracts he has been signed for the rest of the year. The reason is clear - he's averaging 17 solid minutes per game as backup point guard, and the team is 11-4 when he plays this year. It's amazing how often a guy who has to resort to a 10-day deal can make a big impact.
David Fizdale: Last year the team fired Dave Joerger after three seasons as head coach. It didn't make a ton of sense -- and the fact that he was on the market for barely no time before landing in Sacramento was prove of his value. Fizdale took over. He is making his head coaching debut after an eight-year run as an assistant in Miami and previous NBA stops in Atlanta and Golden State. I wasn't hugely inspired by the hire at the time, and it's too soon to have a real opinion on how it has been going. Conley and Gasol have obviously liked the change, and he's carried himself pretty well both in and outside of games. I still wouldn't have gotten rid of Joerger, but at least the change hasn't been a negative so far.
Betting performance: This team is pretty forgettable at the betting window as well. They are 30-28 ATS, which means that they are just a break-even squad. They've gone "under" 29 times and "over" 27, so they are a break-even total team as well. Dull. They are 15-14 ATS both at home and on the road, so geography provides no edge there. It does on the totals, though - to a shocking extent. At home the over is 7-21-1, so you could have bought yourself a new car by betting the under consistently. On the road, though, the over is 20-8-1, so to make the fortunes you had to shift to the over. You always need to look deeper than the surface numbers to see what is actually going on, and Memphis and the total is one of the starkest reminders of that that I have seen in awhile.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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