NBA Preview: Grizzlies
NBA Preview: Grizzlies. By WagerWeb.com and Ecobika Sportsbetting
Memphis coach Mike Fratello deserved all the Coach of the Year consideration he received after guiding a team severely lacking in offensive talent to 49 victories last season.
Fratello has always been able to maximize his teams' win potential by giving them a chance to win down the stretch. Like all Fratello teams, the Grizzlies played a slow-down game, accentuated by a hard-nosed defense, and scored just enough to win.
It won't be as easy this season. Not only does the trade of Shane Battier weaken the defense, but forward and leading scorer Pau Gasol suffered a broken foot during the FIBA World Championships and isn't expected to return until January.
The Grizzlies lacked scoring last season. At least until Gasol comes back, they will now be among the worst offensive teams in the NBA. Odds are Memphis is headed for a lottery pick.
New point guard Damon Stoudamire hasn't played particularly well for several years and was injured most of last season, so it is a stretch to believe he can lead this team to victory.
Key additions: G Stoudamire, F/C Stromile Swift, F Rudy Gay
Key subtractions: F Battier, G Bobby Jackson, F Lorenzen Wright
Sportsbook odds: WagerWeb.com believes the Grizzlies will experience quite a fall in 2006-07. They are rated last in the Southwest Division with an over/under victory total of 39 and NBA title odds of +3300.
Player to watch: Stoudamire has been sliding for a few years, but the Grizzlies are counting on him to energize the team at the point guard spot. He has proven capable when healthy, but not for a few years. He is an adept scorer and has shown an ability to break down defenses through penetration. This team, however, might need him to play with the mindset of a scorer as well as a passer, at least until Gasol returns. Stoudamire must elevate his game considerably, but don't bet on that happening.
Outlook: Fratello has become accustomed to taking offensively challenged groups into the playoffs. He accomplished that in Cleveland and won nearly 50 games with a Memphis team lacking in scoring punch a year ago. But this is ridiculous. Until Gasol returns, the Grizzlies boast no players on their roster who averaged more than 11.9 points a game in 2005-06. Shooting guard Eddie Jones is a capable scorer, and Memphis is expecting big things from athletic top draft pick Rudy Gay, who likely will open the season as the starting off-guard. And Memphis hopes new center Swift, who was the second overall pick in the draft six years ago by the Grizzlies when they resided in Vancouver, will begin realizing his potential. If Fratello can again win 49 games with this team, he should be Coach of the Year.
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