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Gaining Interest In the Grizz

A Daily Babble Production

Confession: A little less than a year ago, I made the ultimately doomed-from-the-start prediction that the Memphis Grizzlies would be the Western Conference's eighth playoff team in 2007-08.   My, that worked out embarrassingly.

Embarrassing for a team that won 22 games and traded the best player in its history for approximately 14 cents (plus some cap space) on the dollar.  Embarrassing for yours truly.

As the landscape currently stands, the plan here is to avoid making any such prediction this year - particularly with the Grizzlies failing to snag Josh Smith away from the Hawks last week via offer sheet.

But considering the possibilities for Smith in Memphis got me thinking about the rest of the cast with which he would have played.  While the Grizzlies assuredly don't look like they'll be making a playoff run in the West as currently constructed, there is plenty about them that merits intrigue.


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At the top of that list is O.J. Mayo.  The enigmatic rookie from USC should be nothing if not compelling this season, and I've already found myself going through internal struggle about him.  His high school history was enough to make me queasy - from his disciplinary track record to the final play of his career, in which he threw himself an alley-oop off the glass and then earned a tech by heaving the ball into the stands - but he was also hands-down one of the most well put together prospects on media day and draft night.  The guy is also super-athletic and has the potential to be a force in the back-court for years to come in this league.  Looking forward to the explosiveness, the growing pains and the discovery of what type of dude this guy really is - or as mucch of a discovery as we can get as observers.

Also of intrigue will be Mayo's running mate in the back-court, second-year point guard Mike Conley Jr.  Conley took over the starter's job over the second half of last season and experienced his share of rookie struggles on a bad team, and it will be worth monitoring how he progresses in year two.  He drew me in by being a southpaw, and the quickness and passing vision he displayed while playing alongside Greg Oden at Ohio State didn't hurt either.  It would be a pleasure to see this guy make a big jump forward this season, and he may have to because - at least for now - young point guards Kyle Lowry and Javaris Crittenton continue to wait in the wings.

In the front-court, Hakim Warrick and Darko Milicic are two young vets to keep an eye on.  Warrick is a personal favorite because of his athleticism and tenacity.  He stands 6-foot-9, has a great wingspan and quickness and jumps well to boot.  Warrick likes to play defense and has the tools to become one of the league's more versatile threats and one of its best energy guys.

Meanwhile, Milicic needs to demonstrate himself worth the lucrative free agent contract the Grizz gave him a summer ago.  He showed shot-blocking prowess and some effectivness on the boards toward the end of his time in Orlando, but in year six, it's really time for the former number two pick to show why he was so highly touted back in 2003.  Milicic, Conley and coach Marc Iavaroni are all in their second year in Memphis, and all have something to prove.

Marc Gasol should no doubt be an interesting NBA study.  Looking forward to seeing what he can do at the NBA level.

And of course, Antoine Walker is currently this team's highest-paid player.

Lots of young talent, still plenty of cap space, and 'Toine: The Memphis Grizzlies don't project to be great this season, but they should be captivating at the very least. 

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