Hollinger's Team Forecast: Memphis Grizzlies

Originally Published: October 2, 2006
By John Hollinger | ESPN Insider
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Memphis defined the term "winning ugly" in 2005-06. It won 49 games and posted the fourth-best record in the West despite a coma-inducing style, a result of the league's slowest pace. Unfortunately, the NBA's bizarre playoff seeding system put them in a matchup against Dallas, and the Grizzlies were swept in the first round for a third straight season.

This team was better than its record, too. Memphis outscored its opponents by 3.7 points per game -- or about what Miami did. Normally a team with Memphis' points scored and points allowed ends up with 54 wins, but the Griz only won 49, primarily because they went 7-12 in games decided by five points or less. Their differential between expected wins and actual wins was the league's second largest -- only Indiana was less fortunate.

Pau Gasol
Elsa/Getty ImagesPau Gasol put the hurting on opponents last season.
The Grizzlies played so well without an awe-inspiring roster thanks to a few career years. Big man Pau Gasol made his first All-Star team, while wingman Mike Miller won the Sixth Man award. Plus, the team got an unexpected breakout performance from center Jake Tsakalidis in the second half.

Additionally, Memphis withstood the offseason dismantling of its backcourt surprisingly well. The Grizzlies traded Jason Williams, Bonzi Wells and James Posey while Earl Watson left as a free agent, leaving Miller as the only holdover on the perimeter. But the trades brought in Eddie Jones and Bobby Jackson, who fit in better with the team's defensive identity than Williams and Wells, and free-agent acquisition Damon Stoudamire nearly matched Williams' production in the backcourt.

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