Memphis point guard Mike Conley could miss up to six weeks with a back injury. What does this latest Grizzlies’ injury mean for that team’s playoff hopes?
Steve Aschburner: The Grizzlies have been better than I expected coming in, so that qualifies both as a tutorial in their capability and a cushion for this significant setback. But I’m going to say this doesn’t torpedo their postseason hopes, for a couple reasons. Even eight weeks is survivable and recoverable, at this point in the schedule -- Memphis would have more than two months left to right itself in what figures to be a pretty tight group of teams vying for a lower West berth. Also, I don’t see a lot of push coming from the bottom of the conference. There are six teams that I don’t think will overtake the Grizzlies, leaving mostly Portland and an overachieving Lakers team as their biggest threats in my eyes. Utah? Yeah, I expect the Jazz to pass them. But Oklahoma City has shown flaws that could cost the Thunder a spot or three in the standings and, ooh boy, if Russell Westbrook misses any time ... So I think Memphis will be resilient enough to reach the playoffs, with the asterisk of “no more crippling injuries, please.”
Fran Blinebury: Despite the fact that he’s never played in All-Star Game, Conley is the key cog that keeps the Grizzlies’ offense humming. This season there is a Grizzlies net rating difference of more than 20 points per game with Conley off and on the floor. This injury, depending on time lost, could be the difference in Memphis battling for a top four seed and home-court advantage in first round of the playoffs.
Scott Howard-Cooper: It’s a big hit. There is no way around it. Conley’s importance to the team would be obvious no matter what, but especially since the Grizz have rookies behind him at point guard. The front office will obviously be considering options from outside -- free-agent veteran ball handlers, younger talent in the NBA D-League with some NBA experience, maybe a trade -- but no one will come close to Conley for the next two months or so in a Western Conference race where every outcome may matter come April.
Shaun Powell: Conley was putting together perhaps his best season ever and was on pace to finally make an All-Star team when this happened. Awful for him, although the Grizzlies if nothing else have been rather resilient lately; remember, they fought through Marc Gasol's injury last season to grind toward the playoffs. Conley is their glue guy so it'll be a tougher task. It all depends on when he returns and whether he can go from zero to 60 when he does.
John Schuhmann: They somehow held on to their playoff spot last season with the plethora of injuries that they had, so I wouldn't count the Grizzlies out. But it's obviously a huge blow to lose one of your two best players for such a long time, especially when you're left with two rookies (who have shot a combined 21 percent from outside the paint) at point guard. Still, with only seven good teams in the Western Conference right now, it's possible that the Grizz won't have sunk too far by the time Conley returns.
Sekou Smith: You don't want to overreact with an injury like this, but it's potentially a huge hit for the Grizzlies if Conley's absence trends more towards the eight weeks than the four to six. Last season the Grizzlies found a way to ground and pound their way into the playoffs with a patched together roster. They could do the same thing this time around if they can find the right band aid at point guard for the next month or so.
Ian Thomsen: Say Conley is out for the full two months: Can Memphis win close to 10 games without him? In that case they would be a few games under .500 with three months to go in the regular season. It looks as if 41 wins will earn a playoff spot in the West for a second straight year, and the Grizzlies would have plenty of time to make a closing run when Conley returns. But winning those 10 games in his absence isn’t going to be easy, given the injuries they’ve already suffered in addition to the dropoff from Conley to rookie point guard Wade Baldwin, who is shooting 18.2 percent from the 3-point line. It may be that 39 year old Vince Carter (health permitting) will be handling the ball a lot for the holidays.
Lang Whitaker: Well the one thing we know about the Grizzlies is they'll never stop gritting and grinding. Not having Conley is a huge blow, for sure, but they still have a lot of other weapons that can get buckets, including Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Right now the 8th seed in the West belongs to a 9-10 team, so if the Grizzlies can just maintain until Conley returns and come back with something resembling an even record, they should still have a chance down the stretch.
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