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Gasol is back, but it still looks like a grind for Grizzlies

Will Memphis' tried-and-true style net a Finals berth at last?

POSTED: Oct 21, 2015 11:24 PM ET

By Fran Blinebury

BY Fran Blinebury

NBA.com

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Grizzlies Season Preview: Next Level

Stu Jackson and Mike Fratello evaluate Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley's ability to take Memphis to the next level.

Never mind the summer panic in Memphis. All-NBA center Marc Gasol is staying and the Grind House stays open for business. Another season of bruising in the paint and searching for an outside shot.

ICYMI

The only real question that Marc Gasol had in free agency was finding out if his point guard buddy Mike Conley was just as committed to a long-term stay with the franchise. Then he re-signed in a heartbeat. ... Rookie forward Jarell Martin, the 25th pick in the 2015 Draft, needed surgery on his left foot after breaking a bone during a workout with teammates in September. ... With all of the movement of free agents over the summer, the Grizzlies' pickup of power forward/center Brandan Wright could be an under-the-radar move that pays off big dividends. ... Memphis has never won a playoff game beyond the conference semifinals.

THREE POINTS

1. While their offensive rating has improved to put them in the the upper half of the NBA ranks, the Grizzlies still play as ponderously as, well, grizzlies. Pace of play improved from worst in the league to 26th and in a game that is going toward warp speed, Memphis has simply got to find a way to keep up.

2. As the 3-pointer continues to grow in importance with each passing season, the Grizzlies continue to be stuck in the past with an attack that doesn't take enough advantage of the long ball. They ranked 29th out of 30 teams in both 3-point shots attempted and made. For all the damage that the bruisin' twosome of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph can do on the inside, they'd be more effective if Memphis could spread the floor.

3. One of the biggest dilemmas facing the Grizzlies is Tony Allen. On one hand, he's the "Grindfather," the in-your-face defender who gives the team so much of its identity. But he's so offensively challenged that he makes it difficult to score points when he's on the floor. They need somebody to step up and supplant Allen, so he can used off the bench.

MAN ON THE SPOT

Jeff Green needs to bounce back from making such a bad first impression when he joined the team in the middle of last season from the Celtics. He's long and lean and has the kind of versatility that should be just what the Grizzlies need at the small forward spot. But he never settled in and was often a liability at his position. The boldest move might be to get Green increased minutes at power forward as the league in general plays more more small ball.

STARTING FIVE

Courtney Lee | 10.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.0 apg
Best 3-point shooter on the team doesn't take or make nearly enough.

Mike Conley | 15.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 5.4 apg
Best point guard in the league who has never been named to the All-Star Game.

Zach Randolph | 16.1 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 2.2 apg
How much longer can Z-Bo keep right on churning like this? He'll let you know.

Marc Gasol | 17.4 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 3.8 apg
Scores, passes, rebounds, defends and makes Grizzlies work at both ends of the floor.

Tony Allen | 8.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.4 apg
The man who put the grind into the Grind House still has teeth at the defensive end.

KEY RESERVES

Jeff Green | 13.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.8 apg
Up-and-down season leaves Grizzlies hoping for more.

Matt Barnes | 10.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1/5 apg
Brings more grit, and hopefully an outside shot, to Grizzlies.

Brandan Wright | 7.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 0.6 rpg
Versatile big man could wind up as a steal on front line.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The Grizzlies' bruising, grinding style makes them a consistent force and tough out in the regular season. But in a changing NBA landscape the question remains whether they can pack enough offensive punch to go deep in the playoffs. In the middle of the West pack again.

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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