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Memphis Grizzlies Summary
The Memphis Grizzlies were formed as one of two Canadian franchises to join the NBA in the 1995-96 season, spending their first six seasons in Vancouver before moving to Memphis prior to the 2001-02 campaign. The Grizzlies were a perennial playoff team in the 2010s before the core of the team was split up in an attempt to get younger.
The plan is working with players like Ja Morant, DillonBrooks, and Jaren Jackson Jr., leading the way to the team’s first playoff appearance in four seasons in 2020-21. Now the Grizzlies are looking to make the next step and become a title contender, led by their dynamic young stars.
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Memphis Grizzlies History
When the NBA decided to expand into Canada, the Vancouver Grizzlies and Toronto Raptors were the expansion teams that pushed the league into another country. The Grizzlies struggled to put things together in the team’s first six seasons, failing to win as many as 24 games in a season and never bringing playoff basketball to Vancouver.
The team had top picks – picking No. 2 in three consecutive drafts, taking guard Mike Bibby in 1998, selecting guard Steve Francis in 1999 before trading his rights to the Houston Rockets, and going with forward Stromile Swift in the 2000 Draft. Bibby and Shareef Abdur-Rahim were solid building blocks for the team, but neither lasted long in a Grizzlies uniform, with both getting dealt away in the summer of 2001, which brought a lot of change to the franchise.
Bibby was sent to the Sacramento Kings in a deal that brought Jason Williams to the Grizzlies, while Abdur-Rahim went to Atlanta that included the Grizzlies getting the rights to Pau Gasol, the No. 3 pick in the 2001 Draft. That was also the offseason that saw the Grizzlies move to Memphis.
Gasol made an immediate impact, winning NBA Rookie of the Year honors in 2001-02. The Grizzlies felt good about what they were building, with Williams, Gasol, forward Shane Battier, and guard Michael Dickerson. Memphis brought above legendary Jerry West as the team’s general manager. One of his first moves was to trade for Orlando forward Mike Miller, giving the team even more firepower.
The 2003-04 campaign was one of the breakthrough seasons in franchise history, as Memphis won a franchise-record 50 regular-season games and made the playoffs for the first time. West was the NBA’s Executive of the Year, while veteran head coach Hubie Brown was named Coach of the Year.
The NBA team made the postseason three straight seasons but were swept in the first round in each appearance. The 2006-07 season saw the Grizzlies miss the postseason, ending their streak, as Gasol missed the first half of the season with a broken foot.
The 2007-08 season saw the debut of guard Mike Conley with the Grizzlies after he was drafted No. 4 in the 2007 NBA Draft. It also saw the departure of Gasol, who was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers for a package that included the rights to his younger brother, Marc Gasol. Memphis went four straight seasons without being in the playoffs. Still, it was building a potential title contender, with the younger Gasol and Conley being joined by Rudy Gay, Tony Allen, and Zach Randolph in a strong defensive lineup that showed promise in 2010-11.
Memphis became a perennial playoff team, reaching the postseason in seven consecutive seasons and advancing to the 2013 Western Conference finals against the San Antonio Spurs. Randolph became one of the better low-post scorers in the league, while Gasol was Defensive Player of the Year in 2012-13.
The team started to have its troubles advancing in the playoffs, though, getting knocked out in the first round in 2016 and 2017, leading to changes that saw many of the key pieces being dealt away. The rebuilding process took a little while, with three straight seasons outside the playoff field.
The team’s nucleus started to form, though, with Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ja Morant being picked in the top five in consecutive drafts in 2018 and 2019. Morant was Rookie of the Year in 2019-20, as Memphis took on the Portland Trail Blazers in the first play-in game in the Orlando bubble, falling to get knocked out of a return to the postseason.
The team rebounded with a playoff spot in 2020-21, winning play-in games against the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors to become the eighth seed in the Western Conference.
Championships Won by the Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies have yet to win a team title, having never earned an NBA, conference, or even division title. There have been a few individual awards won for the team’s members.
Two players for the Grizzlies have been named Rookie of the Year in the NBA, with Pau Gasol earning the distinction in 2001-02 and Ja Morant winning the award in 2019-20. Marc Gasol was the Defensive Player of the Year in the NBA in 2012-13, and Mike Miller was named the Sixth Man of the Year in 2005-06.
Important Team Events
The Grizzlies haven’t had a lot of All-Stars on their team, but one was Pau Gasol, who was acquired in a draft-day trade from the Atlanta Hawks. The Spanish youngster was a question mark going into the draft, but he made Memphis look good, earning Rookie of the Year honors and becoming a mainstay of the team.
Memphis made the difficult choice to trade away Gasol to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2008, getting back two first-round picks, three players, and the rights to Gasol’s younger brother, Marc, who had yet to play in the NBA. Marc Gasol turned out to be the best part of that trade for the Grizzlies, developing into an All-Star center and Defensive Player of the Year and helping Memphis become a perennial title contender in the 2010s.
The Grizzlies teams of the 2010s had several top players for the franchise, including the two players that made All-Star appearances for the squad during the decade: Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Gasol made three All-Star Games with the Grizzlies, winning the league’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2012-13 and averaging 15.2 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks during his 10-plus seasons with the franchise. Gasol is still the team’s all-time leader in free throws, rebounds, and blocks.
Randolph was also a force for the Grizzlies in the 2010s, making the All-Star Game twice and earning All-NBA third-team honors in 2010-11. Randolph spent eight seasons with Memphis, averaging 16.8 points and 10.2 rebounds, becoming a fan favorite with his hard-nosed play in the paint.
Another member of those teams was guard Mike Conley, who is still the team’s all-time leader in points, assists, and steals. Conley was drafted No. 4 by the team in 2007 and spent 12 seasons with the Grizzlies, averaging 14.9 points, 5.7 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. Conley was the team leader on both ends of the floor on the Memphis team that got closest to the NBA Finals, as the 2012-13 Grizzlies advanced to the Western Conference finals.
The greatest success in franchise history has come under the guidance of head coach Lionel Hollins, who is the team’s all-time leader in both regular-season and playoff wins. After many years as an assistant, Hollins spent four-plus seasons with the Grizzlies as head coach, leading the team to the playoffs in three of those four campaigns.
Dave Joerger ranks second on the Grizzlies’ coaching wins list for both the regular season and postseason, and he coached the team to three playoff appearances in his three seasons at the helm. Joerger had been the team’s top assistant under Hollins during the team’s best seasons, then got the head job when Hollins didn’t return to the team after the 2012-13 season.
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Memphis Grizzlies FAQs
Mike Conley scored 11,733 points in his 12 seasons with the Grizzlies, the most in franchise history.
Two players have won the NBA Rookie of the Year award with the Grizzlies: Pau Gasol in 2001-02 and Ja Morant in 2019-20.
The Grizzlies have yet to play in the NBA Finals, with the team’s loss in the Western Conference finals in 2012-13 the closest they’ve gotten to the championship series.
Lionel Hollins won 214 regular-season games as the coach of the Grizzlies, the most in franchise history.
The Grizzlies have had the No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft five times (1998, 1999, 2000, 2009, and 2019) but have yet to pick No. 1 in the draft.