Last season, Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley was limited to just 12 games due to a heel injury.
In his limited time on the court, he posted 17.1 points and 4.1 assists in 31.1 minutes per contest.
Without him, the Grizzlies crumbled.
Other injuries to key players plagued the team. Coach David Fizdale was fired midway through the season stemming from a spat with star center Marc Gasol. Overall, the team finished 22-60 and owned the second-worst record in the entire NBA.
Since Memphis made the playoffs in seven straight years prior to last season, it was a shockingly-horrific campaign.
Luckily, the past is in the past and the future looks bright. Conley is expected to be back, as will Gasol, JaMychal Green, Chandler Parsons, Dillon Brooks, MarShon Brooks, Andrew Harrison, Ivan Rabb and Wayne Selden. The team traded for Garrett Temple and Dakari Johnson and also added veterans Omri Casspi and Shelvin Mack in free agency.
Additionally, the Grizzlies took Jaren Jackson Jr. with the fourth overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft as well as Jevon Carter in the early second round.
Therefore, the team will have the opportunity to quickly forget about last year in what should be a much-improved effort, barring any major injuries.
Even though they made some solid additions, one notable name has moved on from the team: Tyreke Evans. He had a resurgent campaign last year, handling the brunt of Conley's duties while he was sitting out, and signed with the Indiana Pacers in free agency.
That hammered home an unfortunate point for the Grizzlies. As Conley admitted, it’s difficult to play in a small market at times due to the lack of free agent interest.
Small market issues
“Yeah, it definitely can be frustrating,” Conley said, per Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post. “Being in Memphis, being part of a smaller market, you have a tough time in free agency, and you have to build through the draft. With all the things teams have been able to accomplish through free agency, and through all the player movement, you kind of miss out on that.”
With the newfound presence of superteams, it’ll be increasingly difficult for a team like the Grizzlies to contend for a championship. Despite the fact that Conley has consistently praised the organization over his 11-year career, it doesn’t mean that it’s easy for him to watch other teams attract All-Star level talent in free agency every year.