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The Grizzlies are healthier, but are they better?

With some younger and faster additions, Memphis looks to make a move up in an always crowded Western Conference.

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NBA: Phoenix Suns at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

The Memphis Grizzlies had one of the most disappointing seasons in the league last year, setting an NBA record for the number of players in a single season (28) thanks to a rash of injuries that affected almost everyone on the team. Watching a Grizzlies game was likely to leave you scratching your head, trying to figure out where you’d seen that guy before.

The team is retaining ten of those 28 players (if you’re curious about the fate of the other 18, Grizzly Bear Blues has answers for you), including Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, and Mike Conley, who with his five-year, $153 million deal now holds the record for largest NBA contract (though expect to see that broken frequently as the new cap goes into effect).

Dallas will first face the Grizzlies in mid-November, but won’t see the team for their final three games until March. Whether we see an interesting game between these teams will depend on how much they have to play for as the season winds down.

Offseason changes

Mavericks fans are likely already aware of the biggest change to Memphis’ roster: the addition of Chandler Parsons, who’ll join fellow Dallas alums Vince Carter and Brandan Wright. Parsons left Dallas for a max deal in Memphis, signing for four years and $94 million.

The team also let head coach Dave Joerger go, bringing in longtime Miami assistant Dave Fizdale to take the reins.

Biggest challenges

The Memphis Grizzlies are in the midst of a transition. Few teams are so strongly identified with their playing style, but the Grizzlies managed to turn their plodding, defense-oriented schemes into a rallying cry for one of the most dedicated fan bases in the league. But with the core of the “Grit and Grind” era aging and, in Gasol’s case, coming back from serious injury, the Grizzlies are looking to make a change, and while they didn’t let any of their big names go, their new additions this offseason were primarily younger, faster, and more offense-focused players.

Grizzlies fans will likely have many of the same questions Dallas did two years ago. Chandler Parsons should bring some much-needed youth and athleticism to the team, but will it be enough to keep the team a playoff contender? Some think it could be, but other major outlets have expressed skepticism, projecting almost no improvement in the team’s record for this season. Despite adding younger players, the Grizzlies will still have to rely heavily on their aging big men and on Parsons’ recently operated-on knees. The team’s prospects for the season will likely hinge on health.

How far can they go?

The Memphis Grizzlies haven’t quite found their post-“Grit and Grind” identity. If Parsons meshes well, Gasol recovers completely, and Randolph is able to turn things around after a season in decline, Memphis could be a dark horse contender for home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. If they experience anything close to the level of injuries they did last year, it could be the first time since 2010 that the Grizzlies miss the playoffs.

For more analysis and speculation about the Grizzlies’ upcoming season, stop by Grizzly Bear Blues.