A year after being the cinderella story of the league -- making the playoffs and knocking off top-seated San Antonio as an eighth seed -- expectations ran high for the boys in Music City. An early injury to Zach Randolph looked to derail what seemed like a promising start. But the growth of OJ Mayo, along with solid play from Marc Gasol, Rudy Gay and Tony Allen kept them in contention. Eventually the team came back to full strength right around playoff time. And things couldn't have been better, except for one hiccup: Lob City.
The playoff series against the LA Clippers exposed poor offensive and defensive execution (especially down the stretch) of this young team. Unable to take advantage of mismatches and drive the lane at will (not to mention blowing a 26 point lead in the first game of the series) cost the team, and led to an early exit against a very beatable opponent.
Now looking ahead, most of the young core us under contract and playing in a division up for grabs. Another strong interior presence would be helpful to cement an already aggressive (and fifth-ranked) defense. Additionally, new owner Rob Pera is tasked with helping raise attendance in the smallish market of Memphis (though the team raised it's overall attendance numbers from 27th in 2011 to 16th in 2012). The team is not going anywhere for now, but rest assured that Pera will be looking to make his mark as an owner. This is very promising if Pera -- whose net worth is estimated at $800 million -- spends money to put this team on the map and competitive for several years (a la Mark Cuban and the Mavs).