Defense and toughness usually win come playoff time, and the Grizzlies have both in abundance, plus the experience of consecutive Game 7 losses in the playoffs.
2. Oklahoma City
How much difference will James Harden’s absence make, even if the Thunder got Kevin Martin back in that big October deal? Just enough.
3. San Antonio
Just one injury away from another early playoff exit, so much will depend on which Tony Parker is healthy enough to show up.
The trendy sleeper pick because of George Karl’s coaching and the Nuggets’ depth, but they’re banged up so they’ll need that depth. Is Ty Lawson the guy to go to when the game — and the series — is on the line?
5. L.A. Clippers
Great flash and style in the regular season, but will that play in the playoffs, especially against the Grizzlies in the first round?
6. L.A. Lakers
No Kobe, no chance? Not necessarily, if Dwight Howard puts on his big boy pants and his back allows, but that’s a big if.
7. Golden State
The Warriors might just live and die by the three-pointer in their return to the playoffs, and you know how that usually turns out.
The Rockets overachieved just by getting to the playoffs with such a young team. You can’t expect James Harden to carry them any farther than that.