The Memphis Grizzlies went back to their grinding ways to turn their 2016-17 NBA season around after a slow start. They now may have to lean on that style of play more than ever.

Conley Hurts Back

Per reports, the Grizzlies will be without star point guard Mike Conley for an “indefinite” amount of time, after the star guard suffered a vertebrae fracture in his back on Monday Night. Conley suffered a transverse process fracture to his vertebrae and will be held out of all basketball activities for at least the next six weeks:

This is a crushing blow for Memphis, who had just gotten on a roll with a 7-3 run in their last 10 games. That hot streak helped them crawl out of an sluggish 4-4 start to the year and had them within striking distance for the top of the Southwest Division at 11-7.

String of Injuries

Memphis hasn’t been able to catch a break for over a year now, as they had a strong start to the 2015-16 season marred by a rash of injuries and were already dealing with banged up bodies again even before the Mike Conley injury. Star center Marc Gasol is still being limited in some cases as he continues to work his way back from a foot issue, while free agent acquisition Chandler Parsons hasn’t been healthy since joining the team.

Veterans such as Tony Allen and Zach Randolph have also missed time due to injuries and personal reasons.

Needless to say, the nightmare season Memphis endured just a year ago has come flashing back and many are concerned that with such a big injury hitting Memphis this early in the year, it could mark the beginning of the end.

Backup Plan

It’s hard to dispute that logic, as Memphis is losing a massive impact player. Conley just got done signing a big 5-year, $153 million deal to stay with Memphis so the team could “finish what it started”, and was enjoying his best season yet as a scorer with over 19 points per game.

Losing Conley for any amount of time puts Memphis in a bad spot, but the silver lining may be that the Grizzlies get to make good use of 2016 NBA Draft pick, Wade Baldwin. The versatile combo guard showed well in preseason play and is a young talent the Grizzlies are high on. He could see ample minutes with Conley out, while Tony Allen, Andrew Harrison and possibly Chandler Parsons (once fully healthy) could also get more run until Conley returns.

Leaning on a rookie or anyone other than Conley is a downgrade, but on the bright side, this could be an opportunity for Baldwin and other players to develop.

Betting on Grizzlies

On the down side, Memphis could fall into a bad hole while Mike Conley is out.

The Grizzlies were heating up with Conley enjoying a career season, so much of the scoring load will shift to center Marc Gasol, among others. That may be too much to ask, especially since Conley covered so much area as a scorer for a team not exactly flush with them.

The other angle is Conley’s irreplaceable impact as a defender on the other end. Memphis’ ability to grind their way to wins goes hand in hand with Conley’s two-way abilities and without him, the Grizz are sure to take a defensive hit.

Naturally, the Grizzlies could struggle to adapt to life without Conley, and it could equate to a slew of losses. Six weeks puts Mike Conley out until mid-January, probably at the earliest, and by then the Grizzlies could potentially be in a hole too big to come out of.

As they stand, Memphis is third in their division and fifth in the Western Conference. However, the New Orleans Pelicans are getting healthy at just the right time and other teams just below them like the Lakers, Kings, Blazers and Nuggets could see this as a perfect opportunity to make a run at a playoff spot.

How things unfold is anyone’s guess. Memphis could find a way to hold up while Conley is out, or he could even return ahead of his six-week time table. Regardless, betting on the Grizzlies is going to become a risky proposition very quickly. We still think Memphis could be a fine bet at home against the right opponent, but against elite teams or games on the road may be situations to avoid.

We should learn over the next week or so just how bad off the Grizzlies will be. For now, bet against Memphis and track how they play with Conley sidelined.

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