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Why the Memphis Grizzlies could be the 1st seed in the West in 2013-2014

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Marc Gasol | Memphis Grizzlies

Marc Gasol | Memphis Grizzlies (Photo credit: Basketball Schedule)

The Memphis Grizzlies won 56 games year, with a point differential of a 54 win team – including a 23-8 run after the Rudy Gay trade, an over 60 win pace over a full season.

While that post all-star break is over a small sample size, advanced stats at the time supported that taking away Rudy Gay’s awful efficiency and simply redistributing his shots to both Tayshaun Prince/Ed Davis and the rest of the team, could improve them. And they indeed played better.

Last year the Grizzlies ranked second in DRTG (100.3) but only 17th in ORTG (104.9). For the Grizzlies to challenge 60 Ws and the top seed in the West, an offensive improvement to potentially top 10 in the league, would be needed.

Here’s one way to look at it. Using FGA + 0.44*FTA + TOV, the Grizzlies used roughly 8591 total “possessions” last year. Here’s those possessions distributed by player according to whether they were more efficient or less efficient than the Grizzlies’ 104.9 ORTG using Dean Oliver’s individual ORTG, including in parenthesis how big a percentage they took of the team’s possessions:

More efficient:

Zach Randolph (106 ORTG): 1306 poss (15.2%)

Mike Conley, Jr. (111 ORTG): 1253 poss  (14.6%)

Marc Gasol (115 ORTG): 1165 poss  (13.5%)

Quincy Pondexter (114 ORTG): 374 poss (4.4%)

Wayne Ellington (107 ORTG): 230 poss (2.7%)

Ed Davis (113 ORTG) 190 poss  (2.2%)

Jon Leuer (124 ORTG)  30 poss  (0.3%)

Keyon Dooling (117 ORTG): 29 poss (0.3%)

Chris Johnson (111 ORTG) 29 poss (0.3%)

Less efficient:

Rudy Gay (97 ORTG): 861 poss (10.0%)

Tony Allen (102 ORTG): 814 poss (9.5%)

Jerryd Bayless (104 ORTG): 795 poss (9.3%)

Darrell Arthur (99 ORTG): 422 poss (4.9%)

Tayshaun Prince (100 ORTG): 387 poss (4.5%)

Mareese Speights (101 ORTG): 311 poss (3.6%)

Austin Daye (104 ORTG): 134 poss (1.6%)

Tony Wroten (91 ORTG): 128 poss (1.5%)

Hamed Haddidi (85 ORTG): 26 poss (0.3%)

Josh Selby (70 ORTG): 34 poss (0.4%)

Dexter Pittman (48 ORTG): 8 poss (0.1%)

A fairly even split between efficient and inefficient players, makes it unsurprising that the Grizzlies finished an average 17th in ORTG last season.

The above numbers paint an encouraging picture for the Grizzlies offense however. Rudy Gay’s possessions were used so inefficiently that redistributing them to the rest of the team should help, especially if Pondexter and Mike Miller (271 poss, 117 ORTG last season in Miami) are taking more of his minutes than the inefficient Prince. But the big difference may be in the frontcourt. Instead of Arthur and Speights, the Grizzlies have both more Ed Davis who is an efficient player – and they snagged Kosta Koufos from Denver, who put up a stellar 122 ORTG on 607 possessions in Denver last season, making him one of the most efficient players in the league. Under normal circumstances I would point out Zach Randolph heading into his 13th season makes him a prime candidate to decline this year, however aside from Randolph both putting up mediocre statistics the last two seasons anyways, by trading for Davis the Grizzlies have positioned themselves to have a soft landing when Zbo goes downhill. Davis is the more efficient scorer, but Randolph takes a higher volume of shots and takes pressure off teammates. While in upcoming years finding a way to replace his volume is a problem, Zbo is still likely to be a high usage player this year, thus even if his minutes and possession slightly decline the impact may not be felt on teammates. Having both these Davis and Koufos the bench and losing Gay’s possessions, while potentially getting mor efficient wing production from Pondexter and Miller, could make a big difference to the Grizzlies’ offense.

The question in addition to that is, will their defense also stay at elite levels? Since the Grizzlies played better defensively after the Gay trade with Prince and Pondexter providing similar length and help defense acumen, it should seem their defensive results will continue. Koufos should also help their defense, as a better combination of size and intelligence than what they had backing up Gasol last year. Davis’ athleticism also gives him defensive upside.

I’d argue the Grizzlies are poised for an elite season. They were within a stone’s throw of the top seed in the West last year anyways, then filled weaknesses. On a role-level, a backup center and shooting on the wings were two holes and they did a good job filling both. On a statistical level, they should have less inefficient possession users and more efficient ones, if not super efficient, on both the perimeter and the frontcourt. The Grizzlies are a team with both stars and depth. One can make the case that still competent Tayshaun Prince and Mike Miller are the 9th and 10th most valuable players on the team after Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, Kosta Koufos, Ed Davis, Jerryd Bayless and Quincy Pondexter. Sometimes a key to being great in the NBA or in other sports, is filling an entire team with players who are at least average and avoiding having any bad, squeaky wheels on the roster. The Grizzlies are a great example of a team where everyone in the rotation is at least average.

Right now I am leaning towards predicting Memphis for the 1st seed in the West, based on the scary aging of the Spurs and the Thunder losing Kevin Martin. This could be their year, at least in the regular season.

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Written by jr.

August 6, 2013 at 9:04 pm

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