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Posts Tagged ‘Memphis Grizzlies

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.

Written by jr.

August 6, 2013 at 9:04 pm

What Memphis may regret about the Rudy Gay trade

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English: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Oklahoma City T...

English: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Oklahoma City Thunder during the second round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs, game 1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Memphis Grizzlies are playing like a true title contender. Right now, the advanced stats supporting side of the Rudy Gay trade looks more on point than those who claimed the Grizzlies would miss him.

I criticized the Grizzlies for the Gay trade when it happened, but my concern isn’t that they traded Gay, a likely wise move. It’s whether what they received in return is the best they could do.

It’s clear the Grizzlies believed they could improve and contend this year trading Gay and they’ve been proven right about that. For this reason, they took on Tayshaun Prince’s long term contract – when if solely building for the future, an expiring contract like Jose Calderon may have given them more flexibility.

However the Grizzlies also had an eye on the future by acquiring Ed Davis, a young, promising PF. In other words, the Gay trade was the Grizzlies trying to have their cake and eat it too. They’d improve now, while also acquiring a young player to transition to the future.

But this may be the regret the Grizzlies have that keeps them up at night, if they don’t win the title this year. Because while Ed improves their future, he is not in the rotation or making them better now. Instead of taking Ed Davis, the Grizzlies have the option to flip him to another team for a win-now veteran who’d be in their rotation and producing now. There may have also been offers for Gay on the table from teams other than Toronto, who were offering more solely win-now production than Prince and Davis are.

In other words, the Grizzlies didn’t go all-in on winning the title this season, by choosing Davis over more immediate production. But they could’ve.

Even if just flipping Ed Davis to Atlanta for Kyle Korver – a no-brainer deal and heist from Atlanta’s side considering Korver is 32 and a UFA this summer, that gives Memphis one more player in a 3pt shooting specialist role they desperately need. That one more player may be what separates Memphis from a title and a near miss in the end. At the trade deadline flipping Davis for Korver looks insane. But with what we know now? It may be worth it. This is the year the Thunder are a lame duck. The year other young franchises who may contend in the future like Golden State, Houston, Denver, the Clippers aren’t ready yet to make the Finals (seemingly for the Warriors). Zach Randolph is in his 12th season, he may not be the same player long after this year or the next. Memphis may not get a better chance than this and every inch will matter if they want to win the title.

Of course, the Grizzlies ownership may have expected the advanced stats friendly Davis to be a productive, important part of their title run. A disconnect between ownership and Lionel Hollins may the main reason Davis isn’t producing for Memphis right now, not that he lacks the ability to.

In addition, the other argument can be made as well. That if no trade could make the Grizzlies beat the Miami Heat this year, it may end up their chances of winning a title with this core by improving the future by acquiring Ed Davis, if their real chance is later, never destined to be this year.

Finally, maybe the perfect mix is what the Grizzlies have now, for reasons that go beyond talent to fit and chemistry. If the Grizzlies win the title this year, there will be no reasonable criticism of the Rudy Gay trade. But in the chance they don’t, “what if” may hang over them. Not necessarily the what-if of keeping Rudy Gay, but the what-if of not going all-in this season, of having a young asset on the bench in Ed Davis that had the trade value of one more win-now veteran.

Written by jr.

May 14, 2013 at 9:44 pm

Predicting a trade: Rudy Gay to the Raptors

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Rudy Gay watches the Drew League vs Goodman Le...

Rudy Gay watches the Drew League vs Goodman League game. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’ve cheered for a sports team who’s had the same general manager for a long time, you can usually sniff out exactly what types of moves fit his style or not. I’ve cheered for Toronto for some time and have followed the Bryan Colangelo era since his hiring in 2006 and I feel I understand the way this man operates, for better or worse. It is for that reason that I am expecting Rudy Gay to be on the team by the end of June. While I am a speculative person in general about NBA team’s future moves, this trade crosses a threshold to me where the more I look at it, the more I become assured that it will in fact happen. There are two trades for Toronto in the Colangelo era I sniffed out and prepared myself for months before they happened – one was a minor trade of Jason Kapono for Reggie Evans, at a time when Toronto had many shooters but no rebounders and Philadelphia had many rebounders but no shooters and both players had the same contract, making it a swap so logical that it had to happen. The other deal that seemed inherently obvious was  Jermaine O’Neal being traded for Shawn Marion’s expiring contract, allowing the team to attempt a final hail mary in the Chris Bosh era (that ended up being Hedo Turkoglu’s dreadful contract). I feel nearly as strongly about a predction that Rudy Gay will be a member of the team by the end of this month.

My proposed trade is that Memphis will deal Rudy Gay and Toronto will trade back the 8th overall pick, Linas Kleiza, and depending on the negotation, possibly Ed Davis. Toronto can make this trade on draft day because after dealing Leandro Barbosa’s contract to Indiana, they now have just enough capspace to legally exchange the difference between Gay and Kleiza. Colangelo literally stated after the deal that giving himself this flexibility to deal before July 1st in uneven financial terms  made him “giddy”.

First, this is an exceedingly good trade for the Memphis Grizzlies. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

June 3, 2012 at 4:06 pm

8 thoughts on the Thunder’s elimination

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Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunders at ...

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1. For the second year in a row, the Oklahoma City Thunder exit the playoffs in a way that leaves us all excited for the future. One of the biggest turnarounds in history last year to get to the 1st round, now they get to the conference finals. They remain precocious as hell, and short of some major blow up in the off-season, I expect they’ll be the favorites to win the Western Conference next year, as well as to be the dominant team in the West going forward.

2. I think people need to keep some perspective though. This was a Thunder team that achieved their record in the regular season largely by beating mediocre teams (they struggled against the elite), and that were very fortunate that instead of having to face the best team in the conference in the second round (as a #4 seed should), they played an 8 seed. And even then, they only beat the 8 seed with the help of home court advantage. It’s wrong to talk about the series with the Dallas Mavericks as if it was the gentleman sweep that a 4-1 victory implies – the Mavs had to turn it on completely and get a bit lucky just to win 2 of 3 home games. However, the fact remains that after getting a fortunate draw, they managed only 1 win when faced with a true contender.

Bottom line is that no one should look at this Thunder team like one that took the playoffs by storm this year.

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How to make the good times last, Memphis Grizzlies

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Left: Jim Calhoun, head basketball coach, Univ...

Fitting Rudy Gay in will be essential to the Grizzlies next season (Image via Wikipedia)

The Memphis Grizzlies’ memorable 2011 playoff run reminds me a lot of the LA Clippers in 2006. Like the Clippers, this is the Grizzlies first real playoff run after eons of terrible years. Both were built with strong frontcourts anchored by a 20 and 10 PF having his first real success in Zach Randolph and Elton Brand. Both ended with 7 game 2nd round losses.

The Clippers couldn’t keep it up and fell back to their usual ways the next year. The Grizzlies need to make the right moves to make sure they don’t follow suit.

So why did the Clippers fall back to earth? Sam Cassell’s decline played its part, as did Elton Brand and Chris Kaman both having lesser seasons – and Corey Maggette’s presence the whole year hurt the team’s ball movement. I’d also point the finger at Mike Dunleavy for not being a strong enough coach to keep the team’s defense and ball movement together for more than one year.

Here’s what the Grizzlies should do to get back to this spot next year:

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Written by jr.

May 16, 2011 at 8:08 pm

The Miami Heat’s success: A basketball triumph or travesty?

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Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat, 2008

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Recently I heard a topic come up of what the Miami Heat winning the title would mean for basketball. On one hand, it’d be a sign that success in the NBA truly comes down to just having superstars – and it’d light a match to the gasoline of other stars leaving teams to team up. In an ideal world, it’d be teams like the Dallas Mavericks and Chicago Bulls who triumph – ones that play a 5 as 1 game, where the defenders and rebounding role players mean as much as the superstars.

But I’m not so sure. Read the rest of this entry »

How they got here: The Memphis Grizzlies’ defensive culture change

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Memphis Grizzlies logo

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So, the Memphis Grizzlies are now a good basketball team. There’s a handful of reasons why. They have great frontcourt talent with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol and good perimeter players in Mike Conley, Jr., O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay, Tony Allen and Shane Battier. But their success is really built on elite defense and making the unselfish play offensively. The Grizzlies team culture is in the right place. They play the right way.

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The difference between Mike Conley, Jr. and Russell Westbrook

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Mies-ian: Less is more... more or less

The Memphis Grizzlies just toasted Oklahoma City in Game 1 of their first round series and I believe one of the big differences was the play of Mike Conley, Jr. compared to Russell Westbrook

Now I’m in no way saying Conley is as good a player as Westbrook. Westbrook is a perenniel all-star talent and a true impact player.

However in this case I believe less is more. Conley’s job for the Grizzlies slightly resembles Rajon Rondo‘s on the champion 2008 Celtics – Running the offense without being the offense. He’s done an admirable job getting the ball to Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol and found the wing players OJ Mayo, Shane Battier and Tony Allen when open. On this team they don’t need Conley to do more than put up 12-15 points and 6-7 assist performance while making good decisions.

Russell Westbrook‘s role is much bigger. He has the ball the  most on the team and has been leading the team in shots more and more frequently. His usage rate in the playoffs has been much higher than teammate Kevin Durant‘s. The result is the Thunder are not playing a 5 man game offensively. It’s more of a Westbrook, Durant and then a bunch of other guys offense. James Harden in particular has been completley invisible, perhaps because of Westbrook’s ball dominance. The dominance of Westbrook and Durant in the offense has led to easy to guard predictability. Despite Westbrook being a superior player to Mike Conley, Jr., Conley’s picking spots offense led to a much more balanced, unpredictable and effective offense in the first game. Conley’s scaled back approach led to a much more cohesive team. The key to offensive success is ball movement and in game 1 it was the Grizzlies who wielded this and not the Thunder. Less ball domination by Conley meant better shots for the other players.

I picked the Thunder as my title pick pre playoffs, but I’m beginning to suspect it’s too early for them. The Thunder right now are not a 5 man team playing as one. They are not in the mindset in sacrificing shots for the fluidity of the offense – and I did not like their lack of defensive intensity in the first game. When you aren’t playing together offensively, it’s hard to expect to defensively. If the Thunder want to beat the Grizzlies, Westbrook will need to take a page out of Conley’s Game 1 performance scale back his usage for the betterment of team balance.