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2014-2015 NBA Season Analysis- Memphis Grizzlies
Welcome to the Grind House! The Grizzlies have been one of the best defensive teams in the entire NBA for the last 4-5 seasons, but they seem to finally have found enough offensive fire power to be able to become a championship contender. With one of the deepest benches in the league and the great acquisition of Jeff Green (exactly what they needed), the guys from Tennessee just have it all to fight for the top spots in the Western Conference and ultimately the NBA ring.
Coach: Dave Joerger
PG: Mike Conley Jr.; Beno Udrih; Nick Calathes; Russ Smith (Rookie)
SG: Courtney Lee; Tony Allen; Jordan Adams (Rookie)
SF: Jeff Green; Vince Carter
PF: Zach Randolph; John Leuer; Jarnell Stokes (Rookie); JaMychal Green (Rookie)
C: Marc Gasol; Kosta Koufos
It’s now time to analyze the Memphis Grizzlies’ improved offense:
This is a Grizzlies team that traditionally loves to play half court offense with one of the slowest paces in the entire Association. Although this hasn’t changed that much, they’re starting to find ways to get out and score some easy points in transition after steals or putting pressure on the defence after defensive rebounds (what is huge for them). This is one of the areas where Jeff Green’s certainly going to help them improve because of his great athleticism, ability to run the floor and finish with authority.
The Memphis Grizzlies are a grind it out type of team with one of the best front courts in the entire league, and they do most of their damage in the painted area (best in the league in points scored in the paint), that’s why the ability of guys like Courtney Lee, Jeff Green, Mike Conley or Vince Carter to space the floor is key for them in order to give Gasol and Randolph room to do their interior damage (one of the best in the business).
To me, their biggest improvement has come in this end of the floor, where they’ve become a really capable team and are even getting wins in high scoring games (although they’re still the best in the league in points allowed per game and shouldn’t forget this is their trademark). This is a huge leap in their run for the championship because it allows them to compete in all possible scenarios. A lot of this has become from Marc Gasol’s offensive explosion. He’s now looking at the rim more often and has become much more aggressive offensively, what also opens up plenty of possibilities for his teammates because of how great of a passer he is. You can see this pretty clearly in one of their favourite and most dangerous plays: the high pick & roll with Mike Conley (they run it almost to perfection and has become an outstanding weapon for them). Gasol loves to stop and pop from 15 to 20 feet and if you don’t close out on him, he can knock jump shots down all night long. And because he’s now looking at the rim first, the defenders are concerned and have to rotate over, allowing Gasol to find the open man in the perimeter (we’ve seen Courtney Lee get plenty of wide open corner 3pt when this play is run), Z-Bo on the low post or Tony Allen moving around the basket for an easy bucket. The fact that Gasol is such a great mid-range shooter and talented passer also makes the opposing big man hesitate on whether to help out on Conley’s penetration or not, allowing Mike to get to the painted area where he can finish with either hand (arguably the best player in the entire NBA finishing with the off-hand) or find the open man. They also love to give Marc Gasol elbow touches (leads the league in that category), from where he directs traffic and gets their offense started and going.
Their other major improvement has come from perimeter shooting. They’re still at the bottom of the league in 3pt attempted per game, but they’ve become a threat from downtown, with Courtney Lee (3rd in the league in 3 point percentage), a much improved Mike Conley (clearly an All-Star snub to me), the addition of Vince Carter in the off-season, and the newly-acquired Jeff Green. This is really huge for them, because the spacing of the floor is much better now and it gives their talented bigs room to operate inside and do their damage, what is key to their offensive success and ultimately a difference maker. They’ve finally found solid and consistent perimeter players, and the acquisition of Jeff Green will give the Grizzlies the scoring and athleticism they lacked from the small forward spot.
Finally, they’ve also been able to build a pretty consistent rotation with a very deep bench that is sometimes the difference maker that allows them to get separation and give the starters a long rest. They’ve got a couple of solid back-up point guards in Udrih (who you probably don’t know is the best mid-range shooter in the entire NBA percentage wise and is having an outstanding season) and Calathes (who’s making the best out of limited playing time); the grind-father Tony Allen who always finds ways to be effective offensively (multiple cuts to the basket, crashing the offensive glass…) despite his lack of shooting ability; an underrated player and to me one of the best back-up centers in the NBA in Kosta Koufos; the veteran Vince Carter (who’s having a tough season shooting the basketball but has come up big for them in several games); and the inconsistent but capable John Leuer.
Let’s now take a look at one of the NBA’s best defences:
This is the one area that makes them such a hard team to beat. They’re relentless on this end of the floor, playing the passing lanes, getting multiple deflections, steals and playing solid interior defence. They’ll force you to play half court offense, and if that happens and you’re unable to get easy points in transition, you’re in deep trouble. And despite the lack of a true rim protector, they defend the paint as well as anybody in this league, forcing you to beat them with jump shooting.
In addition to great team defence, the Grizzlies have a bunch of great individual defenders. They’ve got arguably the best perimeter defender in the entire NBA in Tony Allen, who can guard anyone from the point guard to the small forward spot, what gives them great defensive versatility and allows them to play plenty of different backcourt combinations. Then, Mike Conley and even Nick Calathes always do a great job from the point guard spot, getting deflections, steals, and making it tough for opposing point guards, never allowing them to feel comfortable. Jeff Green is also going to help them do a better job on opposing small forwards like Durant, LeBron, Kawhi Leonard… due to his great size and athleticism. And finally, let’s not forget about their interior defence, with the former defensive player of the year in Marc Gasol, a much-improved Zach Randolph (he’s become a decent post defender and has really learnt how to defend pick & rolls), and a great low post defender as well as a willing helper in Kosta Koufos.
The Memphis Grizzlies are always one of the top rebounding teams in the NBA as well, so they just have it all to really make a difference and make it tough for anybody in this end of the floor.
For all these reasons they’re clearly one of the most improved teams this season (mainly offensively).
Conley – Lee – Green – Randolph – Gasol
Although my initial prediction was for them to end up in the 8th and final playoff spot in the West (mainly due to the lack of offensive fire power and how competitive the West is), the Grizzlies have shown us they can really score the basketball consistently and climb the standings ladder. So with Marc Gasol’s offensive explosion, their depth and an outstanding addition in Jeff Green, I believe they’ve got a shot to secure home court advantage for at least the first two Playoffs series.
Will the Memphis Grizzlies be able to make their first trip to the NBA Finals?
These are some of the best plays from the Memphis Grizzlies in recent years:
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