Being an effective and efficient player in this league is all about picking your spots. It's what separates the good from the okay and the great from the good. To put that in normal terms, there is nothing worse than watching a key player shoot against the odds.
This leads me to looking at where the Memphis Grizzlies starters did the most work, and what they were best at (and unfortunately what they were worse at). We'll start with Mike Conley:
Two things here.
Mike Conley's shooting has improved so much. When he entered the league in 2007, Conley shot 36.5 percent from mid-range (NBA Stats). In 2010-11? 38.4 percent. Last season? 44.5 percent and it shows on the chart. He keeps a nice balance on his shot selection, making it difficult for the defense to predict where's he going to go next.
And despite his improvements across the board, Conley struggles at the rim. There's been a discussion the past few days on whether lay-up making is a skill. It's fair to say that it's a skill that Conley has yet to master. Some may attribute his struggles to his height, but I'm beginning to think it's just not going to be a strength of Conley's. Check out the numbers at the rim between Conley and Sacramento Kings guard Isaiah Thomas who happens to be 5'9.
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Both areas are a variation of shooting at the rim, but as you see Thomas is a much better shooter than Conley is up close, and Conley has Thomas beat by three inches. It's an interesting development as it's the one thing that's bridging the gap between himself and the next tier of point guards in Deron Williams, Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry, etc.
This shot chart tells us everything we already knew about Tony Allen: he shouldn't be touching the ball unless he's less than five feet from the basket. Fortunately for the Grizzlies, Allen knows this. According to Synergy, 52.9 percent of Allen's offense comes from cuts, offensive rebounds and transition, all of which are situations in which Allen shoots high percentages. Spot-up situations consist of 28 percent of his offense -- which is odd, because Allen is a poor shooter (Synergy includes layups into its spot-up formula, but the jump shot to layup ratio isn't close).
I decided to go with Prince's shot chart that only represents his time in Memphis. You know, different teams, different systems. While there are a couple above league average spots (green), the sample size is small all three areas. Looking at Memphis' needs most would want Prince to stretch his range beyond the three point line as he often takes a step up for the long two. It's why some are pushing for Quincy Pondexter to start. He's the more dynamic player while Prince brings veteran leadership to the starting lineup.
An interesting stat I found on Synergy is that Prince was 15-20 off screens. That's a small sample size, but gives insight into how to make Prince more effective in this lineup. He knows where to go to get open and that's a skill that shouldn't go unnoticed.
Randolph's case is interesting. He's a great post-up player, but the numbers don't necessarily back that. Synergy pegged him as the 77th best post-up player last season, posting a field-goal percentage of 41.5 in the situation. But Z-Bo has a knack for rebounding his own misses and scoring on them. NBAwowy states that Randolph put up 252 shots after recovering his own miss. Offensive rebounds accounted for 17.5 percent of his offense last season. That's the gist of Randolph's game.
The biggest change in Randolph's game is his tendency to shoot the mid-range jumper (the spots immediately below the three-point line). Last season 12.4 of his shots came from mid-range, which is a drop from the 16.1 in 2011-12 and 16.9 in 2010-11.
Marc Gasol can flat out shoot the ball. It's his best trait after defensive savvy and setting up teammates. It's why Gasol is the perfect compliment to Zach Randolph, being able to space the floor and knock down 18 footers. He typically doesn't get brought up when mentioning bigs that can knock down that shot, but look where he stands compared to notable names such as Kevin Garnett and Serge Ibaka.
ELITE. There isn't much room for improvement for Gasol when it comes to picking his spots, though you have to wonder if he'll start stepping behind the three-point line as some have suggested this summer. He doesn't need to be out there, but he's a good enough shooter to take some chances the first few months of the season.
We'll take a look at the reserve players tomorrow.
Credit to Hoopdata, Synergy and NBA.com for the stats