Breaking down the Memphis Grizzlies offensive tendencies using advanced shot charts

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone loves shot charts, and Austin Clemens of Nylon Calculus released some killer ones today. I decided to use them to break down the shooting tendencies of every Grizzly currently on the roster.

If you follow the basketball blogosphere, you know Hardwood Paroxysm is in the process of expanding while continuing to produce magnificent content. Nylon Calculus is part of that expansion. The site is analytics heavy and run by the tremendous, former editor of Hickory High, Ian Levy. It's been around for mere days, and they have already bestowed outstanding content upon the basketball world - the latest of which is these amazing, detailed shot charts by Austin Clemens.

The great thing about these shot charts is that if you study them enough, you begin to get a better understanding for player tendencies and how they like to operate within the constructs of their team. Study all of the shot charts together, and it becomes more clear why a certain group of guys is more or less likely to succeed together, at least offensively.

I decided to use these shot charts to break down every player that is currently slated to be on the 2014-15 Grizzlies roster outside of rookies Jordan Adams and Jarnell Stokes. The charts add another dimension to scouting, and they can tell you so much if you combine them with the knowledge you already have of the Grizzlies scheme and the way head coach David Joerger utilizes the personnel at his disposal.

Let's get started.

Mike Conley

  • Clearly Conley's best spot to shoot from deep is on the right wing above the break. Typical of a lefty, he shoots better going to his right. He utilizes the pick & roll and fakes like he's going to his strong side with regularity to lure his defender behind the screener before cutting back sharply to the left. Then, he pulls up behind the screener, who has pinned his man down, for a wide-open three.
  • He gets plenty of looks from deep on the right wing as a result of kick outs from either Marc Gasol or Zach Randolph in the post. That's the benefit of having two bigs that skilled that command as much attention as they do.
  • From mid-range, Conley is best from the free throw line extended on the left side. Conley and Gasol work magic in that area of the floor on dribble handoffs. Also, Conley's quickness and agility in the pick & roll force the big to backpedal into the paint to cut off the drive. When they back up too much not respecting the jumper, Conley pulls up and drills a shot.
  • The paint is an interesting area for Conley. On floaters, he is actually better driving in from the right side of the floor. It's not textbook and no good coach would recommend it, but Conley is tremendous at shooting floaters with his weak (right) hand after jumping off of the wrong foot. However, the closer he gets to the rim, the better he gets from the left side, which indicates he is better at finishing with his strong hand around the rim.

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Tony Allen

  • Allen shouldn't be advised to take a three unless it's from the right corner. There is a lot of blue in every other spot beyond the arc.
  • Despite being notorious for blowing bunnies at the rim, Allen's best bet to make a shot is around the rim. That's indicative of his tremendous cutting ability. He becomes far less effective in an offense when he is forced to remain stationary around the three-point line because everyone knows he's not a sharp shooter, but his creativity can bring a different element to the Grizzlies offense. With great passers like Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, Allen's lightning quick baseline cuts are not only encouraged but necessary. Also, a good number of his baskets come via sheer hustle. Allen crashes the offensive boards with reckless abandon, and creating easy looks for himself allows him to thrive at the rim.
  • Never ever shoot a mid-range jumper. Please and thank you.

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Vince Carter

  • Holy crap that's some incredible shooting from deep on the left wing. Carter has adapted throughout his career to prolong his playing days, and his shooting is what makes teams keep shelling out good money for him. He also thrives from the right corner, which we all know is one of the most efficient shots in basketball. He's an incredible floor spacer and a deadly spot-up shooter, which should help him integrate into this squad with ease. Teams will have to pick their poison. Focus on shutting down Randolph and Gasol in the paint and risk Carter being wide-open on a kick out, or guard Carter tight and give Randolph and Gasol space to operate down low. It's a lose-lose for opposing teams.
  • Carter can and has always been able to finish with authority at the rim, but the blue says that's not really his strong suit. It's a bit sad because it is at least a small indicator of the decay of his explosiveness that we have witnessed over recent seasons. Don't be fooled though. Carter isn't just a shooter like Mike Miller, and he can still make a defender pay for getting up on him too tight.

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Zach Randolph

  • Randolph's sequence from the short corner and slightly above that point in mid-range: Jab step. Jab step. Jab step. Rainbow jumper. Splash. Yep, he's still got it.
  • In the paint, Randolph struggles with length. The blue confirms that truth. However, he still has great usefulness in the post when he uses his body correctly. He is a man that possesses great girth, and the best way to beat a shot blocker has always been to go directly into his chest. Randolph uses his sheer size and strength to create just enough space to finish well from spots in the paint. It is worrisome that he gets noticeably worse the closer he gets to the basket. He's better off staying a couple feet away from the rim and shooting hook shots and floaters over his man, and that's how it will continue to be for the rest of his career.

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Marc Gasol

  • All the blue around the left elbow is disconcerting given that is where Gasol gets a massive amount of his touches. So often, he will catch the ball at the elbow, turn, and shoot a fadeaway jumper. We've seen it fail time and again, but he continues to believe in it. It's tough not to believe he wouldn't have more success if he would just shoot straight up.
  • His poor mid-range shooting could have something to do with his knee injury that occurred early last season. He often seemed hesitant to fully push off, and that can hold a guy back. Hopefully a 100% healthy Gasol will be ready get rid of some of those blue spots come October.
  • Gasol's best mid-range jumper is in the middle of the floor near the free throw line. He's a cerebral player, and he can see when the offense is in dire need of help. He recognizes stagnation, and he flashes to the high post to receive the pass. He turns and shoots with ease, and that move has served him well often.
  • Despite some people calling Gasol "soft", he's incredibly strong and can finish through hard contact at the rim. Combine his strength with incredible skill for someone with his size, and you have an almost unstoppable force in the paint when he's aggressive. The key words there are "when he's aggressive." That's not as often as many Grizzlies fans would like.

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Courtney Lee

  • Despite experiencing a rough cold spell late in the season that carried over into the playoffs for Courtney Lee, he still performed well for Memphis after arriving from Boston midway through the season. The most notable phenomenon is all the red from mid-range. Lee is an excellent mover without the ball, and this leads to a lot of open looks for him. The Grizzlies love to run corner action stuff for Lee where he starts in the corner and circles back around the wing just inside the three-point line to receive dribble handoffs. Also, Joerger is a huge proponent of using down screens to free his shooters, and Lee was excellent at knowing when to fade or curl off of screens to free himself for jumpers.
  • Lee is a spot-up specialist from deep, and I've already mentioned how valuable that is for the Grizzlies. You can never have enough guys that can knock down threes consistently. It really opens up the rest of the offense. Put Vince Carter and Lee together, the Grizzlies should have plenty of space to operate.
  • An underrated athlete, Lee is a great finisher when driving to the rim with his strong hand. He's always on balance, so he's always a threat to stop on a dime and shoot a mid-range jumper. But he's exceptionally quick, and he can use that quickness to blow by his defender. When he gets to the rim, his athleticism and balance allow him to elevate and finish with ease.

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Quincy Pondexter

  • Pondexter didn't play enough to conclude anything from his 2013-14 shot chart. However, his 2012-13 shot chart is likely to be a better indicator of what he will be for the Grizzlies going forward, which is essentially a corner three specialist. He's deadly from either corner, but he's not going to do just a whole lot else with regularity. Corner threes obviously have great value, but it still remains to be seen how Pondexter will fit in the rotation now that he's fully healthy. He'll fit somewhere, but we still can't be sure of exactly where.

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Kosta Koufos

  • ALL PAINT ALL THE TIME. Koufos is a guy that shouldn't venture far from the paint offensively unless he is the screener in the pick & roll. He's never going to be a big threat in the mid-range, but he can finish around the rim, particularly with his strong (right) hand. He doesn't have any advanced, go to post moves, but he thrives when he starts on the left low block. This is because he can catch the ball and turn leading with his left shoulder to allow him to shoot a hook shot with his dominant hand. That more than anything is his bread and butter offensively.
  • Right under the rim, Koufos will always have value despite all the blue areas. He's a tremendous rebounder, and he will get a lot of second-chance points for the Grizzlies as long as he's with the team.
  • He excels at making himself readily available as a cutter around the rim, and he scores most of his points that way via dump offs. He's always making smart basketball plays.

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Jon Leuer

  • Where to begin? Leuer continues to be an incredibly undervalued player on a great contract. He's the definition of a stretch four, and he can hit threes with regularity. He's not a guy that's going to light it up from either corner, but that's not where pick & pop guys usually head to anyway. As a terrific pop guy, Leuer finds himself with ample open looks at the top of the key and on either wing. He knocked down these looks last season, albeit in a small sample size.
  • For an end-of-the-bench guy, Leuer has a pretty complete offensive game. He can shoot mid-range jumpers, too. That's largely helpful to the Grizzlies in pick & roll situations. He can also be the pivot man for the second unit at the elbow if he's needed in that capacity because of his high basketball IQ coupled with the aforementioned shooting ability.
  • If Leuer is known for anything, it's his shooting. However, he doesn't get nearly enough credit for the work he puts in under the rim. He lacks elite size, and he can struggle with both length and strength. But he's got decent post moves, and he can create a shot for himself in close a respectable amount of the time - especially for a backup big.
  • Most of Leuer's looks around the rim come as a result of him working hard. He's the big version of Tony Allen when it comes to cutting, and he always fills the right lane in transition, which leads to him being rewarded with easy buckets.

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Tayshaun Prince

  • Ugh
  • It's no longer acceptable to label Tayshaun Prince a small forward. His offensive game doesn't reflect the position in the slightest. At this stage in his career, any quickness and athleticism he possessed have vanished, and he's better served working on the low block as a small power forward. He may be old, but he still has elite length. When he takes his man down low, it's basically a guarantee that he will be able to get a shot off over his defender. His hook shot is pretty nice and on balance.
  • His basketball IQ has kept him in this league. He understands how to get open, whether that's by cutting or simply leaking out in transition at the right moment. His value offensively is certainly minimal right now, but there is juice still left to be squeezed out of him. The question is where does he fit within the Grizzlies rotation though? He should never start another game, thus his best role might be to play 10-12 minutes a game as a small ball 4 with the second unit.
  • Ugh

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Beno Udrih

  • Every Grizzlies fan loves Udrih. He dazzled during his brief stint at the end of last season, and his positivity off the court just radiates with people. His shot chart might be the hardest to dissect. That's A LOT of shots from A LOT of different areas. He's quite unpredictable.
  • Udrih is a good corner three shooter, and that could be useful if/when Joerger decides to deploy a two-point guard lineup. He can be the secondary ball-handler that camps in the corner. That way, he will be there for a kick out when the other guard penetrates, and he can also be used in quick corner actions to get a quick side pick & roll going when the ball rotates from one side of the floor to the other.
  • He's not a great finisher at the rim, but he gets there with regularity, and that counts for something. It's best to use Udrih in a limited role if you believe in the law of diminishing returns, but he can still be situationally useful to this team.

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Nick Calathes

  • The Greek Freak After reportedly considering heading back overseas, Calathes will instead stay in a Grizzlies uniform next season - at least to start. He was a streaky three-point shooter last season, and he shot the deep ball best from either corner. Calathes shoots the ball very flat because his mechanics are very, well, mechanical. With the corner three being a shorter shot than all other threes, this gives the ball less distance to go until it reaches the basket. This likely has something to do with Calathes shooting better from the corners than above the break.
  • If a coach is drawing up a shot for Calathes, they want him to get into the paint. He still operates a bit too fast at times and rushes his shot in the paint, but he also possesses great finesse and touch when he gets into the lane. He's an excellent conductor of the pick & roll, and he utilizes it well to force his way into the paint. He takes long strides, and he's big and strong. It's tough for smaller point guards to keep him from getting to the paint, and thas not likely to change.

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Jamaal Franklin

  • In his rookie season, Franklin was mostly relegated to the D-League. It's a bit of a buzzkill to end like this, but how can you comment on a guy that did so little at the NBA level. It's still largely to be determined what Franklin will be on offense in the NBA. The one thing that is a certainty is that he needs more reps. A lot more reps.

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Hope you guys enjoyed. Grind forth!

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