Something that bugged the Memphis Grizzlies for what seemed like a very long time was the lack of a potent offense to go along with their top notch defense. National commentators complained left and right about the Grizzlies not having "enough three point shooters". This was further confirmed when the Grizzlies made their first Western Conference Finals appearance against the San Antonio Spurs in 2013. In that series, Memphis was swept 4-0. Since then, the Grizzlies have shifted from the leadership of Lionel Hollins to Dave Joerger. In the 2013-14 season, Joerger tried to implement a faster paced offense. However, this partially resulted in a slow start to the season, as Memphis' players didn't seem comfortable with the new offensive scheme.
Over this past summer, the Grizzlies acquired Vince Carter as Mike Miller departed to Cleveland. Then, the Grizzlies proceeded to their best start in franchise history, and the offense has evolved into what it is at the start of 2015, which is an absolute machine in comparison to what it's been in Memphis' past. Much of this is due to Marc Gasol's aggressiveness, as he is averaging a career high 20.1 PPG. In years past, Zach Randolph was the first or second option on offense. Now, he is considered the third of fourth option. Just check out the scoring distribution this season:
Marc Gasol leads all at 20%, while Mike Conley (AKA Captain Clutch) comes at a close second. There is a gap between Conley and Z-Bo, while Courtney Lee is right behind Randolph. This season, the Grizzlies are tied for 8th in the NBA in offensive efficiency (while they tied for 16th last season). But there are several reasons for the Grizzlies' new and improved offense. Let's take a look at a few of the major reasons:
1. The New Presence of Vince Carter
The mere presence of Vince Carter on the court helps to spread the floor for the Grizzlies. He's not afraid to shoot, and although his shots can be "off and on", he nevertheless helps the Grizzlies' offense. Check out these highlights:
Although his shooting can be inconsistent, Vince brings crucial spacing on the court for the Grizzlies' offense. A seasoned veteran, Vince not only adds more leadership to the team but also adds much needed scoring abilities. Though Mike Miller was very accurate, he wouldn't pull the trigger like Carter has this season. Miller was too timid. Vince Carter, fortunately, is not.
His ability to hit a clutch shot hasn't faded with age, either:
2. A New Starting Lineup (And A Revamped Courtney Lee)
For what seemed like forever, Tayshaun Prince accompanied Tony Allen in the starting lineup. This resulted in opponents double teaming Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph in the paint, because why would they guard two players who couldn't shoot perimeter shots? Then, Coach Joerger inserted Courtney Lee into the starting lineup on opening night, and we haven't looked back since. But this isn't the Courtney Lee who finished out last season miserably. Instead, Lee is shooting a career high from three (49.4%) and a career high from the floor (also, 49.4%). Now, he is a deadly threat on the perimeter (although many, including myself, feel like Lee doesn't pull the trigger enough), and he helps space the offense with Tony Allen on the floor. And though Tony is a spectacular defender, his shooting leaves much to be desired. Check out Lee's accuracy numbers:
3. An Aggressive Marc Gasol
Perhaps the biggest game changer, the Grizzlies have an aggressive Marc Gasol this season. As shown by the chart above, Marc takes the most shots out of the team. Big Spain is averaging a career high in PPG (by a wide margin) at 20.1. He's shooting 50.3% from the floor as well. And though he continues to be the Grizzlies' anchor on the defensive end (he's averaging 1.6 blocks per game), Gasol also helps run the offense with 3.8 assists every night. In addition, he's averaging 2.5 more attempts per game, which is more evidence of his aggressiveness this season. Currently, Marc appears to be headed for the All Star game, and while he might not win MVP, the fact that he's legitimately in the conversation proves how important he in, both on the defensive and offensive end. Unlike many centers, Marc can shoot from in the paint and around the free throw line. Take a look at his scoring and passing abilities this season:
The Grizzlies have been able to keep their gritty defense (they rank 11th in defensive efficiency and are tied for 4th in opponent points per game allowed) while developing a deadly offense, full of weapons like Randolph, Conley, Gasol, and Lee. As the season goes on, Memphis can't slip into a pattern of relying on jump shots, because (as all teams know) those jump shots won't always fall. But the Grizz have a strong defense to back up an offense that has both perimeter and paint threats. Coach Dave Joerger has found a balance between the two, unlike the beginning of last season, where the Grit N' Grind seemed to be lacking. The Grizzlies are tied for 12th with San Antonio in points per game, while Memphis ranked 27th last year.
Could 2015 be the Grizzlies' year?
With an offense like this one, it could be.