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Small Sample Size Theater: Sustaining a Successful Memphis Grizzlies' Home Stand

The Memphis Grizzlies recently went 5-1 over the course of their season-long six-game home stand, a necessary step forward for a team hoping to gain ground in the Western Conference. In Part I of this week's Friday Three, we look at the dangers and upsides of trying to figure out who did well during this recent stretch of games in Memphis.

Gasol and Allen played well for stretches at home, and hopefully they can continue that moving forward.
Gasol and Allen played well for stretches at home, and hopefully they can continue that moving forward.
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

It is unfair to truly measure a team over a six-game span. The sample size is simply too small to definitively say anything about the overall impact a player makes on a team over the time period that is a season. When not viewed properly, you can make the following statements...

  • Why is Marc Gasol the worst defensive center in the NBA? Over a six-game span, Marc posted a 106.8 defensive rating...
  • Mike Conley is better than Stephen Curry after posting a 129.6 offensive rating...
Of course both of those "hot takes" are preposterous. Marc Gasol may not have had the best defensive home stand, but there are a variety of reasons that his defensive rating was so high. Mike Conley played well at the one game that he played in. It could be the start of something good for Mike, but it could also be a blip on the radar against a struggling New Orleans Pelicans team (and his performance against the Denver Nuggets suggests the former).

You can twist and turn numbers any which way most of the time, but it is about perspective and context when watching the games and using the numbers to look for trends. There are some stats, like the ones above, that can be tossed aside rather easily. There are others, though, that you can take a little more notice of, and perhaps put more stock in, as hopefully a string of six-game performance leads to habitually efficient or effective play.

Marc Gasol's Usage Rate - 26.4

Usage, or the amount of offensive possessions used by a player when on the court according to, shows how involved a player is in attempting to score the basketball. Over the course of his career, Gasol has not been Mr. Aggressive when it comes to scoring the rock - his usage rate was never above 20 until 2013-2014, and last season's 24.6 usage rate over the course of the year was his career high. This year, however, Marc's rate had dropped slightly to 23.2 prior to the six-game home stand, and his shooting numbers overall were not that spectacular at 45.5%, a good 5% lower than what he shot in 2014-2015.

That didn't necessarily get better during the past six home games - Gasol shot 42.3% from the field, almost 8% worse than Tony Allen. What did go up, however, was Gasol's usage and involvement in the offense...and with that, the offense as a whole improves. As it has been said multiple times here and elsewhere, Marc aggressively attacking offensively is often the best play for Memphis, and as defenses collapse of Marc when he drives (or leave him wide open from the elbow), he must depend upon himself to be the offensive spark the the Grizzlies so often lack.

29 shot attempts, as he took against the New York Knicks, is probably asking a bit too much from Marc. But something closer to 16 or 17 a game would make all the difference, especially considering that one or two more Marc shots taken is one or two less by a less efficient player, like a Tony Allen or Jeff Green. Marc is asked to do a lot for the Grizzlies, but hopefully he can raise his level of selfishness a bit on offense more consistently, especially when the moment and the opposing defense calls for it.

Speaking of "The Grindfather"...

Tony Allen's Defensive Rating - 101.0

The book is out on Tony Allen. Let him shoot the jumper - if he beats you on offense, then you deserve to lose. Allow for him to drive on the fast break and don't foul - the odds of a "trick" in that situation are far more likely than a "treat". The thing that has kept TA on the floor, that allows for his offensive lack of better judgment and skill at times to not matter quite as much, is his ability to dominate teams' most potent offensive weapons.

In other words, shut the water off.

But TA, up until the recent home stand, was not himself. Injury and the tough starting schedule had something to do with that, but even then the 103 total season defensive rating that he has posted heading in to Thursday night's game with Denver was well below his standard. The improvement here, while slight, is promising - Allen has looked much more like himself since his return from injury, and if the Grizzlies have any hope of being a potential Cinderella story in the playoffs, they will have to defend, and do so consistently. TA must be able to bring an energy and tenacity to the defensive end of the court that both he and his teammates can feed off of.

The leader of that movement is still Tony Allen. Here's to hoping that number continues to rise.

Mario Chalmers - 58% True Shooting Percentage

This one requires a bit more digging - true shooting percentage includes the value of shooting three pointers and free throws as well as overall shooting inside of the arc. Chalmers, while shooting well from the field during the home stand, is not exactly setting the world on fire.

Chalmers Home Stand

36.4% from three, and 42.3% overall, are right at or around his career averages. Where he is out-performing his career averages is at the free throw line, and it's drastic. Chalmers shot 84.8% from the charity stripe during the six-game home stand, and is shooting 81% overall as a Grizzly, which is 3% better than his career average. He is also attempting an impressive 4.7 free throws a game, which if it stands will be a career high for Rio by well over one free throw per game.

His free throw rate, or number of free throw attempts per actual shot attempt, in Memphis is staggering - .631, which would be a career high by .230! And as it currently stands, it also puts him in elite company when it comes to the talent of getting to the line:

Better than Danilo Gallinari. Better than James Harden. Better than Ramon Sessions. Chalmers' ability to collapse opposing defenses, get opposing players potentially in foul trouble and convert these shots at a high clip is extremely valuable to Memphis and the Grizzlies moving forward. Even with the return of Mike Conley, Chalmers should be getting sixth-man minutes moving forward (right around 25-30 a game) both with and without Conley to allow him to continue to get easy chances to score for the Grizzlies and for himself.

Stats provided by and

Check out the rest of this (and previous) week's Friday Three here.

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