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Early Season Grizzlies Observations

Three quick thoughts of Memphis so far.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a lot to take in when it comes to the Memphis Grizzlies so far this season. Here are three things that jump out.

Inside three feet

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Much has been made about the Grizzlies lack of rim protection, but I think issues on the other end are worse.

Keep your eye on the Grizzlies finishing around the rim. They generate shots inside three feet at a league average rate, but are shooting just 55.1% on those shots, the third lowest mark in the league. They are tied for the second lowest mark in how many dunks they’ve generated, but are tenth in layups.

Let this be a lesson that layups are harder than dunks.

This, as many things Grizzlies related, starts with Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. Marc is finishing just 58% inside three feet; Conley just 45%. These are by far the worst rates for both players’ careers. Perhaps some of this is just randomness, some post-injury uncertainty. It’s really too early to tell, and it could be a blip.

Not for nothing, but Zach Randolph is finishing 67% inside three feet. This rate is buoyed by featuring him against bench defenders less equipped to stop him, but 67% is a mark well above his career average, and probably unsustainable.

Rotations

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Los Angeles Clippers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Since the Milwaukee game, Memphis has quietly settled into an 8.5 man rotation, and I think some of the “improvement” we’ve seen is just excising young players from the rotation.

Deyonta Davis has gotten spot backup center minutes, but Wade Baldwin, Jarell Martin and Troy Williams have received only the barest consideration. Andrew Harrison has been the only young guy with a steady role, and he’s responded to that certainty with improved play.

Though I am a proponent of developing young guys, I am also a proponent of wins, and it is hard to argue with recent results.

Who will decide to tank?

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

I said before the season that almost every team started the season with aspirations of winning. There were few obvious tank candidates. Even Philly wasn’t overtly tanking… although I am sure they wouldn’t mind adding a high lottery pick in a draft chock full of point guards.

The race to the bottom has some unexpected contenders. Dallas, New Orleans and Washington all are near the bottom in wins, and while some of them will claw themselves back towards respectability, they may have dug themselves too deep a hole to make the playoffs.

It will be interesting to see which of these teams punts on the season and opens themselves up to the trade market. These teams have some older good players who could help just about any contender.

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