It’s funny how this team and this fan base perceive 3-point specialists.
In the 2018-19 NBA, it’s almost a virtual requirement that if you’re on the court, you can at least pose a threat from the 3-point line. If not, you better be Giannis Antetokounmpo or Ben Simmons-level of talented and productive. Yet the Grizzlies have consistently been one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the league, year-after-year. In terms of 3-point percentage, Memphis has ranked 25th, 17th, and 29th in the past three years.
Enter Omri Casspi, a career 37% 3-point shooter on a veteran’s minimum contract. The minimum contract signifies he probably isn’t going to be the sole solution to the three-point problem. But he can be of assistance, and the Grizzlies need plenty of it.
2017-18 Season in Review
Omri Casspi started the season as a Golden State Warrior. The 9-year vet was all but assured a championship ring and his first chance at playing meaningful basketball. Casspi had yet to play in a single playoff game in his NBA career - playing most of your years in Sacramento and Cleveland (sans LeBron) will absolutely do that to you. But last year was supposed to be different. Casspi could step in as a part-time bucket getter when the Golden State superstars needed a break.
That did not happen.
Casspi, known as a 3-point shooter, shied away from that responsibility as a Warrior. Last season marked his fewest 3-point attempts per-game (0.4), per-36 minutes (1.1), and per-100 possessions. He took 22 attempts in 53 games. Not that the Warriors needed the help, but it was an unexpected result. The thing is, Casspi was good when he actually took those shots! His 45.5% rate on those attempts would be a career-high by a mile (a mile = 4.6 percentage points in this preview). Overall, it was very out of character for Casspi, who before last season averaged 2.7 threes a game on 37% shooting.
There were some positives with last year, though. Omri ended up showcasing his skills as a cutter and driver in the Warriors offense which is predicated on lots of movement. Explaining his lack of outside shooting attempts, Casspi shot his most 2-point attempts per-36 minutes in his career and succeeded on 59.5% of them, another career high.
Omri Casspi’s season was cut short after his ankle injury and the rise of Quinn Cook amid a thin Warriors backcourt. In order to bring Cook onto the playoff roster, Golden State had to release Casspi in April. The Golden State Warriors got to win another championship, while Casspi wasn’t signed to another team until the Memphis Grizzlies came along.
Best Case Scenario
Basically, the opposite of his Warriors season. It was fine with that group of personnel, when your three-point shooting is buoyed by probably three of the best five shooters of all-time. Golden State needed players to cut and find open spots on the floor in a complementary way. Memphis absolutely need 3-point help, and the best case scenario would be for Casspi to provide it.
Casspi shooting three-to-four 3-pointers a game at a 40% clip would be high heaven for this team. He’s only averaged double-digit points-per-game twice in his career, but getting to that mark this season would be a fantastic contribution, especially after the departure of Tyreke Evans and his 19.4 points per game.
Memphis has a lot of interchangeable wings at the moment. If Casspi is lights out and lives up to this best case scenario, he may find himself in the starting lineup.
Worst Case Scenario
Casspi just gets lost in the shuffle of those interchangeable wings I just mentioned. Dillon Brooks, Wayne Selden Jr., and MarShon Brooks are able to supplement Kyle Anderson and Chandler Parsons with more athleticism and upside than Omri Casspi can even offer at this point in his career.
Casspi has only averaged 20-plus minutes a game as a Sacramento King on some abysmal rosters. It wouldn’t be completely out of left field for Casspi to start the season at around 10-15 minutes a game and see that number gradually fall as younger players show they can take more responsibility.
Maybe a year of only shooting 22 3-pointers makes Omri Casspi rusty from outside. He may never get his shooting back on track and shoots below-average, which would be more of the same for Memphis.
Omri Casspi will likely go back to his pre-Golden State self where he lets it fly from deep. But the fact that we haven’t seen it in so long from him leaves me a bit wary that he’ll just pick up where he left off with no hitches.
Casspi will shoot more threes out of Memphis’ necessity, but his actual production will be up in the air. His best bet would be to carve out a niche for himself as a stretch-four. Chandler Parsons and Kyle Anderson are the only wings who can play up a position at power forward, but Anderson leaves out “stretch” in stretch-four and Chandler Parsons’ availability can’t be guaranteed.
Lots of young players will be fighting for minutes at the wing positions, but PF is loaded with guys who should be playing center (Jaren Jackson Jr., Ivan Rabb), but there are few true small-ball options. Casspi should stay on the team and stay useful if he can do that and hit threes at even just an average rate.