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Does the Gasol and Green pairing even work?

The Grizzlies’ veteran frontcourt doesn’t really yield positive results.

NBA: Preseason-Memphis Grizzlies at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It’s easy to rely on veterans. They’ve been there, done that. Their mistakes aren’t as magnified compared to rookies, because their tenure in the league is valued. It’s like they’re almost graded on a curve.

The Memphis Grizzlies were always going to rely on their vets heavily this season. You could tell they were going to with their approach this offseason. They decided to ride with the Marc Gasol and Mike Conley duo once again, avoiding the “blow it up” move that every national media desired for Memphis. Even though they drafted a big man, they decided to keep JaMychal Green as a veteran stopgap. Instead of using their mid-level exception on an erratic scorer, they acquired Kyle Anderson — a versatile player with a unique offensive skillset and “All-Defensive Team” quality defense from a winning organization. They also sought after veterans like Omri Casspi, Garrett Temple, and Shelvin Mack.

Throughout the season, you could see where the Grizzlies have wanted to execute on their offseason approach. Of the 7 players averaging over 20 minutes per game, only two players are under the age of 25 — Kyle Anderson (29.4) and Jaren Jackson (25.5). The three players averaging 30 or more minutes are all above the age of 30.

Timeout: That is frightening, to be honest.

Time back in.

One major complaint in this over-reliance on veterans is the crunch-time lineups, primarily the decision to put Shelvin Mack and JaMychal Green in, usually at the expense of Kyle Anderson and Jaren Jackson — you know, the guys that’ll eventually lead the team. We know why JB Bickerstaff does this; it’s because they’re veterans. He can rely on them.

What if I told you it didn’t work? You’d probably know that. What if I told you a lot of it was because of Shelvin Mack? You might guess that too. What if I told you it doesn’t work because of the frontcourt pairing of Gasol and Green?

You might second-guess yourself.

By the Numbers

The pairing of Gasol and Green seems like an easy go-to for Bickerstaff. That frontcourt duo started together all season in route to a playoff appearance in 2017. They weren’t even much of a positive then, posting a net rating of -0.7.

This season, the results haven’t been much prettier. The duo of Gasol and Green don't necessarily resemble a lottery team, as they have a net rating of -1.6 together. However, when you factor in the other 3 guys on the court, the numbers suggest that it’s the equivalent to a basement-level NBA squad.

JaMychal Green Lineup Stats

Lineup Minutes Offensive Rating Defensive Rating Net Rating
Lineup Minutes Offensive Rating Defensive Rating Net Rating
Conley-Temple-Anderson-Green-Gasol 94 109.9 109.1 0.8
Mack-Temple-Anderson-Green-Gasol 37 87.7 109.6 -22
Conley-Mack-Temple-Green-Gasol 19 95.7 102.2 -6.6
Conley-Mack-Anderson-Green-Gasol 16 96.8 78.8 18

Yes, the real negative lineups are terrible. My eyes are bleeding too. The starting lineup one isn’t really bad either, as they more so resemble a 41-43 win team with that lineup. The last lineup is absolutely insane, and it’s probably because of the abundance of playmakers on the floor. However, when you compare these lineups to the ones with Jackson instead of Green, you start to do some thinking.

Jaren Jackson Lineup Stats

Lineup Minutes Offensive Rating Defensive Rating Net Rating
Lineup Minutes Offensive Rating Defensive Rating Net Rating
Conley-Temple-Anderson-Jackson-Gasol 342 101.1 90 11.2
Mack-Temple-Anderson-Jackson-Gasol 60 92.9 97.7 -4.9
Conley-Mack-Temple-Jackson-Gasol 41 97.6 84.5 13
Conley-Mack-Anderson-Jackson-Gasol 13 114.3 77.4 36.9

The lineups with Jaren Jackson make the Grizzlies look like a homecourt team in the Western Conference, whereas these same lineups with Green instead resemble a middling-to-lottery squad.

So what’s the problem?

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Eye-Test Views

When you separate Gasol and Green and analyze them as individual players, there isn’t much to hate. Gasol is a facilitator, as he’s a unique talent that uses his excellent vision and passing wizardry to find open, or cutting, teammates. Green is the Grizzlies’ dump-off man minutes, as he gets the majority of his buckets around the glass or from catch-and-shoot opportunities.

Together though, it’s a weird dynamic, especially when you account for the team’s makeup. There aren’t a lot of playmakers on the team, aside from Conley and Gasol. In addition to the inability to create for others, there’s no one else could really create for themselves as well. So whenever these two share the court together, I feel like there’s very little movement on the court.

In regards to this duo, it’s primarily because Green doesn’t create well for himself or others. In fact, his assist-to-turnover ratio makes me vomit — 0.8 assists vs. 1.6 turnovers. Nothing really is done when the ball is in his hands. In addition, Gasol doesn't move very much within the flow of the offense either. Not to mention, aside from Conley, they’re typically sharing the court with Shelvin Mack (a mediocre playmaker), Garrett Temple (more of a 3-and-D guy rather than a playmaker), and Kyle Anderson (a theoretical playmaker, but essentially a non-shooter in the Grizzlies’ system). Therefore, the offense can get stagnant at times.

When Jackson is on the court, that all changes, because he’s an aggressive scorer. They look to him in the pick-and-roll, post, and on the perimeter. When he’s on the perimeter, he has the mobility and ball-handling to take both smaller and larger defenders off the dribble. His offense creativity opens up the Grizzlies’ offense; pair that with his stellar defense within their excellent defensive system, and they resemble a top-4 team in the Western Conference.

What should they do?

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Portland Trail Blazers Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Possible Solutions?

The easy-peasy one is so simple that it’s elementary. The Grizzlies are awesome with Jackson and Gasol, and average with Green and Gasol. Therefore, the Grizzlies should play Jackson and Gasol together a lot — 25-30 minutes a night would be nice.

With Green, you could get away with giving him 5-10 a game with the starting group, excluding Jackson. That lineup has shown that they could at least hold a lead. Doing this for the last 4 minutes of the first and third quarters could bode well for the Grizzlies. They shouldn’t look to the Green-Gasol pairing with Temple, Conley, or Anderson out of the game.

Obviously, Green is too good to play only 5-10 minutes a night, and his raw stats suggest that — 10.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, 49.4% from the field, 36.2% from 3-point range. Though the Grizzlies got Joakim Noah to play backup minutes at the 5, they should look at making Green the backup as a small-ball 5. The net ratings suggest he doesn’t bode well with the team’s other traditional big men (Gasol, Jackson, and Noah). However, his net rating with Omri Casspi is exceptional — +18.3 (106.8 Offensive Rating, 88.5 Defensive Rating).

Pairing Casspi and Green with Jevon Carter, MarShon Brooks, and Dillon Brooks could be a great two-way bench squad for the Grizzlies. They have the Brooks brothers as primary scorers. Green would have the paint to himself. Carter could wreak havoc and be a pest to opposing backcourts.

Marc Gasol and JaMychal Green are both important pieces to the puzzle. Granted, Green has been floated around as a potential trade piece, but having him as a third big men is quite a luxury as well.

The Grizzlies must do some tweaking, because the two players aren’t exactly a perfect pair. Let Gasol and Jackson dominate. If you want Green in, put him with the other starters to help maintain a lead. Then, let Green dominate bench-quality big men.

Sounds like a playoff recipe to me.

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