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Poor offense and you: A Memphis Grizzlies story

Over the course of their losing streak, it’s the Grizzlies offense more than anything that’s held them back.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

For the past few months I’ve been running, as a sort of side project, an adjusted ratings system for the NBA. It’s fairly simple. Each team’s offensive and defensive rating, per NBA.com, is compared to the average based on opponent, and then given an adjustment number. Based on that number, each team is measured by how much better—or worse—they are compared to the league average.

For example, a team with an ORtg adjustment of -5 has an offensive rating that is five points worse than average per 100 possessions when adjusted for opponent. Conversely, a team with a DRtg adjustment of -5 has a defensive rating that is five points BETTER than average.

I’ve tracked the numbers for the full season, but I’ve also kept a “Last 10” adjustment as well. I’m not sure if you’re aware, but the Grizzlies are on a bit of a losing streak. A quick look at that Last 10 adjustment for offensive rating gives a little bit of insight into why.

That number for the last ten is actually improved after the San Antonio game. Prior to that, the Grizzlies had an offensive adjustment of -13! The Grizzlies offense has been an abject disaster over this losing streak. They’re the only team with an offensive adjustment less than -10 over the past ten games. Even the Nikola Mirotic-less Bulls haven’t been that bad!

And while they aren’t dead last in terms of offensive rating versus average for the season, they’re quickly trending in the wrong direction. For the entirety of the 2017-18 season, the Grizzlies are 28th in the league in ORtg adjustment, surrounded by bottom-feeders like the Suns, the Kings, and the Bulls. This offense has been especially atrocious lately, but it’s far from something that’s unique to this losing streak.

If there’s any consolation, it’s the Grizzlies defense. By defensive rating, the Grizzlies currently rank 20th in the league per Basketball Reference. But even over the course of their last ten games—all losses, of course—the Grizzlies are still in the top half of the league.

That’s even more impressive when you consider that the Grizzlies are playing lineups that don’t have a lot of experience, much less experience playing as a cohesive unit. With their offense a complete dumpster fire, it’s encouraging that the defense has managed to be anything less than a complete sieve.

In short, as bad as the Grizzlies have looked defensively at times, it’s really their offense that’s causing the bulk of their issues, both in this recent losing streak and during the season as a whole. But if there’s some silver lining, it’s that the defense, especially lately, hasn’t been among the league’s worst.

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