For the most part, the Grizzlies were universally praised for their offseason acquisition of Garrett Temple, as the veteran wing can provide more defense to “Grit & Grind 2.0”. With Memphis seemingly all in on returning to the playoffs in the upcoming season, adding a player like Temple for the cost of two young, inconsistent players in Ben McLemore and Deyonta Davis looked like an easy decision (though we’ll have to see what that 2021 second round pick amounts to).
Those folks are right about Temple’s contributions on the defensive end. Temple has the size and defensive awareness to be a positive contributor on that end of the floor, and the numbers show just that. Temple has consistently improved his team’s defense throughout his career.
During the 2015-16 season with the Washington Wizards (in which Temple played the most minutes in a season of his career), the team’s defense was 4.9 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor. Temple even improved the Sacramento Kings’ defense by 1.1 points per 100 possessions this past season, and that is a hard feat (sorry Kings fans).
However, Temple shouldn’t just be thought of for his defense. Yes, he will be another welcome addition to a team relying on top-notch defense on a nightly basis in hopes of making it back to the playoffs, but Temple is much more than a quality wing defender.
In fact, Temple is a more dynamic offensive player than he is given credit for. His presence in the Grizzlies offense will not only improve floor-spacing, but will also add an additional playmaker to any lineup, further diversifying the team’s offensive attack.
When it comes to Temple’s offense, people will simply note that he is an above-average shooter, making him a capable off-ball player and floor spacer. Yes, Temple did have a career year from beyond the arc last season, hitting 39.2 percent of his 3.5 3-point attempts per game. Temple’s progression as a shooter shouldn’t be overlooked. As recently as 2013-14, Temple was barely attempting 3-pointers (he attempted 29 for the entire season), knocking down just 20.7 percent of such shots.
Now? He’s quickly considered a quality shooter, making him a 3 & D wing at a time in which such players have more value than ever before.
However, we’re not here to talk about Temple’s rapid rise as a shooter. Instead, we’re here to discuss an undervalued and overlooked aspect of Temple’s offensive game: his playmaking.
Yes, you heard me. Garrett Temple is an underrated passer and initiator of an offense, and his ball-handling abilities will add another dynamic to the Grizzlies offense.
Most of Temple’s creation comes in the half-court, where he can serve as a secondary or tertiary playmaker in the offense. Whether it is seeing a teammate cut to the rim or through a traditional pick-and-roll, Temple can make all of the passes.
Here Temple spots a cutting Bogdan Bogdanovic, throwing a laser pass so Bogdanovic can easily go up for the layup:
Here Temple shows excellent control and awareness when navigating the pick-and-roll with Willie Cauley-Stein, delivering the pass at just the right moment for Cauley-Stein to have an open dunk:
Finally, Temple shows off his natural passing ability, delivering a beautiful pass to Kostas Koufos after Anthony Davis comes out to the perimeter to trap Temple:
Sure, Temple’s assist numbers aren’t all that eye-opening, but a quick watch of Temple’s game and control of the ball when initiating the offense reveals he is a more than capable secondary creator. For his career, Temple has averaged 3.1 assists per-36 minutes, but as a result of never having a primary role as a creator, he has never translated his passing ability to the box score.
While Temple isn’t an elite creator and playmaker, he doesn’t have to be in Memphis. If he is included in the starting lineup, Temple will be playing alongside Mike Conley, Kyle Anderson and Marc Gasol (whose passing should continue to be a feature of the offense) and can therefore be the fourth creator. In such a lineup, four of the five players would be able to create offense for themselves or others, making it very hard to stop, even if the team’s first or second actions are shut down.
If Temple comes off the bench, he can serve as a more immediate ball-handler, using shooters (Wayne Selden, Chandler Parsons, etc.) and a capable big man (perhaps Jaren Jackson Jr.) to initiate the action. Whatever Temple’s role is, he will be able to use his creation abilities as a primary component of the offense or as more of a backup plan.
In the end, it is always useful to have additional playmakers in an offense. When it comes to Garrett Temple, the Grizzlies were able to acquire an underrated passer, one that can also space the floor and provide quality defense. Temple might seem like he’s all grit and grind, but he adds in a lot more flavor to the Grizzlies offense than originally assumed.