Over the past few weeks, I have highlighted some potential personal milestones for several Memphis Grizzlies. Knowledge of these milestones should add positive perspective to the season. Several players reaching their personal milestones could help Memphis surprise many this year. If the Grizzlies were to struggle, the players’ successes adds reason to enjoy the games. For a city that has a stronger connection with its players than most, celebrating these successes could be fun for many. Along with the players personally, the Grizzlies’ franchise itself will experience a bit a history as well.
Fans will not have to wait long to experience a historic franchise accomplishment. With their third three in the season opener in Indiana, the Grizzlies will have made their 10,000th three in franchise history. Of the 30 current NBA teams, that will leave the New Orleans Pelicans as the only franchise with less than 10,000 threes. For a team long known for its lack of three point shooting, this is quite an accomplishment. Hopefully, in his pursuit of being the first Grizzly to make 1,000 threes, Mike Conley will be the one to ring it up and put three on the board.
The other big statistical accomplishment for the Grizzlies this season will be their 15,000th steal as a franchise. This accomplishment has significance because over the last decade, this has been one of the biggest strengths of the team. Since the 2007-2008 season, the Grizzlies are fifth in opponent’s turnovers per game and third in total steals. Over that time frame, they have averaged nearly 750 steals a season. This projects for them to reach this milestone around the 25th game of the season.
Beyond all-time franchise milestones, the Grizzlies have made a clear effort to return to playoff contention this season. The specific moves made in turning over the roster were done in an effort to get back to the style of play that was successful in the first half of this decade. The formula was a team wide effort in paint production and defense. A huge milestone for Memphis would be to again find success with this mentality.
Basically, the concept was to slow the game down while being efficient on offense and opportunistic on defense. Statistically, the three areas where the Grizzlies consistently found an advantage were two point field goats, offensive rebounding, and turnovers. A big goal for the Grizzlies this year is to again be among the best in these three areas.
In the each of seven seasons between 2009 and 2016, the Grizzlies ranked in the top 10 in two point field goals attempted and made. Since 2010, the Grizzlies have ranked in the top 10 in least allowed opponent two-point field goal attempts and makes each season. This is a result of the “slow the game” approach the Grizzlies have implemented over the past decade. The Grizzlies were among the best at limiting high percentage shots for the opposition, and among the most successful at making their own.
Turnovers were a major reason the Grizzlies were so good at limiting field goal effectiveness on defense and maximizing it on offense. Simply put, they took chances away from their opponents and created extra opportunities for themselves. Since 2010, the Grizzlies have six top ten finishes in turnovers created on defense. In that same time frame, they have finished top ten in the league five times in fewest turnovers committed. The ability to cause turnovers at a high rate while also taking care of the ball gave the Grizzlies 5 to 10 extra possessions a game. This proved to be the difference in many key victories.
Along with the turnovers, the Grizzlies also created extra high percentage chances for themselves through offensive rebounds. Since 2009, the Grizzlies ranked in the top ten for offensive rebounds six times. In that same time, they were in the top half of the league for limiting offensive rebounds seven times.
Again, the ability to minimize extra chances for the opposition while creating their own was key. Furthermore, getting the offensive rebounds at a higher rate led to good scoring opportunities. As many fans know, many memorable victories for the Grizzlies were the result of late game tip ins and 3 point plays from Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, and others getting the offensive rebound.
How the Grizzlies have performed in in these three statistical areas has directly correlated to their success over the past decade. As can be seen, Memphis was among the NBA’s best in these statistics during our playoff runs. Last year, while the defense still had decent rankings, the Grizzlies ranked 24th in two point field goals made, 18th in offensive rebounds, and 23rd in turnovers committed.
The slow pace of play was still slowing teams down and lowering their scoring chances. However, the Grizzlies were significantly worse at taking advantage of it. This made it extremely hard to stay with more talented teams, and took away the opportunity to win close games. The overall lack of talent across the roster was exposed, and the Grizzlies simply looked outmatched at times.
This a major reason behind the focus of the offseason. The front office knew the Grizzlies were not gonna become one of the NBA’s most talented teams overnight. However, they did have proof of a strategy that worked with Marc and Mike in the past. As a result, they targeted players with two specific traits in mind.
First, they gained tremendous length with the addition of Kyle Anderson, Omri Casspi, and Jaren Jackson Jr, to go along with Gasol, Chandler Parsons, and Jamychal Green. Second, each of these players, along with Garret Temple, Shelvin Mack, and Jevon Carter, are highly intelligent. The length will help to create turnovers on defense through steals, blocks and altering shots. It will also help to get better close range shots and offensive rebounds on offense. The intelligence allows for more effective team play and communication on defense, and better passing and less turnovers on offense.
Overall, the length and intelligence increases the chance the Grizzlies will once again be effective in those specific statistical areas that were so critical to us winning in the past. For the roster, many Grizzlies have a chance to have a special season individually. If several players on the roster reach individual milestones, that could have a positive on the team to be better than expected.
If they can work together effectively as a unit, this group can have similar success to the Grit and Grind Grizzlies. Reaching statistical milestones, both individually and as a franchise, can give fans extra enjoyment for the upcoming season. Becoming one of the leagues most efficient and effective teams on both offense and defense could make it a memorable one for everyone.