More than a week into arriving at the Orlando Bubble, the Memphis Grizzlies seem to be quite comfortable with their surroundings. As seen on social media, both the players and staff seem to be enjoying the setup as much as possible. Furthermore, with a fully healthy roster that also features new talent Memphis will have three full weeks before it tips off against Portland to implement new strategies, lineups, and chemistry. While new wrinkles will be added and some things may change, a few characteristics of this team should certainly stay the same.
This is not your older brother’s or father’s Memphis Grizzlies. This is one of the best offensive rosters in the history of the franchise, mainly because it plays at a faster pace than any previous Grizzlies team. However, Memphis is not simply doing this to keep with the times and catch up with NBA trends. They are doing it because this style features the strengths of this roster, as playing at a fast pace is arguably when this team plays at its best.
Memphis is seventh in the league in pace and 13th in points per game this season. This is a common characteristic of a young, athletic team; they like to play fast and remain active. This often leads to many high scoring games. Though that may have been a rare sight in the past for Memphis, it actually has become a desirable outcome for this version of the Grizzlies.
So far this season, Memphis has averaged 112.6 points per game. In the 35 games that Memphis has scored 113 or more points - or above their season average - they are 24-11. Logically, a big reason for that is because of the high quantity of attempts the Grizzlies are creating and their ability to convert those chances into points.
The Grizzlies also benefit from making their opponents play fast as well, though, which many times takes other teams out of their comfort zones. The Grizzlies allow the seventh most shots per game in the league, yet quantity does not always equate to quality for the opposition. When Memphis’s opponents attempt 96 or more shots, the Grizzlies are 8-1.
One key reason as to why Memphis is quite good in high scoring games is how effective the Grizzlies roster can be early in the shot clock on both ends of the court. Offensively, the Grizzlies are among the top ten teams in the NBA in the amount of shots taken and made with 18-22 seconds on the shot clock. They also are among the NBA’s top ten teams in both FG% and 3PFG% on these specific shot attempts.
The quantity of the Grizzlies attempts during this portion of the shot clock is a result of their style of play. The Grizzlies are 13th in the NBA in forcing turnovers, which means they are above average at creating fast break opportunities. They also are fifth in the NBA in the amount of their overall plays that occur in transition. As mentioned above, the Grizzlies preference is to play fast and on the run.
The quality of their play comes from both their ability to pass and the ability of Grizzlies guards to finish at the rim. The Grizzlies are second in the league in assists, as they use quick and intelligent ball movement to create highly successful scoring chances on the run and early in the shot clock. Memphis guards are second and eighth among NBA backcourts in field goals made and FG% within five feet of the rim, respectively. The fact that the Grizzlies have many options that can effectively push the pace down the court also certainly helps their cause.
Due to their ability to pass on the run and finish at the rim, the Grizzlies are among the top five teams in the NBA in both FG% and eFG% on transition plays and fast break points per game. The Grizzlies also shoot their best from beyond the arc on attempts within 18-22 seconds on the shot clock. Simply put, the Grizzlies are at their best when they frequently take shots early in their possessions. When they play fast and with movement, Memphis can quickly and frequently find a shot they desire to consistently score. Utilizing this style of basketball is a practical way for the Grizzlies to remain competitive against more talented teams. This is verified by their impressive record when they score above their season average in points.
Without a doubt, the Grizzlies’ offense is a big reason for their success in high scoring games. However, the Memphis defense also plays a significant role in their prosperity. The Grizzlies force their opponents to take 13.8% of their overall shot attempts with 18-22 seconds left on the shot clock, which is 11th in the NBA. On those shot attempts, the Grizzlies are first and third in the NBA in opponent’s eFG% and 3PFG% allowed, respectively. This shows, at times, that the Grizzlies can force their opponents to play their style of ball. When Memphis is effectively scoring on the run, other teams have to take tougher shots more frequently, and struggle as a result.
The fact that the Grizzlies play at one of the fastest paces in the league has become a standard. Their effectiveness at that pace is what has opened eyes around the league in terms of how much talent is on this roster. Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. certainly help that cause. However, the Grizzlies intelligent decision making and chemistry on offense, along with their length and intuition on defense, are the keys to making this brand of basketball successful.
This is also a compliment to Taylor Jenkins, as his choice in schemes and strategies that feature the strengths of this roster have been highly prosperous. His ability to develop players such as De’Anthony Melton, Brandon Clarke, Tyus Jones, and others have allowed the Grizzlies to have strong depth. This allows for the Grizzlies to keep their legs fresh and the quality of their play high once reserves are on the court. These two factors certainly aid Memphis in their ability to utilize their transition offense throughout the entire game.
Once the season resumes in Orlando, a big part of the Grizzlies’ success will be how effectively and frequently they can utilize their transition offense and force their opposition to play fast. This will be much easier said than done, as Memphis not only will play more talented teams, but also several teams who play well at a slower pace. Also, Memphis will play five of the NBA’s eleven best defensive teams to close out their schedule.
However, though the path is tough, Memphis does have a way it can navigate the tough road ahead. If the Grizzlies can take care of the ball, utilize their depth, and stay within their scheme whether ahead or behind on the scoreboard, they can find success. Hopefully, that will lead to better than expected results in Orlando, a feat this team is used to accomplishing.