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Masterpieces made by the Memphis assist artists

How an assist artist can change a team

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NBA: Denver Nuggets at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

When you think of great passers in the NBA, it is easy to think of the flashy guys like Steve Nash, Jason Williams and now LaMelo Ball and Ja Morant. What makes a player a great passer is not the flashy passes that leave us in awe, rather the precision by which they consistently dish out dimes.

Mike Conley was never the flashy passer, he’s just not a flashy guy. In Ja’s first two seasons so far, he has averaged more assists per game than Conley ever did, and his assist % (% of field goals by teammates assisted by the player) has also been higher in two seasons than Conley’s. For context, Mike did play with assist killers. Zach Randolph would do his own work on the block, while Marc often stole the assist making the extra pass, or Rudy Gay put the ball on the floor to create for himself. There was not a lot of catch-and-shoot scoring happening for the GNG Grizzlies based on the lack of that type of player.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at New Orleans Pelicans Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Taylor Jenkins has made the drive and kick offense a primary foundation for this roster, creating several C&S opportunities each night. Ja Morant is currently fourth in the NBA in drives per game at 19.4, but he only attempts 8.9 shots per drive, therefore he is kicking it out to a shooter or dumping it off to a big 10.5 times per night. The Grizzlies wings currently average a combined 27.6 of the team’s 112.6 points per game on 34.8 % shooting:

  • Desmond Bane: 4.9 pts (47.7%)
  • Grayson Allen: 4.7 pts (38.3%)
  • Dillon Brooks: 4.5 pts (36.3%)
  • Kyle Anderson 3.9 pts (39.5%)
  • De’Anthony Melton 3.7 pts (43.9 %)

Only Troy Daniels had a season with more C&S points than Bane (5.0) in Grizzlies history. There are only 5 other seasons in which a player had more than 4 C&S points per game, and two of those were Dillon and Grayson last season.

The 27.6 points is the best in franchise history since the NBA start tracking this stat in the 2013-14 season. Ja Morant and Dillon Brooks are the only two players on the team with the ability to go get their own shot when it is needed. Neither are doing it at an efficient rate currently, making the C&S stat that much more important.

So what does having a point guard that can put the ball where his shooters need it to be successful matter? Look at a few of the shooting percentages for a few of the wings when they pull up:

  • Desmond Bane - 38.8%
  • Dillon Brooks - 35.1%

Grayson, Melton and Kyle have higher pull up percentages, but floaters count as pull ups there the numbers are slightly skewed. If you were to subtract the floaters, there is a great chance they would also have decreased pull up shooting percentages. Try to remember the last time you any of the three really do anything other than shoot a three or drive to the rim. Pull-ups aren’t in their game.

The decrease for the other two goes to show how important it is to give your shooters a great pass — it is a shot that has a better chance for consistency due to the rhythm it creates.

The Grizzlies have 4 wings that take 3.5 threes per game and shoot better than 36% — three of them shoot better than 40%. With Morant’s elite ability to drive to the rim, sucking a defense in, and shooters to surround him, the Grizzlies have a foundation for an elite offense. Shooters usually improve the longer they are in the league, so the Grizzlies’ young core will only get better. The more Ja kicks it out on a dime, the more high-percentage looks the wing shooters will get.

This is just the beginning of what Memphis is building. Jaren Jackson Jr. — who shot 40% on 6.5 attempts per game last season — is set to return, only making this offense more lethal. Having an elite assist man in Ja Morant, still figuring out the NBA game, means the limit is a long way from being reached. Buckle up Grizz fans, this offense is going to be fun for years.

Stats found on stats.nba.com.

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