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Finally, the Grizzlies have shooters

The Memphis Grizzlies shooters often get talked about against each other, but it should also create conversation on the quality of 3-point shooting on this roster.

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Memphis Grizzlies v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

De’Anthony Melton, Desmond Bane, and Grayson Allen have been pitted against each other in recent articles, and dialogue on podcasts or Twitter — guilty. It’s reasonable to suggest. All 3 of them play the same position, and there’s arguably no sizable gap either, particularly between Bane and Allen. Whenever Justise Winslow and Jaren Jackson Jr. are back, one of them will be cut from the 10-man rotation.

Though those issues do exist, there’s something that this observation has taught me: the Grizzlies are striking a good balance of quality and quantity of 3-point shooters.

These 3 young shooting guards have emerged as the primary 3-point weapons for the Grizzlies. De’Anthony Melton, in large part, has taken a massive leap as a perimeter sniper. Grayson Allen has built on his marksmanship from the NBA bubble, while Desmond Bane is showing everyone why he was the best shooter coming out of the 2020 draft class.

Both Melton and Bane rank in the top 10 in 3-point percentage, as the former is shooting 45.3% (7th) and the latter is shooting 45.1% (8th) from downtown. Allen has also been a reliable floor-spacer next to Ja Morant, who is using his early-quarter shooting to force defensive adjustments. This doesn’t even include Kyle Anderson’s surge as a 3-point threat.

This sort of marksmanship is unlike anything we’ve seen in franchise history both in terms of individual 3-point shooting and the collective perimeter impact as well. It also creates a foundation for what lies ahead.

Memphis Grizzlies v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The individual 3-point shooting has been some of the best we’ve seen in Grizzlies history. Through sports-reference’s Stathead database, I generated the number of players in the franchise’s tenure in Memphis — 51 — who have shot at least 34% from 3, while qualifying for the 3-point percentage leaders’ dashboard. There are Grizzly players making 3’s at, or above, the league-average clip this season than any other year.

Grizzlies and League Average 3-point percentage
Sports-Reference’s Stathead database

The guidelines for the 3-point leaders dashboard aren’t super clear, probably something to do with a combination of games played and total attempts. That plays a factor into guys like Grayson Allen (2019-20), Jaren Jackson Jr. (2018-19) and Chandler Parsons (2017-18) who missed a chunks of time with injury. Given the amount of roster turnover in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons, there were players that shot well in small samples. Then, there’s someone like JaMychal Green who shot 39.6% and 37.9% in the 2018-19 and 2016-17 seasons, but had a low volume from 3 (2.3 and 1.9 attempts per game each year).

Melton, Bane, and Allen stand out particularly well here.

For starters, when you’re lined up with Mike Miller for 3-point shooting seasons, you’re shooting the damn lights out from deep.

Secondly, the rate at which they’re firing more frequently than any of their counterparts, while shooting more accurately. Only 9 players on this list have 3-point attempt rates higher than 0.50, and Melton, Bane, and Allen are in that group — with the latter trailing Troy Daniels for the highest mark at .659. In addition, Allen and Melton are 3rd and 6th in 3-point attempts per 100 possessions (10.4 and 9.5). Not only are they taking them at an elite clip, but they’re converting at a high volume as well. Melton, Allen, and Bane all rank among the top-10 in 3-point field goals per 100 possessions (4.3, 4.1, and 3.7).

After a massive stat dump, let me provide some additional context.

The per-100 possessions are inflated by the era and the philosophy. This iteration of the Grizzlies are firing 3’s at the second-highest clip in franchise history (30.5), while playing in an era that’s shooting 36 three’s a game on average. In addition, Coach Taylor Jenkins has been adamant about wanting his team to “let it fly” since arriving in Memphis. And while there has been individual work on perimeter shooting — particularly De’Anthony Melton — Coach Jenkins has done a great job putting his shooters in the right position to succeed, while empowering them and instilling confidence in them.

He’s thrown the right lineups together that have ample spacing and playmaking. With Allen’s inclusion in the starting lineup, he’s benefitting off the attention and playmaking of Ja Morant, Jonas Valanciunas, Dillon Brooks, and Kyle Anderson — while continuing to mastering the craft of moving off the ball for open windows in passing lanes. In addition, Bane and Melton have also done a great job of playing off each other as playmakers, finding the right looks from the perimeter with shot relocations. These players have done well refining their skills as perimeter players, but the impact wouldn’t be felt the same if they weren’t in this system of empowerment, patience, and space.

There’s also another factor here: Kyle Anderson. The seven-year forward has taken a massive leap this season, as he’s become a 3-point threat. He’s seen his 3-point percentage jump by 9 points from last season (28.2 to 37.0), and he’s already surpassed his total attempts from last season by over 100 attempts in fewer games. His evolution as a shooter has instilled confidence in the rest of his game, raising his ceiling in the process.

These 4 players have played a major role in keeping this team in the playoff push, while the team’s been smacked by injuries and health and safety protocols. In the process, they’ve put together some of the strongest shooting seasons we’ve seen since Mike Miller and Mike Conley.

They’ve also set a foundation of what a Grizzlies team should look for, and build around, going forward.

Memphis Grizzlies v Utah Jazz Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

The Memphis Grizzlies are setting a strong standard of how they want to build around Ja Morant’s game. With his drive-oriented attack and his pass-first mindset, it’s imperative to surround him with shooters.

Desmond Bane, De’Anthony Melton, and Grayson Allen are great starts. Finding multiple 40-percent 3-point shooters is hard, ask the Grit ‘n’ Grind Grizzlies. And the Grizzlies have 3 of them under cost-control — with Bane’s 30th overall draft pick bargain deal, Allen’s impending restricted free agency, and Melton’s 4-year team friendly contract.

Are there questions? Sure. You want to see the sustainability for any of these players and how they’ll respond in big situations as well. That’ll be the difference between them becoming regular-season rotation members and playoff ones. On a larger scale, for any of them to become a potential starting shooting guard, you want to see what happens to their percentages with increased volume and attempt rate.

One other thing I’d like to see from the Grizzlies wings down the road is shooting with size. Kyle Anderson has been really good from outside, and you want to test the sustainability of it. Dillon Brooks is inconsistent, as he’ll have month stretches of shooting 40+% from 3 but also sub-30%. It’s a giant wait-and-see with Justise Winslow, as he shot 37-38% in his last 2 healthy seasons, but you also need to see if he could be healthy and if he could regain that touch. I’d look for them to shore that need up in the draft — particularly someone like Moses Moody, Corey Kispert, or Chris Duarte would be good here.

Ultimately, I just wish somebody would could build a time machine to bring back prime Mike Miller or 2003-04 James Posey. That’s what’s needed.

The biggest key in all this is Jaren Jackson Jr. Last season, he emerged as a basketball unicorn with his sensational combination of efficiency (39.8%) and volume. Granted, even if he returns this year, we may not see a fully unlocked Jackson until the 2021-22 season. However, he’s the game-changer who could make this current “quality and quantity” situation more riveting, because he can carry a team with his outside shooting. With his evolving skill-set, he could potentially become a go-to guy that shoots 3’s at a high volume and scores at a high level.

There are going to be questions and roster decisions that need to be answered down the road, but nonetheless the Grizzlies are doing a good job of identifying floor-spacers next to its star point guard. It’d make for a great offensive system down the road.

Memphis Grizzlies v Washington Wizards Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

This balance of individual 3-point shooting is setting great precedent for these players’ respective career arcs and for the team’s infrastructure. With outstanding shooting like this, these players should be NBA rotation players for quite sometime. In addition, it helps set a standard of how they should build around Ja Morant going forward. Having a right balance of quantity and quality on individual 3-point shooting is a standard for contending as well — as the Utah Jazz, Brooklyn Nets, Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Philadelphia 76ers all have 4 or more players making 3’s at least on league-average accuracy and good volume, per Stathead.

While it’s the obvious conversation and debate to pit these 3 guards, let’s not fail to recognize that they’re all putting together outstanding shooting seasons. We haven’t a Grizzlies team have the right balance of quality and quantity when it comes to 3-point shooting — particularly the number of good 3-point shooters — in quite some time. And getting that out of your young players is a positive development to monitor going forward.

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