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How the Grizzlies could boost their halfcourt offense

The Memphis Grizzlies finished outside the top-20 in halfcourt offense last year, and there are several factors that indicate room and foundation for improvement

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2022 NBA Playoffs - Golden State Warriors v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

The Memphis Grizzlies generated an offensive output they haven’t experienced since the organization’s arrival to Grind City. They smashed the franchise record for Offensive Rating (114.3). In the process, and probably a more impressive barometer of success in franchise year-to-year comparison, the Grizzlies had their highest league rank (4th) in offensive efficiency ever — and it’s first top-10 finish since the 2003-04 season.

Ja Morant’s emergence into an offensive supernova was a driving force for this trend. Desmond Bane also catapulted himself into the conversation of best shooters in the world. The Grizzlies were also a dangerous squad on the offensive glass and out in transition.

The Grizzlies made strides into becoming one of the most potent offenses in the NBA. However, I’m interested to see how they develop and build upon one sore spot of their offense. They weren’t great in the halfcourt last season. They generated 93.4 points per 100 halfcourt plays this past season — ranking 22nd in the league, per Cleaning the Glass.

Obviously, this aspect of the offense hasn’t harmed the Grizzlies. They finished with a 56-26 record, good for 2nd in the NBA. And, aforementioned, the offense was elite. Nonetheless, the Grizzlies saw their system kick into a high year through a relentless improvement, “never satisfied” mindset. To sustain success in the Western Conference, evolution and internal improvement would be needed.

In addition, there will be some personnel tweaks this season. The Grizzlies lost De’Anthony Melton and Kyle Anderson — two driving forces of the transition offense dynamo — so if there’s any sort of drop-off in that category, they could make up for any loss with half-court offense. It could come as a result of building upon their strengths, improving internally, or new rotation players capitalizing on the open roles at the start of the season.

The Grizzlies showed promising elements in the halfcourt last season.

The pick-and-roll is a pivotal component of it. Ja Morant made significant strides as a pick-and-roll player, increasing his efficiency from 0.81 points per possession (28th percentile) to 0.91 PPP (91st percentile) — per The B-Ball Index. Though not as prolific as a scorer in the pick-and-roll, Tyus Jones’ passing prowess helps the Grizzlies maintain efficiency here. In evidence, Brandon Clarke is one of the most deadly rollers off the bench (1.32 PPP as the PNR roll man, 99th percentile). The Grizzlies could continue building upon this facet of their halfcourt offense through a possible leap from Desmond Bane in this area, and by leveraging it into drive-and-kick situations.

Another integral piece in their halfcourt offense is Steven Adams. He’s not relied upon to score, but he does a lot offensively that pieces everything together. Shawn Coleman touched on it more extensively last week, but his historic offensive rebounding offsets a lot of their halfcourt woes this past season because it helps generate a possessions advantage. His screening and playmaking are equally as important to the Grizzlies’ offensive success. He frees up so many scoring chances for his perimeter players — primarily Morant, Bane, and Dillon Brooks — with his ability to serve as a playmaking and screening hub at the top of the key. Adams won’t be called upon to be similar to Nikola Jokic and Marc Gasol, but his availability will play a key part in halfcourt offense, as he’s been a strong connective piece to the offense.

From an improvement standpoint, 3-point shooting could be a key trigger for more halfcourt offense success. The Grizzlies were 23rd in 3-point attempts per game (32.7) and 17th in 3-point percentage (35.3%). In addition, they lost their 2nd-best 3-point shooter, when tying volume into accuracy, in De’Anthony Melton — 37.4% on 5.1 attempts per game. Three-point development is expected.

Last week, I wrote about how 3-point shooting accuracy is how Ziaire Williams could take a leap this season. John Konchar shot 41.3% from 3 last season, albeit on 1.8 attempts per game, so he’ll need to maintain his percentages on more volume. The Grizzlies could also replace Kyle Anderson’s rotation spot with a better shooter — more on that momentarily.

The key player in any sort of 3-point boost is Jaren Jackson Jr. His shooting efficiency left a bit to be desired, as he connected 31.9% on 5.1 triple attempts per game last season. If he could return to his accuracy prior to his knee injury in 2020 — 38.4% on 4.4 attempts per game combined from his rookie and sophomore campaigns — that’d be a huge lift for the team’s halfcourt offense. Perhaps it could be the catalyst for such a surge.

Another integral player in this equation is Dillon Brooks. Though his selection drives people crazy, he’s still someone with shot creation chops at 3 levels. That’s important to halfcourt offense. Next season, it’s all about striking quality and quantity for Brooks. His rank on the pecking order has changed since the inception of “Grz Nxt Gen,” and it needs to be reflected. At the same time, I don’t want to see him restricted to just catch-and-shoot 3’s and drives either. His ability to navigate to his spot in the mid-range is an impressive element of his game, when controlled, and his availability and consistency there could be a cog in the halfcourt system.

Lastly, there will be opportunities for someone to emerge as a rotation player, and their impact in halfcourt settings could be a key factor to rise from the pack. Santi Aldama, Xavier Tillman, and Killian Tillie will surely get their shot, but Jake LaRavia and David Roddy are guys to watch for here. In college, both players were very efficient off cut’s and catch-and-shoot shots:

  • LaRavia: 1.286 PPP (71st percentile - “very good”) off cuts, 1.19 PPP (82nd percentile - “very good”) on catch-and-shoot attempts
  • Roddy: 1.683 PPP (98th percentile - “excellent”), 1.305 PPP (93rd percentile - “excellent”) — per Synergy Sports

If either of those players quickly show off their chops as shooters and cutters, either one of them could make a play in the rotation from day one. After all, Taylor Jenkins is always willing to play his rookies.

Several components around this year’s Memphis Grizzlies team leave the impression that the halfcourt offense can improve.

Memphis Grizzlies v Minnesota Timberwolves - Game Four Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

No team is perfect; every squad has flaws.

Still one of the youngest teams in the league, the Memphis Grizzlies will have areas they don’t excel in to the magnitude of others. Nonetheless, the halfcourt offense intrigues me a bit, because there’s room for improvement, and there’s a foundation for it as well.

The Grizzlies made personnel moves to boost their halfcourt offense, and the coaching staff and front office are banking on more internal development to accomplish this as well. If it pays off, then the system will hit another gear for the 4th season in a row.

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