The Memphis Grizzlies were a defensive force last season — they had the second best defense in the NBA during the regular season (giving up 97.4 points per 100 possessions) and a still strong 101.4 in the playoffs, which helped propel them to the Western Conference Finals.
However, their offense was pedestrian. The Grizzlies slowed it down, pounded it inside and for the season scored 101.7 points per 100 possessions, 18th best in the league. That improved some after the All-Star break — essentially after the team traded away Rudy Gay and ran the offense more efficiently through Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph — up to 103.5 points per 100, but that was still just 16th in the NBA for the final stretch of the season. If you have a strange avoidance of advanced stats, know that for the season the Grizzlies were 21st in field goal percentage.
If a team’s goal is a title, it needs a Top 10 offense and defense (the Heat and Spurs did that last season). Finding a way to do that in Memphis falls to new coach Dave Joerger, who will have largely the same roster as last season to work with (Memphis added Kosta Kufos for depth up front and Mike Miller for shooting… if he can stay healthy). Joerger has talked about playing more up-tempo.
Memphis GM Chris Wallace told the Boston Globe don’t expect big changes, but the offense has to come around.
“I think an awful lot will look the same, there will be a tremendous emphasis on the defensive end,” Wallace said. “If we can get the offense to rise up to the statistical rankings in the league, the way we have the defensive side of the ball, we’re going to be a hell of a team. That’s the final piece, an offense that is a top-10 offense. If you look at a team that has a chance to make a run at a title, you usually have a top-10 offense and top-10 defense.”
Speeding up the Grizzlies tempo (they were second slowest in the league last season) might help some — they are not going to a D’Antoni-style team but if they can get in their sets earlier they can run through more offensive progressions and get better looks. Outside shooting will be another key — teams packed it in against Memphis and didn’t pay a price, can Miller really change that?
The West is going to be tough this year with the Thunder, Spurs, Clippers, Warriors, Rockets and Grizzlies likely all playoff locks. Those are all teams that see themselves as contenders if things break right. Memphis is going to have to find some more offense to break out of that pack and repeat or improve upon last season’s results.