While league goes small, Grizzlies focus on style where ‘size, physicality, toughness prevails’

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There’s something to be said for zigging when the league zags, to not following every trend. Everyone talks about playing more like the Warriors, but unless you have Stephen Curry to set the offensive tone and the insane versatility of Draymond Green on defense, it doesn’t work quite the same way. Coaches need to play to the talent on the roster.

Enter the Memphis Grizzlies.

One of the league’s worst three-point shooting teams and built on an old-school style, they pushed coach David Fizdale out the door and this summer doubled-down on a variation of the “grit n’ grind” era. Here is what coach J.B. Bickerstaff told Mark Giannotto of the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

“We’ve been preaching playing a unique style of basketball. Obviously, not reinventing the wheel but playing a game where size, physicality and toughness prevails. I think we’re fortunate that we have some big guys, some long guys, that are very skilled as well, so that they can do both. You can be physical. You can defend. You can protect the paint. You can challenge shots.”

The Grizzlies’ owner Robert Pera thinks this could be a 50-win team, which nobody else sees, but they can be a potential playoff team if everything breaks their way. That means staying healthy, for one, so that their added depth — Kyle Anderson, Garrett Temple, just drafted Jaren Jackson — can play smaller roles to their strengths rather than having to stretch out. Bickerstaff sees the team’s other big strength is a lot of smart veterans on the roster who play a high IQ game.

“We got a bunch of guys that know how to think the game and if you can think the game, you can make up for some of the things that we lack,” Bickerstaff added. “If you look at our team, and I hope this doesn’t offend any of our guys, we’re not the fastest of teams. But we have to be able to use our brains to put us in spots so that we can defend well and score the ball because we’re always one or two steps ahead of our opponent.”

Is that going to work with the rest of the league shooting threes over the top of them? If it doesn’t, will the rebuild finally begin? We’re going to learn a lot about these Grizzlies in the first couple months of the season.