When asked about his vision of the Memphis Grizzlies and what he wants to do with the team, David Joerger immediately mentioned his desire to push the ball. While he isn’t looking to employ a “vomit basketball” philosophy, he no longer wants to witness wasted precious first seconds on the shot clock as the offense sets up at a leisurely pace.
It’s easy to tell that the thought of easy layup conversions and slews of transition threes has him licking his chops.
But is this a viable option for this current squad?
The 2013-14 roster, largely unchanged from last year, will get heavy usage out of Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Tayshaun Prince, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol with sprinkles of Kosta Koufos, Mike Miller, Quincy Pondexter, and Jerryd Bayless. Conley and his backup in Bayless – the waterskippers they are – clearly would have little problem in a high octane offense. Likewise, the newly acquired Kosta Koufos has demonstrated a decent ability to operate within a fast-paced offense in Denver; it actually did well to help hide him and his poor finishing ability and lack of creativity in the halfcourt.
Meanwhile, Tayshaun Prince has lost some of his athletic ability, and can no longer attack very well in transition. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph and the 550 pounds between them don’t exactly scream “marathon runner.” Tony Allen and his poor finishing ability is, ahem, no point guard’s first choice for a wing to fill the lane.
Doubts are further compounded when you consider that three-point shooting is a key component of a fast paced offense, and that none of the Grizzlies’ rotational players – save for limited-minute Mike Miller – are really itching to let the three fly in transition.
The Grizzlies were dead last in pace last year, and relied heavily upon the production of their slow-moving, methodical big men. They were also dead last in three points made, with a forgettable sixth-worst three-point field goal percentage. And yet, it was their best season to date. Over the last couple years, the Grizzlies had begun to discover their true identity, and things were looking up. By embracing a new, higher-octane style, the Grizzlies would ultimately focus things away from their two best players and put at risk the efficiency of their superb defense.
Joerger is likely looking for an easy fix in the team’s weaker areas, but also, might do well to consider that you need not be fast to be a good three point shooting team. Nor must you be fast to be an efficient offensive one (see: the 2013 deliberately-paced Nets and their 108.2 offensive rating, or the 2012 Clippers and their rating of 108.5). And to be a fast team, well… you need players who can fit at a certain criteria. If you look at the fastest teams over recent years – from the ’10 Warriors to the ’00 Kings to the ’07 Nuggets – each one has some combination of light-footed big men, bouncy wings, adept shooters, and an emphasis on perimeter play designed to create mismatches. These Grizzlies don’t fit that mold.
So while David Joerger likely understands that his team does not resemble those of D’Antoni’s Suns or Nellie Ball squads, he just might not be heading in the right direction. We’ll see if his moves ultimately translate to a different kind of Grizzlies success.