This blog was written prior to the Warriors game.
A lot of talk has been circulating lately about the Grizzlies finally accepting the three-point shot is a legitimate part of the offensive strategy. That is strange when you consider the Grizzlies aren’t shooting dramatically more three-point shots lately.
What is different now from before is the Grizzlies are hitting those shots again. Yes, I said again.
The Grizzlies were terrible shooting the long ball in December but actually weren’t bad at all in November when the team ran off to their 12-2 start. In fact, there appears to be a direct connection between the effectiveness of the Grizzlies long ball shooting and the team’s success.
In Grizzlies’ wins this season, they are shooting 38.26% (132 makes out of 345 attempts) from the arc. In their losses, the Grizzlies have hit only 28.8% of their three-point attempts (34-118).
These stats are readily available for anyone wanting to go back and do the research.
That means overall, the Grizzlies are attempting just under 14.5 3 point attempts a game. They are attempting 11.8 in losses and 15.7 in wins. However when you take out two outlier games (24 attempts against Miami and 20 attempts against Sacramento – AKA “Wayne’s World games”) those numbers come down to 15 attempts a game in wins. That is just barely over the seasonal average. Clearly, taking more 3 point shots isn’t the determining factor in the team’s success.
If you take out the outlier game for losses (the 2-5 effort against Portland), then the average attempts in losses rises to 12.5 attempts. We are talking about very little difference for a team that takes about 92 shots a game. It appears clear that hitting 10% more of your attempts has a far greater impact than taking 2-3 more attempts a game.
When the Grizzlies are hitting more of their attempts, teams’ defenses have to adjust to that reality, which opens up the paint where the Grizzlies are much more comfortable taking their shots. Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Tony Allen are much more comfortable shooting in the paint. Rudy Gay has been shooting a career low from the perimeter, so it appears clear he is more comfortable nearer the basket as well.
Aggravating this situation is the obvious corollary. If players aren’t hitting the long ball, they are less apt to take them even when open. This means the team starts to force the ball inside instead of taking the shots created within the offense. That takes more time off the shot clock, making whatever shot they end up with more difficult as well. The offense bogs down and scoring plummets as a result.
Lately, the team has come to realize they can’t afford to pass up on those perimeter shots and with that comes easier attempts and greater success. The problem hasn’t been the strategy of the offense but the confidence of the players in the offense.
The Grizzlies will continue to have nights when they shoot poorly from the perimeter. Every team does. Oklahoma City went 6 for 24 from the arc on Monday night in their loss to the lowly Wizards. The difference is that OKC won’t stop shooting the ball simply because they had an off night. They likely will hoist up 20 or more in their next game and will likely shoot a much higher percentage as well. For some reason, Memphis doesn’t do this.
Rudy Gay is hitting 35% of his long shots in Grizzlies wins yet only 23% in their losses. Rudy also takes on average 3.3 attempts in wins and only 2.8 in losses. That alone accounts for 25% of the attempt differential. Mike Conley takes 3.5 in wins and only 2.3 in losses despite not seeing a dramatic change in percentages. He is the anomaly. Of course, Mike also hits 45% of his FG attempts in wins and only 34% in losses so maybe the confidence from not hitting close shots affects his desire to take longer ones.
Quincy Pondexter is tied for the 3rd most prolific 3 point shooter on the Grizzlies and his attempts are almost identical in wins and losses. However, his percentage made drops from 49% in wins to 29.6% in losses. That is a huge difference. Pondexter is also the leading scorer off the bench so as his 3 point shooting goes so goes the bench scoring for the most part.
Wayne Ellington has caught Pondexter while QPon has been injured, and his percentages are just as shocking. Ellington makes 44% of his attempts in wins, but only 22% in losses. His numbers are skewed somewhat by two red-hot performances, but the difference is still there.
What does this tell the casual fan? Clearly, it isn’t the number of attempts within the offense but the effectiveness of the shots within the offense that is glaring in the Grizzlies’ offensive strategy. Hopefully, as the season progresses, these numbers won’t be so glaringly different. If the team can hit their season average from the arc, then the likelihood of a favorable outcome rises. Teams aren’t going to play the Grizzlies on the perimeter when they are missing and they won’t need to even offer token resistance if the shots aren’t being taken within the flow of the offense.
It seems the team is starting to realize this again and are taking more shots, including more threes, within the flow of the offense. As team’s start to adjust to this it will make it that much easier for Randolph, Gay, Gasol and Allen to operate inside the paint. Once that happens teams will readjust to clog the lane and the perimeter players will need to take, and make, those shots again.
The NBA is a series of adjustments and readjustments. The Grizzlies took too long to readjust back to taking perimeter shots in December and the result was a .500 record. Hopefully that lesson is learned now and moving forward players will feel more confident taking the shots that are open within the offensive system. Teams haven’t adjusted to the way the Grizzlies play negating their offensive strategy. The Grizzlies were not hitting and even worse not taking the shots the system provided.