You’ve seen it for years.
Conley brings the ball up court. He passes to Gasol who is immediately double teamed. Gasol looks for Randolph but he is covered as well. He looks to Gay but he is covered. Tony Allen or O J Mayo is open on the perimeter, but Gasol knows better than to give Allen the ball at the 3 point line and Mayo usually has token coverage so Gasol passes back to Conley who either a) dribbles until he can force the ball to Gay, b) forces it down low to Randolph, c) drives and dishes to Gasol at the free throw line or d) takes it to the hoop.
Every Grizzlies fan is aware of the most prominent play the Grizzlies run. Opponents are aware of the most prominent play the Grizzlies run. Even the national media, the usual last one’s to know anything, now this has been the Grizzlies bread and butter for the last 3 years. The book on the Grizzlies was simple.
They can’t shoot the long ball so clog the paint and you can win the game.
Usually even that simple plan wasn’t enough to beat the Grizzlies when health. Their interior scoring tandem of Gasol and Randolph is among the best in the league and Rudy Gay is a top 5 SF. Feed the bigs the ball and get out-of-the-way won the Grizzlies a lot of games over the last few years.
That may be on the verge of changing however.
For the first time in a while the Grizzlies may not be forced into taking 3 point shots. This coming season the Grizzlies have players who welcome the chance the take long shots. Conley has been a reticent shooter but effective the last few years. Joining Conley is Rudy Gay who should be more comfortable on the perimeter this season after shooting a career low 31.2% last season after returning from his shoulder injury. Jerryd Bayless hit 42.3% from the arc last season. Wayne Ellington is a career 37.6% 3 pt shooter. Josh Selby just tore up the summer league from the arc hitting a ridiculous 64% from behind the line. Quincy Pondexter brings a nice touch from the perimeter as well and has a full off-season knowing he needs to improve in that area.
That’s five, yes five guys, capable of making defenses pay for collapsing on the paint.
That is something the Grizzlies haven’t had since Mike Miller, Damon Stoudamire, Brian Cardinal, Shane Battier and Bobby Jackson played for the Grizzlies. After Damon was injured the Grizzlies picked up Chucky Atkins who could shoot the long ball as well. For those too young to remember, that was back in the 2006-07 season.
It’s been a while in other words.
Now I’m not saying that the Grizzlies will have 3 players who hit 40% or more from the arc this coming season or even that they will have 5 or more players shooting over 35% (like the 2006-07 team had). What I am saying is that this coming season’s team has the potential to punish teams that ignore the perimeter defensively and that will likely open space up for Gasol and Randolph to face more single coverage this year and open things up for Rudy to drive into the paint where his athleticism is best exploited.
So the question heading into the season appears to be not “if” the Grizzlies can find someone to shoot the three ball but will the players they have been allowed to shoot it? It’s a difficult answer too. Hollins has clearly built the Grizzlies to be an insider first scoring team. Having players who can hit from outside will keep teams honest but it is difficult to believe the Grizzlies will give the green light for the perimeter shooters without first probing the paint for closer, easier and more likely to produce foul calls type of shots.
Three point shots are never easy and they are even more difficult when up against a dwindling shot clock. The Grizzlies will likely continue to try to create opportunities inside but they also will need to look for quick pass outs for open looks on the perimeter. Marc Gasol is well-known as an excellent passing big man but the same can’t be said for Zach Randolph and the rest of the Grizzlies big men. Convincing the big men to look for open shots on the perimeter will be a difficult adjustment for the team who has been successful continually pounding the ball inside.