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That’s how close the Grizzlies were to making the playoffs last season.

Three points per game. The only team that didn’t make the playoffs last year that was closer were the Houston Rockets.

I’m not saying the Grizzlies need to score 3 more points a game either. I am saying that the Grizzlies need to net three additional points more a game. Any combination of increased Grizzlies points and decreased opponent points would do the trick.

Now I am sure some of the readers are wondering what the heck I am talking about right now. I don’t blame you either. My family asks me that all the time.

So let me explain. Last season the Grizzlies were outscored by their opponents at a clip of 1.5 ppg. Not surprisingly every team in the NBA that was outscored by their opponents failed to make the playoffs save one Eastern Conference team (Chicago who was outscored by 1.6 ppg but made the playoffs last season).

So the Grizzlies were outscored by 124 points last season. The last playoff team in the West outscored their opponents by 120 points. 124 + 120 =244. 244 points divided by 82 games equals 2.9756 ppg so round it up and you get 3 points a game. Hence the comment the Grizzlies need to net an additional three points a game to make the playoffs.

Now some people will question how valid this rational is. After all, is the correlation between points differential and playoff opportunity that solid? Maybe last season was the exception not the norm. Not according to John Hollinger at ESPN.

Hollinger believes that point differential have more to do with a team’s success, especially in the playoffs, than a team’s current record. Over an 82 game season teams may be up or down, have tricky scheduling quirks and the like but once you get down to brass tacks the team with the best scoring differentials usually end up on top. In fact Hollinger used this very system to determine that Dallas, despite the 2nd best record in the West last season, would lose to the Spurs in the first round of the playoffs.

So how do the Grizzlies make up those three points? That is the real question. Will an improved bench be enough? Will a better understanding on defense? Will fewer turnovers, better free throw shooting or more 3 pt field goals alone be enough? Probably not any of these individual improvements would be enough by itself to account for the scoring differential. It will need a combined attack on all of these areas of weakness to make up the difference.

The good news is that many of last season’s weaknesses have been addressed in the off-season. Tony Allen is a major signing for the Grizzlies despite his less than glamorous name simply because he has been to the playoffs and seen the commitment needed to be a playoff caliber team. He also brings a defensive intensity not seen in Memphis since Dahntay Jones. Hashemm Thabeet’s improved and improving although he still has a long way to go. Darrell Arthur is also healthy this season and should contribute meaningfully behind Z-Boduring the season. That could mean an additional couple of minutes a night rest for Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. The big men are in excellent shape but running big men too long is usually a recipe for disaster.

Joining Allen will be Acie Law, Xavier Henry and Sam Young. Law is finally being given an opportunity to perform in the NBA after shuffling around the league playing for four teams over 3 seasons. For a player who’s confidence is an important part of his game, knowing approximately when he will be entering each game should be a major positive. Sam Young has reworked his jump shot mechanics and looks much more confident with his shot in the pre-season. Xavier Henry was shaky at first but has settled down and looks ready to compete for playing time at the swing positions as well.

So theteam should be improved. Willit be enough to improve a netthree points pergame waits to be seen.

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