From the “Grit n’ Grind” to the “spread and fly” era

Photo: Memphis Grizzles/Twitter

The Memphis Grizzlies were, for a great number of years, the “mecca” of the old-School basketball nostalgic fan. Their game was based on the strong defensive play, the low, almost hypnotic, pace and the low-post scoring opportunities, which came straight from the 90s.

They were having the lowest numbers in three-point attempts, with their perimeter consisting of strong one on one defenders like Tony Allen, Tayshaun Prince and Mike Conley. Moreover, there was the strong duo of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph inside the paint, making sure that every opponent will have a hard time in both ends of the floor.

The “Grit N’ Grind” Grizzlies were one of the teams with the least three-point attempts in the league for consecutive years and this situation continued even after the departure of Zach Randolph and Tony Allen. They were 25th in 2015-2016 ,24th in 2017-2018 , 25th in 2018-2019 with only exception being the 2016-2017 season, in which they ended up in the middle of the pack (14th).

Photo: Yahoo! Sports

In this five-season span, the Memphis Grizzlies never surpassed the 35% mark in 3P% with the season average of the league being around 36%. Also, they never made over 9 three-pointers per game in the last 5 seasons of the “Grit n’ Grind” era (neither before, of course).

Last year was a detrimental one for the Grizzlies. Namely, the departure of Marc Gasol in the middle of the season and the trade of Mike Conley in the summer officially ended a significant era for the team, in which they reached the Western Conference Finals for first time in the history of the association.

The Grizzlies created a young core surrounded with some incredible talent. Namely, Dillon Brooks, the 4th pick of the 2018 draft Jaren Jackson junior along with the veteran help of Jonas Valanciunas and Jae Crowder. This season, the greatest coup of the association came up in the draft night. The Memphis Grizzlies brought in Tennessee the explosiveness of Ja Morant.

The second best player of the 2019 draft, according to what the scouters were saying, would be the reason, which the media would surround their “flashing lights” around Memphis. The Grizzlies were leaving the “Grit n’ Grind” behind in order to spread and “fly”.

The spread part belongs to guys like Brooks, Crowder, Jackson, Hill and Allen, who can shoot the ball, while the “fly” part belongs to players like Ja Morant, Brandon Clarke and also Jackson, who can become dangerous inside-out. Jackson is shooting with 41% clip from the arc on 6.5 attempts per contest, while Brooks is getting about 5.5 attempts per game on 38% clip.

The Memphis Grizzlies are shooting with 36% in 11.2 attempts per contest, while Morant is finding ways to get to the “cylinder”. The rookie is showing early signs of greatness this season, scoring with efficiency from everywhere in the floor. Namely, he is draining a good 57% from the restricted area, a 42.7% in the paint, 38.5% from the mid-range and 40.6% from beyond the arc, while 68.4% of his shots are unassisted.

That means that the shooters around him create for him space in order to make his shots. Most of them, are driving lay-ups (77), floating jump shots (76), jump-shots (58), finger-rolls (42) and pull-ups (40). Despite Morant’s unassisted play, his team is first in creativity with 65% of the scoring production being assisted. Taylor Jenkins’ team is finding about 44 wide open (6+ft) and open shots (4-6 ft) per game as a result of ball-movement, while they’re shooting with 37.3% in “catch and shoot” situations being the most frequent three-point shot (26.9%) of the team.

All in all, Memphis is in the mix of the 2020 Playoffs, running a seven-game winning streak. They have been eighth for a couple of weeks, with the aspiration to return to the Playoffs, after 3 years. The only thing they have to is spread the floor in their own unique way and take advantage of their athleticism.

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