The Memphis Grizzlies' offensive play hit a crisis point in the 99-73 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday. The Grizzlies failed to reach 90 points for the ninth time in 14 games, and shot a franchise-low 30.3 percent from the field.
This isn't just because of absences of Rudy Gay, who missed two games during these doldrums. Marc Gasol has shot just 38 percent thus far this month. Mike Conley shot 46.8 percent from three-point range in November, but only 32 percent since then.
The Grizzlies have fallen to 24th in the league in field-goal percentage. After scoring 99.5 points per game in November, they put up 90.4 per game in December and 91.6 per game this month.
The "grit 'n' grind" could be the best defensive unit known to humankind, but a sputtering offense could stand in the way of postseason success for this team.
To avoid this turn, the Grizzlies need to take several direct steps to stabilize their offense. Read along to see what they need to do.
Mike Conley and Jerryd Bayless need to guide the ball better in order to give the Grizzlies a better chance. When the Grizz lose, Conley tends to be much worse handling the rock. He turns it over 2.3 times per game in their wins and 3.3 per game in their losses. He coughed it up three times against the Clips.
During a string of four losses in six games, Conley turned it over 3.8 times per game.
Jerryd Bayless has been abysmal controlling the ball. He's turning it over more than in his rookie year, and 3.1 times per 36 minutes. He lost it three times in 16 minutes against the Clips.
Rudy Gay is outsmarting himself by taking too many shots from the outside and not enough at the rim. He’s shooting 31.2 percent from three-point range and 36.2 percent on long two-pointers, all while taking 34.9 percent of his shots from beyond 15 feet.
He’ll do much better by driving the ball more often for inside buckets. He’s taking 24.4 percent of his attempts at the rim, which is right around his career average. Pushing that figure more would help him boost his dismal 41 percent field-goal rate.
This might seem like bottom-feeding, but Gay would do well to get above the rim more. He’s hard to stop inside due to his freakish combination of athleticism, size and strength. Last season, he was sixth in dunks, leading all backcourt players. This year, he’s 21st overall and sixth among backcourt players.
The Grizzlies perform much better when Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are facilitating the offense. Conley averages 6.5 assists per game in their wins and 5.3 per game in their losses. This may be partly due to the Grizzlies’ lack of success when their point man is turning it over more. When he struggles to find his rhythm, they fail to maintain it as a team.
Gasol helps tremendously. He’s an amazing passer as far as big men are concerned. The Spaniard averages 3.8 assists per game and has 13 games with five or more assists. Eight of those performances came in November. Gasol has a keen sense of when to make a play and where the offense needs to flow.
Chris Herrington of the Memphis Flyer made an excellent point while reflecting on Memphis' December slide. He said, "The overall emphasis needs to shift back from isolation to more team-oriented offense spurred by Conley and Gasol and generating more points inside the paint and outside the arc."
Conley and Gasol could reactivate these aspects of the offense if they're able to reassert themselves on the reins.
Three-point shooting has been an elusive part of the Grizzlies' offense, as they currently rank 21st in the NBA.
Memphis may not have slipped irreversibly back into its old ways of shooting poorly from the outside. They have plenty of talented perimeter shooters such as Mike Conley, Wayne Ellington and Quincy Pondexter.
They also have the guys to facilitate for them. As mentioned in the previous slide, Gasol needs to be able to find passing lanes to kick it out, and Conley needs to be willing to rotate the ball to open up opportunities for his backcourt mates.
Conley's own struggles from downtown won't hang around long. A career 38 percent three-point shooter, he'll bounce back from shooting 32 percent for the last month-and-a-half to bring his season rate back above 40 percent.
Ellington can easily pop one from long range as long as he can be found.
Conley and Gasol simply need to look for their guys on the outside to make the three-pointers happen.
The Grizzlies have dribbled into a terribly slow pace on offense. They stand 28th in pace with 89.2 possessions per 48 minutes.
This results from some hesitation from Conley and others in the half court. Also, the second unit doesn't give itself enough of a chance with its inefficiency.
The Grizz enjoy running in transition, grabbing nine or more steals in two-thirds of their games and frequently scoring double-digits in fast-break points.
Running more in transition also helps push half-court action and create easy buckets in those sets.