Biggest Advantage Memphis Grizzlies Have over Each Playoff Opponent
The Memphis Grizzlies may scare potential playoff opponents as they are one of the hottest teams in the league right now.
Now, some particular aspects to their game will have each team on their toes.
The Grizzlies have a few areas in which they are especially strong. Each one would pierce a different opponent. Memphis mauls teams with its defense, but both its perimeter and interior stoppers affect one team differently from another.
Also, the Grizzlies don't waste their opportunities at the free-throw line, whereas one possible first-round foe throws away a ton of points at the charity stripe.
Each advantage that the Grizzlies hold over their Western Conference opponents could come into play.
Follow along to see which would have the most significant impact on each potential foe.
Advanced metrics come from basketball-reference.com.
Los Angeles Clippers: Center Matchup
A healthy Marc Gasol would give the Grizzlies a huge upper hand in the tussle in the middle if they were to face off with the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round.
Whereas Gasol has been referred to as a “genius” by Zach Lowe on Grantland, few would strain to place such a label on DeAndre Jordan. While Gasol’s shot selection is varied and keen, Jordan’s is dull and predictable. As shown in his basketball-reference.com shot chart, 72.4 percent of his shots come at the rim.
Also, 72 percent of his shots made are dunks.
Aside from dunking, Jordan’s offense isn’t functional. He shoots 43.4 percent away from the rim.
Thus, the fact that he shoots 14 percent better from the field than Gasol is immaterial.
By the way, one wouldn’t expect Jordan to dish it out like Gasol does. The Houston native averages 0.3 assists per game, less than a tenth as many as Memphis’ big fellow.
Statistically, the two are comparable defenders. Jordan allows 101 points per 100 possessions, not too far off of Gasol’s 98.7 per 100.
However, Jordan’s defense revolves around his help-defending ability.
He’d appear challenged if he goes up against Gasol again this year.
Last year, he was fairly human in the playoffs, allowing 104 points per 100 possessions. The Spanish star would make him look as such again if they stare each other down in a few weeks.
Denver Nuggets: Free Throws
Free throws represent an underrated part of the game. Players and teams lose themselves easy points by missing free throws. The average team loses 5.5 points per game through missed free throws.
The Denver Nuggets cost themselves more than the average team at the line.
While they take the third-most free-throw attempts, they’re third from the bottom in free-throw percentage. Squandering 8.2 points per game at the line—almost twice their margin of victory.
Five Denver players, including Andre Iguodala and Kousta Koufos, shoot worse than 60 percent.
Andre Miller, Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari are the only two Nuggets shooting over 76 percent.
While the Grizzlies are among the best in free-throw shooting, hitting the ninth-best clip at the line. They lose only 4.7 points per game at the line—partly because they draw fewer fouls than most teams.
Six of the nine Grizz players who average 10 minutes per game shoot 76 percent or better.
By simply winning the battle at the line, the Grizzlies would make a series against Denver easier.
Golden State Warriors: Perimeter Defense
If Marc Jackson and the Golden State Warriors had thought about motoring past the Grizzlies with their perimeter shooting, then the men in blue and yellow should change its plans.
The Warriors’ offense is upheld by outside shooters like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, along with a big man in David Lee who likes to stretch the defense out.
Lee won’t fool Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph by popping jumpers. Both are fully capable of challenging foes away from the paint.
Tony Allen and Mike Conley form the toughest backcourt duo—Allen won’t give Thompson time to take threes and Conley will apply too much pressure to allow Curry to work.
Together, they’ll neutralize Golden State’s efforts on the outside.
San Antonio Spurs: Rebounding
The San Antonio Spurs can dominate the Grizzlies in various aspects of the game, such as shooting and pace.
Although, the two are on the same plain defensively.
However, one area in which the Grizz would crush the Spurs if they were to meet in the playoffs is rebounding.
The Grizzlies are among the best on both the offensive and defensive glass.
They rank 10th in defensive rebounding percentage and are tops in offensive rebounding. Zach Randolph leads the way with his domination on the boards, holding fourth place in offensive rebounding percentage and fifth overall.
Meanwhile, the Spurs are next to last in offensive rebounding percentage.
DeJuan Blair is the only Spur with an offensive rebounding rate of 10 percent or better. While San Antonio is second in field-goal percentage, they’d be hard-pressed to give themselves second chances.
This likely No. 1 seed in the West might be sixth in the NBA in defensive rebounding rate, but that standing might not be enough to stop the Grizzlies from getting second chances. Besides Randolph’s stature on his own team’s glass, Marc Gasol has stepped up on his end. Gasol pulls down 2.4 offensive boards per game.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Turnovers
The Oklahoma City Thunder have a searing turnover problem that the Grizzlies would take advantage in a second-round or Western Conference finals showdown.
The Thunder are 29th in turnover rate.
Russell Westbrook turns it over 3.4 times per game and has a pedestrian assist-to-turnover rate of 2.21. Kendrick Perkins, who turns it over 1.4 times per game and has a 23 percent turnover rate, struggles to handle the ball.
The Grizz have ripped away at the Thunder in their three meetings this season, forcing 15.3 turnovers per game. Russell Westbrook coughed it up five times against Memphis on Jan. 31.
Mike Conley and Tony Allen form the most vicious turnover-forcing duo in the league. Conley is second in steals per game and third in steals rate while Allen has the 10th-best steals rate.
A big factor in pushing past this nemesis would be how many turnovers the men wearing sky blue commit.