5 Steps Dave Joerger Should Take to Strengthen Memphis Grizzlies' Title Chances
The Memphis Grizzlies' hire of Dave Joerger may at first seem like a continuation of the Lionel Hollins era, but it's much more if they are to win a title. Unlike the conjecture of Pro Basketball Talk's Kurt Helin, Joerger's squad must evolve past simple spirited play to achieve this core's aim.
Helin described the move as an easy shift for the Grizzlies. He said Joerger "isn't a dramatic change for the team in terms of style. The guys know him."
However, the 39-year-old is more than a new guy making the same signals Hollins would wave. According to Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal, Joerger implemented the defense. He'd been given more power in the past couple years.
He's expected to be more pliable to the front office than Hollins was. As the Memphis Flyer's Chris Herrington noted, the Grizzlies had wanted a coach who would "implement organization philosophy."
Also, Joerger must find a way to improve a slow, low-scoring offense. Real scoring has been the biggest thing missing for a team gaining credibility as a championship contender.
Follow along for a breakdown of all of the measures the six-year Memphis assistant needs to take to put the team over the top.
Find an Offensive-Minded Assistant Coach
Being a defensive-oriented coach, Dave Joerger won't be the one to draw out the offensive attack for his players. In order to avoid the relative emptiness of Lionel Hollins' team on that side of the ball, the one-time NBDL coach should find an offensive mind to work out the X's and O's.
Hollins' playoff teams have not been prolific scorers. Each of the past three seasons, they finished in the bottom half in offensive rating and field-goal percentage. They were also in the bottom six in three-point percentage every year of Hollins' tenure.
The Grizzlies' offensive woes became plain in the Western Conference Finals as they failed to score 90 points in regulation. Just two of their players managed to hit 40 percent from the field.
The new man to lead the men in the three shades of blue should call on someone who can make Memphis shooters extend their shooting capability deep into the playoffs. Such an assistant must be helpful in building Mike Conley after he spent half-a-season as a lead guard.
The ideal hire could boost their title chances by making them respectable beyond the arc.
Make the Team More Precise
The offensive metrics don't look good for the Grizz. They were in the bottom 11 in effective field-goal rate the past three years.
Largely, this was due to an imprecise offense. They had the slowest offense in the league last season, with a pace of 88.4 possessions per 48 minutes. Mike Conley didn't show great urgency getting the Grizz in their halfcourt offense.
SI.com's Rob Mahoney noted how tentative Marc Gasol is in establishing position.
Conley would increase the efficiency of the offense by initiating more quickly and going to Gasol early in the shot clock in order to keep the Spaniard from hesitating.
If the Grizzlies keep moving, they'll become more difficult to defend.
Thus, they'll have an easier time attacking.
These are required considerations for the assistant who formulates the offense.
Embrace John Hollinger's Metrics-Based Ideals
Part of Lionel Hollins' problem with the new front office was his opposition to the use of advanced metrics in coaching strategy.
Chris Herrington compared Hollins to John Hollinger by saying, "The Grizzlies have committed themselves to a progressive, data-driven approach to team-building. Hollins, by contrast, is the embodiment of the old-school "coach by feel" steward."
This was evident with the Rudy Gay trade. The Grizz dealt the inefficient high-volume scorer for low-usage outside shooter Tayshaun Prince and three-point shooter Austin Daye.
In order to improve the relationship between the coaching staff and the front office, Dave Joerger needs to use the analytics that Hollinger wants to employ.
As the vice president of basketball operations said in the above video interview with Three Shades of Blue's Lee Eric Smith, "I think we can do some things with the coaching staff and they can get those points across to the players."
Part of relaying the information that Hollinger and his analysts gather will be teaching players how best to use their shot attempts, such as getting Prince to take more threes or getting Mike Conley to attack better.
Another aspect is using numbers to determine which lineups should be used the most. Whereas Hollins chose lineups by feel, Joerger may do well to choose them based on metrics differentials.
Using such numbers could make the Grizzlies a leaner, more threatening contender.
Empower Effective Shooters
The Grizzlies don’t have a ton of high-impact shooters. However, they do have a couple who are fairly effective.
Marc Gasol doesn’t pound it inside, but he’s one of the most reliable mid-range shooters. Gasol shot 43.6 percent from between 10 and 16 feet and 48.5 percent between 16 feet and the three-point line.
Quincy Pondexter is a rising outside threat. He shot 39.5 percent from three-point range this season, after hitting 30.1 percent in 2011-12. In the playoffs, he knocked down 45.3 percent from downtown.
Also, Pondexter deserves more minutes. After receiving 21.1 per game in the recently concluded campaign, he should jump past 25 per contest.
Opening up opportunities for Pondexter to take plenty of threes and for Gasol to feel free taking more long twos instead of deferring as much as he does to teammates will increase the efficiency of Memphis' shot-taking.
Having another strong outside shooter will help by ensuring that the Grizz have an array of perimeter shooters. That could also boost the three-point figure of Mike Conley, who is 37.5 percent for his career from long range.
The San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat became great by combining effective shooting with strong defense. If Joerger can balance the stauch "grit 'n' grind" defense with sharpened aim all around, Memphis will be a sure NBA Finals team.
Keep the Team Tight
The Grizzlies are generally regarded as a team with strong chemistry. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol are buddies. They have an array of leaders, such as Gasol, Randolph, Prince and Tony Allen (who seems likely to be retained since teams would need enough scorers to offset his offensive defects).
On the other hand, this roster has plenty of difficult personalities. Randolph's history is well-documented. Allen is volatile and occasionally makes mistakes like throwing a towel on the court in Game 5 against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Lionel Hollins kept his players together by pushing them.
Joerger may do that, or he could take a gentler route. The Commercial Appeal's Geoff Calkins called the five-time minor-league champion "smart and engaging."
Joerger could use his relationship with the players to corral the grinders, although he must accept that his relationship with them has changed since he became head coach.