How Dave Joerger Can Put the Memphis Grizzlies over the Top
Dave Joerger has a shot at taking the Memphis Grizzlies to the promised land after serving from the bench for six years.
Now, Joerger's best chance to capitalize on this opportunity doesn't come from continuing in his predecessor's mode. Lionel Hollins improved the Grizz incrementally in each of his four full seasons as head coach.
But Joerger can do much more.
Many adjustments are needed for the new head coach to put the Grizz in a presumptive NBA Finals matchup with the Miami Heat. Scoring must come around. Joerger, who has received credit for drawing up Memphis' defensive schemes, must continue to tighten the bolts on that end.
Hollins didn't put much trust in his reserves, but Joerger would do well to change that practice.
Follow along to see breakdowns on these and other keys for a Grizz title run under their new leader.
*Unless otherwise noted, advanced metrics come from basketball-reference.com.
Encourage Mike Conley to Grow as a Lead Guard
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After the Rudy Gay trade, Lionel Hollins pushed Mike Conley to take on a leading scoring role, according to Zach Lowe of Grantland. Conley responded by scoring 16.9 points per game while adding 6.4 assists per game. He took 12.9 shots per game after the trade, compared with 10.7 per game beforehand.
While Conley didn't instantly become a rapacious attacker, he took a much more active role on offense than ever before.
Dave Joerger must remind Conley that he needs to continue his rise in this area.
Conley's sudden willingness to score provided a crucial spark to the Grizz offense. Without Gay, Memphis was set to become a one-dimensional scoring team with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph standing as the only real offensive options.
If Conley moves a bit more quickly in the half court, shoots a little more than he did in the second half of the season and maintains his three-point touch, he'll be doing his part in pushing the Grizzlies' offense to new heights.
Maintain Defensive Discipline
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As an assistant coach, Dave Joerger helped design the Grizzlies' defensive schemes. Joerger's design and the relentless defensive pressure of players like Tony Allen made the "grit 'n' grind" system impenetrable at times.
The Grizzlies were second in defensive rating last season and had four players in the top 16 in defensive rating.
Beginning his head coaching duties, Joerger's top objectives should include ensuring that the Grizzlies stay focused on that end of the floor. After all, their defensive prowess would still be the most critical component of any run they might make to the NBA Finals.
Allowing 91.6 points per 48 minutes figured highly in Memphis' dismantling of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the conference semifinals.
Allen, in particular, must remain disciplined. In 2012-13, the three-time All-Defensive Team selection allowed a career-best 98.4 points per 100 possessions while grabbing two steals per 36 minutes. The steals number represented the third-lowest mark of his career, but it was in this discretion that Allen showed the most improvement in his play on the defensive end. If he continues to calculate his risks well, he could improve upon his best defensive campaign ever.
Marc Gasol may have become the Defensive Player of the Year in part by helping Zach Randolph improve his post protection. But Randolph needs to raise his game beyond last year's showing. He must keep himself from drifting.
As long as the Grizz grind on defense, they'll be contenders. Joerger can't let them fade in that aspect.
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The biggest sore spot that Dave Joerger and his staff must heal is the sometimes anemic scoring. Even after the Rudy Gay trade, the Grizz were an average scoring team, shooting 45.5 percent from the field and averaging 93.4 points per game.
As I mentioned in a previous article, Joerger should delegate an assistant coach to draw up offensive schemes that show greater inspiration than those seen during the Lionel Hollins era.
The Grizz can't be last both in three-point shots attempted and made like they were last season. Eleven of the 16 playoff teams were in the top half in threes made. Memphis had the second-worst three-point field-goal percentage among postseason participants.
The other three teams in the final four were in the top five in that category.
More plays need to emphasize the team's options from downtown. Having Mike Conley, Tayshaun Prince and Quincy Pondexter take more long-range attempts will help fuel the attack.
Involve the Bench More
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Lionel Hollins relied heavily on his starters. Marc Gasol played 35 minutes per game. Zach Randolph put in 34.3 per game, including 35.5 before March 22. Mike Conley played 34.5 minutes per game.
Quincy Pondexter and Jerryd Bayless saw a fair amount of time, but the backup bigs didn't step on the floor much. Darrell Arthur and Ed Davis played 16.4 and 15.1 minutes per game, respectively. Before being dealt, Marreese Speights saw 14.5 minutes each contest.
Indeed, Arthur wasn't always effective and Davis was a work in progress. But Davis will never grow as a player if he doesn't get steady minutes.
Joerger should give more action to the reserve front men. With further seasoning, Davis should show additional growth. Kosta Koufos, a rising talent acquired from the Denver Nuggets, merits frequent use. He blocked two shots per 36 minutes and allowed 103 points per 100 possessions.
Pondexter, who hit 39.5 percent from beyond the arc in 2012-13, will provide a shot in the arm with more than the 21.1 minutes per game he received.
Win on the Road
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During most of the Lionel Hollins era, the Grizzlies weren't strong on the road. In his final run with the Grizz, Hollins led them to their first winning mark on the road. Before that, they were 15-18 on the road in 2011-12, 16-25 in 2010-11 and 17-24 in 2009-10.
One area of needed improvement is beating playoff teams on the road. They were 8-12 against squads that made the postseason, while winning 16 of 21 against all others.
Beating the Grizz at home in the regular season will give opponents an upper hand when they later host Memphis. In turn, Memphis improving its ability to win on the road during the regular season will make the team all the scarier come playoff time.