The Memphis Grizzlies improved offensively after trading Rudy Gay, but this season challenges the Grizzlies to score at an above-average rate for an entire season. Instead of making adjustments around the edges with a few players, they'll make wholesale changes to clean up their half-court work.
The second half saw adjustments made by Mike Conley and Jerryd Bayless.
This year, several players need new looks. Conley and Bayless should change their three-point approaches. The starting point guard must raise his inside game.
Generally, the Grizz need significant improvement from beyond the arc after several abysmal years.
Free-throw shooting can't be forgotten as an area of importance, as the Grizz are capable of being among the very best in the category.
Following is a full breakdown of each area.
The Grizzlies were predictable in dropping to from 18th in pace in 2011-12 to the bottom this past campaign. Trading Rudy Gay meant losing a major fast break weapon. That allowed Mike Conley to run the half-court offense as slow as he wished.
But with a slower offense came even greater predictability.
Opponents didn't need to plan around the possible rush after a steal as much as before, especially since the new primary runaway threat—Tony Allen—wasn't threatening.
Also, combining Conley's slow pace setting up the offense with Marc Gasol's tentativeness in entering position, the lack of movement and unimaginative schemes tend Memphis towards dryness.
Fortunately, Dave Joerger has plans to eliminate what he called "vomit basketball." In addition to increasing the pace, Joerger told season ticket holders he wants more ball movement. Also, according to the Three Shades of Blue blog, he hopes to get the ball across the timeline with 20 seconds left on the shot clock.
As CBSSports.com's Matt Moore explained, moving the ball across half court quicker is basically about getting "into their sets so that they can run multiple play dynamics within the shot clock."
Ideas like these boost the capacity of the Grizzlies' offense, which was vanilla under Lionel Hollins. Memphis fans can only hope they bring greater scoring proficiency.
One of the biggest offensive issues for the Grizz is the lack of downtown fire.
Their No. 25 ranking was the sixth consecutive placement in the bottom third. Quincy Pondexter and Wayne Ellington were the only players who drained more than 37 percent from long range, and both appeared in fewer than 60 games.
Memphis must change the habit of shooting a meager amount of shots from beyond the arc after placing last for the third time in four years in three-point field-goal attempts. Signing Mike Miller, who took three per game last year—22.2 percent as many as the Grizz—helps.
As John Hollinger said, Tayshaun Prince, who attempted 1.1 threes per game, should take more of his scant number of shots from downtown. His career 37 percent clip from deep should represent an asset for Memphis.
Part of the problem is that the Grizz haven't discovered the magic of corner threes, even though they take a greater proportion than most. Memphis took 29.6 percent of their threes from the corners, which ranks eighth in the NBA. The Grizzlies shot 37.4 and 41.8 percent, respectively, from the corners.
Meanwhile, they shot 32.9 percent from above the break.
Some of their shooters take a disproportionate number above the break, despite being better from the corners. Jerryd Bayless made 43.8 percent from the corners, but took 28.4 percent from the corners. Mike Conley shot 45.1 percent from that area, but took only 17.4 percent from the corners.
However, Bayless and Conley are ball-handlers who can't be expected to take a great number of corner attempts, whereas spot-up shooters like Pondexter would take more than average. With that said, the point guard pair could be set up for a few more.
If the Grizz rotate the ball to Marc Gasol in the low post, he could kick it out to Conley or Bayless. Also, Conley is capable of driving hard and dishing out to Bayless in the corner.
Dave Joerger can't deny the extent to which the Grizzlies' offense relies upon Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. They combined to shoot 35 percent of the team's free throws and were among the team's top three in field-goal attempts. Gasol is a major offensive conduit through both his passing and shooting.
Leading the league with four offensive rebounds per game, Randolph created extra chances for teammates.
Their great impact collapsed in the conference finals as San Antonio Spurs defenders broke them down. Gasol shot 39.7 percent and Randolph knocked down 30.2 percent.
The lack of outside shooting hurt, but that's a matter to be discussed in the following slide.
Another problem was the simplicity of the schemes. The double-post and pick-and-roll looks made the pair threatening, but the variety was limited.
Joerger should expand upon the sets that help them impose their strengths. Mixing up their high-low positions might be nice since Gasol shoots reasonably at the rim at 63.9 percent.
Greater angles can only mean greater field-goal percentages from the most fearsome interior duo in the league.
Mike Conley is shooting more and more at the rim. He took 35.9 percent there last season after taking 32 percent in 2011-12 and 33.6 percent in 2010-11.
Fans of the three shades of blue shouldn't expect that to change.
Replacing Rudy Gay with him as the top ball-handler meant that he would be the one to drive the lane often.
Unfortunately, Conley hasn't succeeded at the rim. He hit only 54 percent, 4.9 percent worse than the year before.
A couple of changes could help him improve. First, the seventh-year pro could simply use his power and speed to drive past defenders. Second, Dave Joerger may design schemes to open the lane when he attacks the basket.
Enabling effectiveness at the basket for the Grizzlies' leading scorer is essential. Despite his small stature, Conley can boost his percentage in the restricted area with the aforementioned adjustments.
The Grizzlies trickled downward in free-throw shooting as the 2012-13 season progressed. After draining 81 percent in November, they were 78 percent in December and would hit 75 percent in February and 72.6 percent in April. Mike Conley shot 4.7 percent worse at the line after the All-Star break.
Marc Gasol's rate dropped 7.4 percent after the break.
As a team, they fell from third at one point in December to 10th at year's end.
A team like the Grizz that doesn't fare well from the field can make up for it at the charity stripe. Even though they were a bit below the league average in free-throw attempts, the Grizzlies squandered opportunities for a couple more points per game at the line.
Improving in this area would diminish the possibility of flushing easy points.
Other successful teams boosted their offensive efficiency by succeeding at the line. The Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder, which were seventh and first in offensive rating, respectively, were third and first, respectively, in free-throw shooting.
The Thunder never faltered, hitting better than 80 percent at the line each month.
By following Oklahoma City's example in this aspect, Memphis can become cleaner both at the line and in general, offensively.