Optimistic Outlook on Offense for Memphis

There is reason for an optimistic outlook on offense for Memphis, which was on display Friday night. While the argument was made the Grizzlies defense might be playoff worthy, there was justified skepticism regarding the offense. Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are aging, and it seemed there wasn’t enough fire power surrounding the two. The Grizzlies, however, have more shooting than it first appears on paper. This, along with Conley’s return and perhaps a faster pace, gives the foundation for an optimistic outlook on offense for Memphis.

Mike Conley Looks Fine

Conley hasn’t posted a big statistical game yet, but he is passing the eye test. Watching him play this year has alleviated any concerns about a decline in his athleticism, at least to this point. He is 31 coming off a heel injury which is valid cause for concern. Yet, he still is weaving through and manipulating defenses in route to dropping pretty passes.

And his beautiful stroke still looks magnificent.

As mentioned above, Conley has yet to explode but he looks like his normal self, leading to an optimistic outlook on offense for Memphis. In 2016-17 Conley graded out exceptionally well in The Bball Index grading system:

Mike Conley 2016-17


Grade Among Filter

Perimeter Shooting


Off-Ball Movement


One on One



Finishing B


Playmaking A


*Grade Among Filter shows grade among guards that played at least 1,500 minutes in 2016-17

It’s likely that you noticed two of those three plays came in transition, which brings us to our next point.

Showtime Memphis!

Just kidding. But the Grizzlies did push the tempo in their game against Atlanta which generated positive results. Memphis had a pace of 106.5 against the Hawks, which would rank 5th in the NBA during this young season. A better comparison, however, would be point out how easily it would have ranked first last year when New Orleans lead the league with a 101.6 pace.

That 4.9 difference is roughly the equivalent of the difference between last year’s Pelicans and last year’s Wizards, who ranked 16th. And the crazy pace paid dividends. Memphis scored 27 points on 18 transition possessions against Atlanta, good for 1.5 points per possession. For context, Houston led the league last year with 1.2 points per possession in transition.

The Grizzlies continuing at such a blazing tempo is clearly unsustainable, and unlikely, but we’re here to highlight the optimistic outlook on offense for Memphis. Last season the Grizzlies ranked 28th in pace, and for at least one night they looked like a modern offense.

More Shooting Than Meets the Eye

While Memphis clearly isn’t going to shoot 50% from distance every night, there is more shooting on this roster than one would expect. Based on BBall Index grading from last season, here is what the Grizzlies have in terms of perimeter shooting:

Perimeter Shooting 2017-18

Grade Grade Among Filter

Marc Gasol


JaMychal Green


MarShon Brooks



Wayne Selden A


Garrett Temple A-


Chandler Parsons A


*Grade Among Filter denotes a player’s grade among his position group with a minimum of 1,500 minutes played.

The most noticeable example from the Memphis Atlanta game was Garrett Temple.

Shot Chart Courtesy of David Bradham

Temple went 10/11 from the field and 5/6 from three. A career 36.1 percent three point shooter, Temple was projected by basketball reference to shoot 37.7 percent from deep in 2018-19, and he shot 39.2 percent last season on 227 attempts. All of these results fall in line with the grading here at The BBall Index, so it is fair to assume Temple will be a shooting weapon for the Grizzlies.

Another point of optimism on offense for Memphis is Chandler Parsons. When healthy, Parsons is a shooting threat that can space the floor for the Grizzlies. We saw against the Hawks that Parsons is pulling with confidence:

Dillon Brooks and Omri Casspi graded out as serviceable shooters as well last season in our system. When Conley is on the floor, J.B. Bickerstaff has the ability to mix and match different groupings of five players that are all credible three-point shooters. While Memphis doesn’t need to emulate the small-ball Rockets and play five-out, the Grizzlies should have the floor spacing to provide Conley room to drive, Gasol to post up, and Jaren Jackson Jr. to continue to grow at lightening speed.

Jaren Jackson Jr. Beasting is Awesome

We’ve highlighted why JJJ’s Rookie of the Year odds are too low, and he adds the final ingredient for an optimistic outlook on offense for Memphis. Jackson showed an ability to hit tough shots in the paint during the preseason, and that skill was on display against Atlanta:

Jackson’s best play of the night, or perhaps most encouraging play, was this finish through contact:

Remember, Jackson just turned 19 years old on September 15th, and part of why he was such a tantalizing prospect was how young he is. Any one-and-done rookie will be slight of frame in comparison to veterans, but we didn’t expect to see functional strength like this so soon. And Jackson did not shy away from the paint at all.

Shot Chart Courtesy of David Bradham

As you can see, Jackson went 6/8 in the paint, and 5/7 in, or just outside, the restricted area. Jackson’s post game is the key to getting himself into the thick of the ROY race, but it is also the key to unlocking this Memphis offense. If Jackson is both an inside and outside threat, that gives the Grizzlies three big men that are capable in both areas once Green returns from injury.

With Conley looking spry Memphis has the ability to play at a quicker pace this season. There is a fair number of serviceable to reliable shooters on the team that can hit threes in transition, or open up spacing in the half court. Jaren Jackson Jr. seems to be ahead of the curve against anyone’s reasonable expectations headed into the season. While it was just one game, but there are reasons for an optimistic outlook on offense for Memphis.

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