What Do We Know About Memphis So Far?

The Grizzlies have played four games in 2018-19, which sadly means over 1/20th of their season is already gone. However, there are certain indicators we can now look at to get a feel for who this team will be. So, what do we know about Memphis so far, and what upside might there be? While limited in scope given how new the season is, we can still discuss a couple items of what we know about Memphis so far.

What Is Already Reliable?

Great question. To establish our foundation for what stats we can trust through four games, let’s quickly review this study by Krishna Narsu. Narsu illustrates that through four games a team’s pace and three point attempt rate are reliable enough to paint a fair picture of the season long outlook. Free throw rate becomes reliable at five games, and although we are only 80% of the way to five games (I can come up with advanced stats too!), let’s examine that as well.

Ok, so, what do we know about Memphis so far?


Through four games Memphis ranks 25th in pace. On the bright side, this is actually up from their 28th place ranking last season. On the downside, it shoots a hole in the idea that after great success against Atlanta in transition the Grizzlies may look to go more up-tempo this year.

Memphis will most likely rank in the bottom third of the league in pace this season. There really is no evidence to the contrary. The optimistic outlook would be Conley will take it upon himself to push the tempo a little bit given how many decent shooters now surround him, and this may get the Grizzlies to creep toward the 20th fastest pace in the league. The realistic outlook is, as Narsu tells us, Memphis will once again be near the very bottom in pace.

Three Point Attempt Rate

A decent difference from last year, however, is how many threes Memphis is taking. This shouldn’t be too surprising considering the aforementioned solid amount of shooting now on the roster. The Grizzlies are currently taking 35% of their field goals from distance, which is the 16th highest rate in the league.

This is up from a rate of 31.7% last year, good for the 21st highest rate. The Grizzlies don’t appear to have a desire to go more modern in the pace category, but seem to have embraced an uptick in three point attempts.

Hopefully Memphis climbs even higher in this category. According to BBall Index grading, the Grizzlies have six rotation players that grade as a B or higher in perimeter shooting overall, among their position, or both. Those six players are Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, JaMychal Green, Garrett Temple, Chandler Parsons, Wayne Seldon, and MarShon Brooks. Most importantly, the shooting spans all five positions, affording J.B. Bickerstaff multiple lineup configurations that won’t compromise spacing.

Free Throw Rate

What do we know about Memphis so far? We know they are getting to the line a lot, even though we haven’t hit the five game threshold to consider this data more conclusive. Regardless, this is the biggest area of improvement for the Grizzlies this year. Memphis currently has a free throw rate of 32.1%, good for the 5th best mark in the league. Compare that to last season’s numbers of a 25.5% rate ranking 14th in the league.

We may be one game premature on considering this data predictive for the remainder of the season, but there is context to enhance the idea this high free throw rate will continue.

Memphis is currently averaging 50.8 drives per game, which is the 4th highest mark in the league. Both of those figures are up from last season’s marks of 41.2 drives per game, which ranked 18th. Is this early season noise or a new trend?

There is some positive reinforcement for the Grizzlies to continue driving at such a high rate. Memphis attempting 5.4 free throws per game off their drives, which is the 8th highest mark in the league. In terms of the rate at which they are getting to the line off drives, Memphis is shooting the 9th most free throw attempts per drive of any team.

What Does It All Mean?

The Grizzlies are currently 28th in offensive rating. Narsu tells us this category won’t be reliable until after 13 games, so we have 9 games to see if certain areas improve. Where we need to see the biggest improvement is in the mid-range.

I’m not going to sit here and advocate for the Grizzlies to take more mid-range shots. I wish they would take less and climb into the top ten of three point attempt rate. But the mid-rangers they are taking they are bricking like crazy:


FG% 10’-16’ FG% 16’ – < 3

Mike Conley

33.3 25.0

Garrett Temple

50.0 0.0

Marc Gasol

0.0 22.2
Jaren Jackson 0.0

(No attempts)

Shelvin Mack 25.0


Wayne Seldon 33.3

(No attempts)

Dillon Brooks 25.0

(No attempts)

Yikes. But here are those players’ career numbers from those distances:


FG% 10’-16’ FG% 16’ – < 3

Mike Conley

38.0 40.3

Garrett Temple

38.7 34.7

Marc Gasol

41.9 41.9
Jaren Jackson N/A


Shelvin Mack 42.2


Wayne Seldon 41.9


Dillon Brooks 33.7


This mid-range brick fest is most likely unsustainable, meaning their 30th ranked 2P% should improve. Even if their ranking doesn’t improve much, the percentage should. Right now Memphis has a 2P% of 42.2, and last year the team ranked 28th in the league with a mark of 48.6%, which would rank 21st this year. We need 11 games of data to trust 2P%, so take all of this with a grain of salt.

Memphis is presently 18th in 3P% and 13th in FT%, data points that need 26 games and 16 games, respectively, to be reliable. The point is, however, the path to becoming a top 20 offense is clear. Positive regression is coming in the mid-range, but scrap a fair amount of those shots for more threes. On some level the three point shot as a weapon is as much about volume as it is accuracy.

Consider that least year the Rockets easily lead the league in three point attempts per game, despite ranking 14th in 3P%. This, combined with the 3rd most free throw attempts per game, the 10th best field goal percentage in the restricted area, and less than seven mid range shots per game, lead to a league leading offensive rating of 114.0.

So what do we know about Memphis so far? Their free throw rate and three point attempt rate look good. They’re still playing at the speed of a glacier, which coupled with a mid-range brick fest is holding their offensive rating down in the bottom six. They’re taking the 14th most mid-range attempts per game this season, so if they scrap a few for more threes there is a chance the Grizzlies can have a top twenty offense.

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