Why the Memphis Grizzlies have regressed at the start of the 2016 NBA season

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In the past five years, the Memphis Grizzlies have managed to establish their own style of play, which has seen them successfully qualify for the NBA playoffs five years in a row.

The style, nicknamed Grit and Grind, came about when the team decided to focus on assembling a defensive powerhouse and build a team upon the philosophy of slowing the game down as much as possible when attacking, in order to reserve energy to play high-pressure defense.

But the Grizzlies have started this season slowly, with a 3-3 record, and have looked a shell of the team that won 55 games in the regular season last year, just one win short of equalling the best record in franchise history, set in 2013.


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According to statistics from, Memphis are ninth worst in field goal percentage and third worst in both three-point field goal percentage and points per game. Put those numbers together and it is very rare that you will have a successful team.

There is nothing wrong with Memphis playing a hard-nosed, smash-mouth defensive style, as they have shown it can be effective and produce wins in the modern NBA.

No Outside Shooters

However, the Grizzlies have known for a while that they are a team with very poor three point shooters, yet they have done little to add any high-percentage shooters of the three ball, something which is necessary for their success to continue.

Over the summer, the Grizzlies made two moves to try and improve their roster, adding Matt Barnes from the Los Angeles Clippers and free agent Brandan Wright.

Wright is a centre who has almost no jump shooting ability whatsoever, whereas Barnes has been nothing more than an average three-point shooter at best during his career.

This means Memphis are in desperate need of a player who can come on and knock down three-pointers, but they are now over the salary cap and cannot add anyone to their thin squad without trading another player away.

Worrying Defensive Regression

Yet it is not just the offensive side of the ball which has been a worry, last season Memphis allowed just 95.1 points per game, the second-fewest in the NBA.

Six matches into this season, the Grizzlies are giving up 103.8 points per game and are allowing opponents to make a staggering 41.5% on three-pointers, level with Brooklyn as the worst in the league.

It almost seems as though the fight that made this Memphis team such a force in past years is lacking. In their three matches facing teams who qualified for the playoffs last season, they have lost by a combined 99 points!

They were blown out by 30 points against an injury-hit Cleveland Cavaliers team in the opening home match of the season, before losing by 50 points to the reigning champions, the Golden State Warriors, and suffering a 19 point defeat at Portland last night.

One possible reason for the drop-off may be that the Grizzlies feel as they were exposed by the Warriors during the last season's playoffs, which could have affected them mentally.

Golden State came up with a plan to beat Memphis by totally ignoring Tony Allen on defense, due to his terrible shooting ability, which worked tremendously and suddenly revealed a way to defeat Memphis for every other team in the league.

This means Allen, one of the best defenders in the league is playing fewer minutes than ever, as when he is on the floor for extended periods of time, he is costing Memphis more than he is benefitting them, which may have contributed to the drop in defensive efficiency by the Grizz.

Grizzlies fans will be hoping they can turn around their defensive fortunes sooner rather than later, otherwise their struggles against the top sides will continue, with their play going forward showing few signs of improvement anytime soon.

Memphis Grizzlies
Southwest Division
Western Conference

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