David Fizdale sat down in front the media following his team’s game two 96 – 82 loss to the Spurs. It was far from a usual post-game interview as the Grizzlies coach proceeded to rip the referees for what he considered an unfairly called game. In Fizdale’s defense the Spurs took twice as many free throws as the Grizzlies. He ended his fiery rhetoric by defending his team’s rough and tough style that doesn’t show up in the box score by saying, “Take that for data.” Now I love where Fizdale is coming from and why he made this calculated move. This wasn’t a rant born out of frustration or anger but out of necessity. With his team two losses away from playoff elimination at the time Fizdale played the only calling card he had left as a coach, sticking up for his players no matter what. Fizdale knew before he began that he would get fined for his comments but that clearly didn’t matter to him because he had to try something to hopefully light a spark for his players.
However there is a major problem with coach’s rant. Data does matters. And nobody should know this better than the archaic Memphis Grizzlies. The Memphis Grizzlie’s core group of players has not changed over the past several years but the NBA landscape is drastically changing around them. According to Basketball-Referece.com over the last five seasons the average number of points scored per game has risen from 98.1 to 105 that dramatic shift is likely a result in increased 3-point shooting. In that same five season span the average number of 3 pointers made a game per team has gone from 7.2 to nearly 10 a game. The game focusing more and more beyond the three point lines make sense if you take a step back and think about it. Why wouldn’t teams want to specialize in a shot that nets them more points than a regular shot? With nerds all over showing general managers that the 3-point shot is the second best shot compared to a layup it’s only reasonable that teams like the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors have begun to specialize specifically on the three ball. There are 48 minutes in an NBA game, take and make more shots of higher value than the opposing team sounds like a pretty good recipe for success right?
But then there’s the Grizzlies:
Even with a massive jump from last year to this year in 3-pointers made the Grizzlies still find themselves below the league average and quickly falling behind the top half of their Conference. The Grizzlies record also speaks for itself as the team went 6-9 against the Western Conference playoff teams that shot an above average number of threes.
As currently constructed the Grizzlies have most of their cap space tied up in Mike Conley (0 all-star games), Chandler Parsons (3 season ending injuries in 3 years), Zach Randolph (a power forward who can’t jump off the ground anymore), and their saving grace Marc Gasol. The Grizzlies have built their brand on hard and tough defensive, but their twin towers of Gasol and Randolph are lagging behind in today’s day and age. Without any major moves on the horizon expect the Grizzlies to live in NBA mediocrity, too good for a good draft pick but too bad to truly compete for a title.
Hindsight shows us that maybe Fizdale’s rant worked. The Grizzlies won their next two games at home to even up the series before eventually losing in six games to the Spurs. Over the course of the 6 game series the Spurs hit 13 more 3’s than the Grizzlies.
Take that for data.
Written by: Harry