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How Memphis is creating space through Marc Gasol

By Eli Horowitz, assistant men’s basketball coach at Caltech & NBA/WNBA analyst

 

The Memphis Grizzlies have made the postseason seven straight years. They’ve done it with defense, rebounding, physicality and just enough offense. But with the losses of Tony Allen and Zach Randolph, the NBA Twitter community largely excluded this club from their Western Conference playoff lists. With the Warriors, Spurs, Rockets and Thunder as locks, there are only four spots for the Blazers, Nuggets, Timberwolves, Clippers, Jazz, Pelicans and Grizzlies. With Minnesota adding Jimmy Butler, Denver adding Paul Millsap, and Portland having a full season of Jusuf Nurkic alongside their talented backcourt, it’s understandable why many felt Memphis could fizzle out of the picture.

But so far, the Grizzlies are showing that with a healthy Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, they can play with anyone. They’re 3-0 with double digit wins over the Pelicans and Warriors, and an eight point road victory over the Rockets in which they held Houston to 33 second-half points. Memphis is currently sixth if defensive rating, per NBA.com, and they’ll need that to continue to nab one of those final four playoff spots.

But doubt about Memphis was never about defense; projections that have the Grizzlies in the playoffs assume they’ll finish top ten on that end. Last year, the Grizzlies finished seventh in defense and 18th in offense to earn the seven seed. Grizzlies pessimists might have felt that if the offense slips to 20, and the defense to 10 without Allen, the Grizzlies could be on the outside looking in. In an even more stacked Western Conference, the Grizzlies may need a top 10-15 offense to secure a playoff berth, even with a great defense.

So far, they’re 11th in offensive rating, starting the likes of Jarell Martin, James Ennis III and Andrew Harrison. With teams locked in on Conley, the Grizzlies are using Marc Gasol out in space to get easy baskets. Watch here how Gasol receives a screen from Conley and gets a dunk:

 

The Grizzlies set up in a Horns look with Ennis and Harrison in the corners. After Conley gets the ball to Martin, he cuts through and comes back up to screen Gasol at the opposite elbow. The Grizzlies wisely attack away from Trevor Ariza, who’s on Ennis in the strong side corner and can’t help. Watch and notice James Harden is in help, but won’t be effective at the rim against Gasol, whereas Ariza at least has some length. Clint Capela has to play up on Gasol due to his shooting ability.

As the play develops, Conley gets just enough of Capela on the screen to force Eric Gordon to have to bump Gasol. But rather that just switch, Gordon tries to fight over Gasol and switch back onto Conley. As that happens, Capela is trailing Gasol, who basket cuts away from the help to get the pass from Martin and an easy finish.

The Grizzlies take advantage of the Rockets here by running the screen inside the paint. Gordon and Capela are not used to communicating on an action on this spot of the floor. Additionally, by making Conley the screener and Gasol the recipient, Capela is in the precarious position of having to fight over a screen. Gasol’s ability to stretch the floor and handle the ball is forcing opposing centers out of the paint where Gasol can play with space.

When the Grizzlies go to a more traditional post-up, they’re getting switches that create easy looks for Gasol. Teams don’t want to switch, but Gasol will set a screen and then seal and bury the guards defender to force the switch. Here, Harden is on Harrison and Capela is on Gasol. Before the clip starts, Gasol seals Harden after screening him and gets the mismatch:

 

Not only do the Grizzlies get Gasol a paint look against a guard, but by getting the switch through a high pick and roll, Capela is now out at the three point line and in no position to come help when Gasol spins baseline. Ariza could be more aggressive in help, which means Ryan Anderson would need to drop to the level off the ball and prevent a pass to the weak side corner, but even if that happens, the Grizzlies have a three on two on the weak side and are getting an open shot.

The above play is completely different than the first clip, but in both cases, Marc Gasol starts operating outside the paint and without the ball in order to get a smaller defender onto him when he makes his move towards the rim.

Here is another look that gets the same outcome. This time Nene is in the game, and the Rockets sprint back on defense. Rather than find Gasol, Nene is ready in the paint. Normally, he could expect to wait and pick up the opposing center by the basket. But Gasol stops on the perimeter, forcing Harden to pick him up and sending Nene to the corner on Martin. Watch how Gasol immediately attacks off the catch:

 

As soon as Gasol catches, the paint is open as the Grizzlies are in a spread. With Harden standing upright, Gasol is able to easily get by him as he doesn’t put up much of a fight. As the drive happens, Nene is taking steps towards the corner, so he’s unable to get to the rim quick enough to contest Gasol.

In one quarter, Gasol gets three dunks; none from direct post-ups (the second clip doesn’t include the initial pick and roll Gasol uses to seal Harden). What the Grizzlies lack in traditional spacing garnered through shooting and driving, they’re getting from Gasol’s ability to operate on the perimeter and the elbow extended areas. Teams will have to pack it in against these actions and force the Grizzlies’ unheralded wings to make plays. If the Grizzlies aren’t able to knock down shots, it will be a struggle to score. But early in the season, if teams continue to play the Grizzlies straight up, Gasol will feast.

There’s not enough firepower for the Grizzlies to be an elite offense. Teams with new additions will improve their chemistry and move up the rankings. But even in a brutal Western Conference, if the Grizzlies can remain a top 15 offense, their defense can carry them to the playoffs.

 

Today’s Best NBA Reporting And Analysis 5/31/16

–  Warriors Close Out Thunder  (from Ben Golliver,  Sports Illustrated):

Read it here:  http://www.si.com/nba/2016/05/31/warriors-okc-thunder-game7-stephen-curry-klay-thompson-finals-video

–  Key Game 7 Stats  (from ESPN):

Read it here:  http://espn.go.com/blog/statsinfo/post/_/id/119123/golden-state-warriors-flip-the-switch-to-win-game-7

–  Game 7 Video Highlights  (from Dime Mag):

Watch it here:  http://uproxx.com/dimemag/warriors-beat-thunder-game-7/6/

–  OKC Might Have Won With Defensive Adjustment  (from Neil Greenberg, Washington Post):

Read and view it here:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fancy-stats/wp/2016/05/31/thunders-collapse-could-have-been-avoided-with-defensive-adjustment-rebounding/

–  A Deep Bench:  The One Thing OKC Is Missing  (from Jack Winter,  Dime Mag):

Read it here:  http://uproxx.com/dimemag/kevin-durant-amazing-warriors-beat-thunder-game-7/

 A Jump-Shooting Team Will Win The NBA Title  (from Kevin Pelton, ESPN):

http://espn.go.com/nba/insider/story/_/id/15848002/previewing-golden-state-warriors-vs-cleveland-cavaliers-nba-finals-matchup-kevin-pelton

–  Harry Edwards/Billy Donovan:  The NBA’s Little-Known Odd Couple  (from Marc J. Spears,  The Udefeated):

Read it here:  https://theundefeated.com/features/the-nbas-little-known-odd-couple/

–  Questions Await New Grizzlies Coach David Fizdale  (from Ronald Tillery,  Commercial Appeal):

Read it here:  http://www.commercialappeal.com/sports/grizzlies/From-Conleys-future-to-offensive-philosophy-questions-await-David-Fizdale-as-Grizzlies-coach-381307601.html

–  Hubie Brown On Jeff Hornacek  (from Marc Berman,  NYPost):

Read it here:  http://nypost.com/2016/05/31/ex-knicks-coach-jeff-hornacek-can-only-fix-so-much/

–  Raptors’ GM Craves Challenge To Top This Season  (from Doug Smith,  thestar.com):

Read it here:  https://www.thestar.com/sports/raptors/2016/05/30/raptors-gm-masai-ujiri-gives-end-of-season-press-conference.html

–  How Close Are We To Every NBA Team Having A D-League Affiliate?  (From Chris Reichert,  Upsaide & Motor):

Read it here:  http://upsidemotor.com/2016/05/31/nba-adam-silver-d-league-affiliate/

–  Draft Picks By Team  (from Hoops Rumors):

 Draft Picks By Team:

  • Boston Celtics (8): 3rd, 16th, 23rd, 31st, 35th, 45th, 51st, 58th
  • Denver Nuggets (5): 7th, 15th, 19th, 53rd, 56th
  • Phoenix Suns (4): 4th, 13th, 28th, 34th
  • Utah Jazz (4): 12th, 42nd, 52nd, 60th
  • Philadelphia 76ers (3): 1st, 24th, 26th
  • New Orleans Pelicans (3): 6th, 39th, 40th
  • Milwaukee Bucks (3): 10th, 36th, 38th
  • Orlando Magic (3): 11th, 41st, 47th
  • Atlanta Hawks (3): 21st, 44th, 54th
  • Los Angeles Lakers (2): 2nd, 32nd
  • Sacramento Kings (2): 8th, 59th
  • Toronto Raptors (2): 9th, 27th
  • Chicago Bulls (2): 14th, 48th
  • Memphis Grizzlies (2): 17th, 57th
  • Detroit Pistons (2): 18th, 49th
  • Indiana Pacers (2): 20th, 50th
  • Los Angeles Clippers (2): 25th, 33rd
  • Houston Rockets (2): 37th, 43rd
  • Minnesota Timberwolves (1): 5th
  • Charlotte Hornets (1): 22nd
  • San Antonio Spurs (1): 29th
  • Golden State Warriors (1): 30th
  • Dallas Mavericks (1): 46th
  • Brooklyn Nets (1): 55th

 

Additional Player Notes, Updates, Profiles:

–  DeMar DeRozan (from Bruce Arthur,  thestar.com):  https://www.thestar.com/sports/raptors/2016/05/28/demar-derozan-driven-to-be-quintessential-toronto-raptor-arthur.html

–  Justin Anderson (from Matthew Postins, scout.com):  http://www.scout.com/nba/mavericks/story/1670955-what-do-the-mavs-need-from-justin-anderson

 

Today’s Best NBA Reporting And Analysis 5/7/16

–  CLE 121, ATL 108 (from James Herbert, CBS Sports):

Read it here:  http://www.cbssports.com/nba/eye-on-basketball/25580027/cavaliers-outclass-hawks-again-in-game-3-four-things-to-know    and from Kacy Sager, BBall Breakdown:  http://bballbreakdown.com/2016/05/07/hawks-change-everything-but-the-outcome/

–  Channing Frye: Cavs’ Missing Piece?  (from Jeff Zilgitt, USA Today:

Read it here:  http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nba/playoffs/2016/05/07/channing-frye-lebron-james-kyrie-irving-kevin-love-kevin-durant-russell-westbrook-cavaliers-hawks-playoffs/84060442/

–  Tyronn Lue Has Thrust Cavs Into Company Of Warriors, Spurs  (from Chris Haynes.  cleveland.com):

Read it here:  http://www.cleveland.com/cavs/index.ssf/2016/05/tyronn_lues_messages_demeanor.html#incart_river_mobile_index

–  Raptors Could Benefit From Sharing The Ball (from Bruce Arthur, the star.com):

Read it here:  https://www.thestar.com/sports/raptors/2016/05/06/raptors-might-need-to-embrace-a-pass-time-arthur.html

–  Valunciunas’ Growth   (from Chris O’Leary, thestar.com):

Read it here:  https://www.thestar.com/sports/raptors/2016/05/06/the-growth-of-raptors-valanciunas-comes-game-by-game.html

–  How Bosh’s Absence Has Impacted The Heat (from Zach Buckley, Bleacher Report):

Read it here:  http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2638459-how-chris-boshs-absence-has-impacted-and-will-continue-to-impact-miami-heat

–  Blazers Need To Limit Draymond’s Impact  (from Joe Freeman, Oregon Live):

Read it here:  http://www.oregonlive.com/blazers/index.ssf/2016/05/trail_blazers_react_to_stephen_currys_game_3_absen.html

–  Kawhi Lets HIs Game Do The Talking  (from Matt Moore,  CBS Sports):

Read and view it here:  http://www.cbssports.com/nba/eye-on-basketball/25580158/kawhi-leonard-lets-his-game-and-crucial-rebound-do-all-the-talking

–  How The Spurs Put Away OKC In Game Three (from Dan Devine, Yahoo Sports):

Read it here:  http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nba-ball-dont-lie/-it-s-all-about-the-details—how-the-spurs-put-away-okc-in-game-3-065140365.html

–  Leonard And Aldridge Make The Spurs Look Different, But The Results Stay The Same  (from Tim Cato, SBNation):

Read it here:  http://www.sbnation.com/nba/2016/5/7/11614332/spurs-thunder-playoffs-kawhi-leonard-lamarcus-aldridge-different-look

–  Spurs’  Big Man Trio Is Complementing The Stars  (from Rob Mahoney, Sports Illustrated):

Read it here:  http://www.si.com/nba/2016/05/07/playoffs-thunder-spurs-kevin-durant-tim-duncan-game-3-video

–  Donovan, Thunder Depth Are Being Tested  (from Rob Mahoney, Sports Illustrated):

Read it here:  http://www.si.com/nba/2016/05/06/okc-thunder-kevin-durant-russell-westbrook-billy-donovan-defense-rotation

–  Ian Clark Helping Fill Warriors’ Void  (from Courtney Cronin,  Mercury News):

Read it here:  http://www.mercurynews.com/warriors/ci_29859867/no-stephen-curry-no-problem-ian-clark-helping

–  Should The Blazers Start Allen Crabbe?  (from McLayne Bertsch, ripcityproject.com):

Read it here:  http://ripcityproject.com/2016/05/07/blazers-crabbe-start/

–  Grizzlies Fire Joerger  (from Adrian Wojnarowski,  Yahoo Sports):

Read it here:  http://sports.yahoo.com/news/sources–grizzlies-fire-head-coach-dave-joerger-133415083.html

–  Q & A With Memphis GM Chris Wallace Re Coaching Change  (from grizzlies.com):

Read it here:  http://www.nba.com/grizzlies/news/grizzlies-q-a-chris-wallace-160507

–  Coaching Search Q & A With Headhunter Jed Hughes  (from Associated Press):

Read it here:  http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2016/05/06/sports/basketball/ap-bkn-search-firms.html

–  Rockets’ Fall Is No Reason To Bash Morey’s Anlaytics Focus  (from Ben Alamar, ESPN):

Read it here:  http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/74347/whatever-daryl-moreys-fate-analytics-movements-foothold-strong-in-nba

Additional Player Notes, Updates, Profiles:

 

 

Karl-Anthony Towns  (from Tom West, Sports Illustrated):

Read it here:  https://thecauldron.si.com/karl-anthony-towns-leading-the-nbas-new-generation-b601136723f2#.co4hwi1gn

–  Malcolm Delaney  (from Nikos Varlas, eurohoops.net):  http://www.eurohoops.net/interviews/238458/delaney-were-going-to-berlin-to-win-the-title

 

Today’s Best NBA Reporting And Analysis 4/29/16

 

–  ATL 104, BOS 92  (from Jake Fischer,  Sports Illustrated):

Read and view it here:  http://www.si.com/nba/2016/04/28/nba-playoffs-hawks-celtics-lebron-james-cavaliers-conference-semifinals-video   from Tim Cato,  SBNation:  http://www.sbnation.com/nba/2016/4/29/11534220/2016-nba-playoff-scores-celtics-hawks-series-loss-isaiah-thomas-shooting  and from Adam Spinella, BBall Breakdown:  http://bballbreakdown.com/2016/04/28/hawks-beat-celtics-set-for-rematch-with-cavaliers/

–  Hawks Bounce Celtics; Earn Another Shot At Cavs  (from Matt Moore, CBS Sports):

Read it here:  http://www.cbssports.com/nba/eye-on-basketball/25570632/hawks-bounce-boston-earn-another-shot-at-lebron-and-the-cavs

–  Numbers Preview:  Cavs vs Hawks  (from John Schuhmann,  NBA.com):

Read it here:  http://hangtime.blogs.nba.com/2016/04/29/numbers-preview-cavs-hawks/

–  Mason Plumlee Emerges As Unlikely Playmaker (from Rob Mahoney, Sports Illustrated):

Read and view it here:  http://www.si.com/nba/2016/04/29/nba-playoffs-portland-trail-blazers-mason-plumlee-damian-lillard

–  Terry Stotts Q & A  (from Mike Richman,  OregonLive):

Read it here: http://www.oregonlive.com/blazers/index.ssf/2016/04/trail_blazers_terry_stotts_on_defense_and_mason_pl.html

–  Beating The Blazers Will Be A Daunting Task For The Clippers  (from Kerry Eggers,  Portland Tribune):

Read it here:  http://portlandtribune.com/pt/12-sports/304426-182352-beat-blazers-in-portland-daunting-challenge-for-clipped-clippers

–  How Doc Rivers Stays Strong  (from Arash Markazi, ESPN):

Read it here:  http://espn.go.com/blog/los-angeles/clippers/post/_/id/8096/doc-rivers-stays-strong-in-eye-of-clippers-storm

–  How Hiring Steve Clifford Rescued The Hornets  (from Adrian Wojnarowski,  Yahoo Sports):  Read it here:  http://sports.yahoo.com/news/how-steve-clifford-changed-the-program-in-charlotte-192931811.html

 The Hornets’ Depth  (from Jesus Gomez,  SBNation):

Read and view it here:  http://www.sbnation.com/nba/2016/4/28/11476806/charlotte-hornets-miami-heat-nba-playoffs-2016-game-5

–  Hornets Pulled Out All Their Tricks In Game 5  (from Zach Lowe,  ESPN):

Read and view it here:  http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/15419858/the-heat-handle-hornets-bag-tricks

–  Dwane Casey Has Stepped Out Of His Comfort Zone  (from Eric Koreen,  sportsnet.ca):

Read it here:  http://www.sportsnet.ca/basketball/nba/casey-steps-comfort-zone-raptors-finding-new-ways-win/

–  Should Frank Vogel Continue To Trust Pacers’ Bench  (from Ben Gibson, 8points9seconds):

Read it here:  http://8points9seconds.com/2016/04/29/indiana-pacers-frank-vogel-bench-toronto-raptors/

–  Spurs vs Thunder Preview  (from Dan Devine,  Yahoo Sports):

Read and view it here:  http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nba-ball-dont-lie/bdl-s-2015-16-nba-playoff-previews–spurs-vs–thunder-041329386.html    from Jesus Gomez,  BBall Breakdown:  http://bballbreakdown.com/2016/04/28/spurs-vs-thunder-will-fun-unpredictable-ever/   and from Fred Katz, CNHI News:  http://www.enidnews.com/sports/thunder_nba/thunder-prepare-for-spurs-shut-down-defense/article_4962e4fb-82b8-56fd-bcad-e401075bb3ef.html

–  Numbers Preview:  Spurs vs Thunder  (from John Schuhmann, NBA.com):

Read it here:  http://hangtime.blogs.nba.com/2016/04/28/numbers-preview-spurs-thunder-2/

–  How Chip Engelland Helped Transform Kawhi Leonard’s Shooting  (from Mike Monroe,  Bleacher Report):

Read it here:  http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2634107-how-an-nba-shot-whisperer-transformed-kawhi-leonard-into-a-3-point-fire-hazard

–  Rockets’ Post-Mortem (from Mika Honkasalo, HoopsHype):

Read and view it here:  http://hoopshype.com/2016/04/28/rockets-post-mortem-what-went-wrong-and-how-they-can-fix-it/

 Scott Brooks: Defense, Relationship Building, Player Development  (from Tim Bontemps, Washington Post):

Read it here:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/sports/wp/2016/04/28/its-not-who-scott-brooks-has-coached-but-how-that-matters-now-for-wizards/

–  Kenny Atkinson’s Journey From ‘Spunky” To Nets’ Coach (from Brian Lewis, NYPost):

Read it here:  http://nypost.com/2016/04/28/kenny-atkinsons-global-journey-from-spunky-to-nets-coach/

–  Go To Moves: KD, IT, Z-Bo  (from Coach Nick, Adam Turner,  BBall Breakdown):

Watch it here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QenRTZsrCIk

Additional Player Notes, Updates, Profiles:

 

–  Kawhi Leonard  (from Nick Moyle, expressnews):  http://www.expressnews.com/sports/spurs/article/Spurs-Leonard-next-step-on-NBA-evolutionary-7383706.php

–  Bismack Biyombo  (from Ryan Wolstat, Toronto Sun):  http://www.torontosun.com/2016/04/28/hard-work-gets-results-bismack-biyombo-says

–  Draymond Green  (from Marc J. Spears, ESPN):  http://espn.go.com/nba/playoffs/2016/story/_/id/15420114/draymond-green-playoffs-diary-part-5

–  Stanley Johnson  (from David Mayo, MLive):  http://www.mlive.com/pistons/index.ssf/2016/04/pistons_stanley_johnson_may_be.html

–  DeMarcus Cousins  (from Leo Beas, Cowbell Kingdom):  http://cowbellkingdom.com/the-harsh-reality-of-facing-reality/

–  Eric Griffin  (from Brian Rzeppa, Ridiculous Upside):  http://www.ridiculousupside.com/2016/4/29/11532064/eric-griffin-eyes-nba-opportunity

 

Today’s Best NBA Reporting and Analysis 4/23/16

–  How The Clippers Are Shutting Down The Blazers’ Backcourt  (from Jesus Gomez,  SBNation):

Read and view it here:  http://www.sbnation.com/nba/2016/4/22/11485552/clippers-defense-traps-trail-blazers-damian-lillard-cj-mccollum

–  Slow Down On Drummond Being SVG’s New Dwight Howard  (from Zach Harper,  CBS Sports):

Read it here:  http://www.cbssports.com/nba/eye-on-basketball/25563063/lets-slow-down-on-andre-drummond-being-svgs-new-dwight-howard

–  BOS 111, ATL 103  (from Dan Favale, Bleacher Report):

Read and view it here:  http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2632994-isaiah-thomas-celtics-keeping-nba-playoff-hopes-alive-amid-adversity

–  SAS 96, MEM 87  (from Jeff McDonald,  expressnews.com):

Read and view it here:  http://www.expressnews.com/sports/spurs/article/Spurs-forced-to-work-for-Game-3-7305064.php

–  Kyrie Irving’s Elevated Game Gives Cavs Winning Outlook  (from Dave McMenamin, ESPN):

ead it here:  http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/15308366/kyrie-irving-emerging-game-shows-game-3-win-pistons

–  What Inspired Coach Clifford’s Take After Game Two  (from Reinis Lacis,  atthehive.com):

Read and view it here:  http://www.atthehive.com/2016/4/22/11477152/what-moments-of-game-2-sparked-steve-cliffords-postgame-oration-nba-playoffs-2016

–  Assessing Offensive Style For New Head Coaches  (from Ian Levy, Nylon Calculus):

Read it here:  http://nyloncalculus.com/2016/04/22/offensive-style-new-head-coaches/

Additional Player Notes, Updates, Profiles:

–  C.J. McCollum  (from Dan Devine, Yahoo Sports):  http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nba-ball-dont-lie/c-j–mccollum-won-most-improved-player-by-taking-pride-in-struggle-183125931.html

Timofey Mozgov/Tristan Thompson  (from Terry Pluto, cleveland.com):   http://www.cleveland.com/pluto/index.ssf/2016/04/cleveland_cavaliers_have_terry_48.html

Robert Swift  (from Ed Odeven,  Japan Times):  http://www.japantimes.co.jp/sports/2016/04/23/basketball/bj-league/ex-tokyo-apache-standout-swift-rebuilding-life-after-off-court-troubles/