Memphis’ Joerger Jams Square Peg Into Round Hole

Coach Joerger accepting his award for the worst offensive system for his players.

Coach Joerger accepting his award for the worst offensive system for his players.

All over the league, teams are joining the statistical revolution. NBA franchises now have a plethora of advanced statistics they can use to shape their rotation and formulate a game plan. With this recent push of advance statistics, several ideas have come to the forefront, effecting the play we are now seeing in this early season.

1. The faster the pace the better

2. Three point shots are better than twos

3. Getting back on defense is more important than crashing the offensive boards.

As someone who enjoys the new advanced statistics, I completely agree with these philosophical changes… in a vacuum. Sure, if a team has great three point shooting lots of perimeter scoring and no post presence this is the most efficient way to play (and with a lack of quality post scoring all over the NBA, this is often the case). However, teams around the league regardless of personnel are adopting this philosophy, to their detriment.

After watching Memphis play last night, I am convinced they are one of those teams. Last year the Grizz decided to bring in John Hollinger so that the analytics movement had a powerful voice in their front office. This eventually lead to the departure of Lionel Hollins over philosophical differences. Right on queue, after Hollins was let go, Memphis brought in an analytics friendly coach in Dave Joerger.

At around 9:00 pm I plopped myself down to watch my beloved Celtics take on a team that has come to be known for its stifling defense and bruising post play.  What I saw was instead a team running a philosophy that did not fit its players. Throughout the first half all of Memphis offense originated on the perimeter, with their guards pushing the ball so quickly that sometimes the Memphis bigs didn’t even have enough time to involve themselves in the offense.

In other words, Joerger is using his bull of a team and attempting to race it against thoroughbreds. Last year Memphis’ Hollins lead squad finished first in points allowed, 2nd in defensive rating and dead last in pace en route to a Western Conference finals appearance. This year the Grizzlies are 26th in points allowed, 20th in defensive rating and 20th in overall pace. The result is a 2-2 record and a  team with title aspirations transformed into a team that will be on the playoff bubble.

As a backer of the analytics movement I  am all for quantifying numbers to explain the game I love. The Grizz have decided the best way to utilize Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph is by running them into the ground and letting their offense come off the scraps of their perimeter players. If advanced statistics indicate that this style is the best for the Grizz, maybe it’s time for Memphis to look at some different numbers.


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