INSIDER – Defensive Improvement Case Study #7 – 2010-11 Memphis Grizzlies

The final 4 teams left in the Western Conference this year were the 4 best teams in the West in effective field goal % defense. ( Weighs three point shooting.) The top 5 defensive teams all made it to the round of 8 and the New York Knicks were the only team to make the Final 8 with a defense below the top 15 in the NBA. You must play defense to win in the NBA.
For the last three seasons, the Utah Jazz have finished ranked 23rd, 19th and 21st defensively in the NBA. If the Jazz are competing with the best in the NBA they must become a better defensive team.
Last year the Jazz allowed 104.7 pts per 100 possessions. To move into the top 15 the Jazz would need to allow 103.0 and to move into the top 10 they would need to allow 101 pts per 100 possessions.
Therefore, I reviewed the last 20 plus years of NBA stats and found the 16 teams to have made a substantial (about 5 pts per 100 possessions) defensive jump from one year to the next. Over the next few weeks I will look at those 16 teams to see what made their defensive jump possible.
Note: I have not included any lockout shortened seasons.


DEFENSIVE CHANGE: This is really a two year span that does include a lock-out season but is still worth involving in this case study. In 09-10 Memphis allowed 109.9 pts per 100 possessions (19th in NBA), then in 10-11 they allowed 105.1 (9th) and in the lockout season of 101.8 pts per 100 possessions. This will focus on the move from 09-10 to 10-11

INSIDE THE FOUR FACTORS: in 09-10 the Grizzlies were 25th in opponents EFG% then improved to 18th , they were 20th in forcing turnovers and made a huge jump to #1 in the NBA, they were 20th in defensive rebounding and they stayed the same and they were 3rd best in not fouling and in the improved year fouled much more putting them 14th in the NBA. The Grizzlies were 10th in pace of play in 09-10 and then in the improved year slowed down slightly to 15th.

PLAYER MOVEMENT: In 09-10 the Grizzlies started Conley, Mayo, Gay, Randolph and Gasol. The bench was Sam Young, Marcus Williams and Hasheem Thabeet. The year of improvement made one signigifant change adding Tony Allen from Boston and Rudy Gay got hurt. .

COACHING: This was Lionel Hollins second year as the head coach of the Grizzlies. The staff was Johnny Davis, Barry Hecker, Damon Stoudamire, Henry Bibby and David Joerger. This was the same staff the previous season.

CONCLUSION: The Grizzlies did this largely by becoming more aggressive and forcing more turnovers and even fouling more than they had in the past. The addition of Tony Allen was a huge part of this however, much of this has to do with Hollins 2nd year as the head man and understanding what his team needs to do to be better. The next year the Grizzlies went to 9th in the NBA. The improvement in condition and play of Marc Gasol is a huge part of this as well.