INSIDER – Defensive Improvement Case Study #8 – Memphis Grizzlies 2003-04

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 IMPORVEMENT CASE STUDY #8 – Memphis Grizzlies 2003-2004

DEFENSIVE CHANGE: 2002-03 Memphis allowed 107.3 pts per 100 possessions (27th) and the next season they allowed just 102.2 pts per 100 possessions (11th).

INSIDE THE FOUR FACTORS: In 2002-03 the Grizzlies ranked 28th in effective field goal defense in 03-04 they went to 10th, they were 20th in forcing turnovers and became the #2 team in the NBA forcing turnovers , 28th in defensive rebounding and stayed that way as they were 29th the next season and were the 2nd best team in the NBA in fouling however, when Hubie had a full season they became the 25th in the NBA at foul rate

PLAYER MOVEMENT: The poor defensive team in 02-03 started Jason Williams as the point guard, Gordan Giricek and Wesley Person were the shooting guards, Shane Battier was the small forward with Lorenzen Wright and Pau Gasol on the front line. Earl Watson and Stromile Swift came off the bench.
The next year with Hubie Brown, added James Posey to replace Giricek and Person, Mike Miller was added to Battier as a wing player. Earl Watson had a minute pick up.
Overall not a huge change, but noticeable that most of the changes took place on the wings.

COACHING: . Sidney Lowe was the head coach for the first 8 games of the 02-03 season before being replaced by Hubie Brown. Hubie Brown was the coach for the entire 03-04 season.

CONCLUSION: A few interesting notes here. One the coaching switch was obviously vital but how they did it on the floor is different than I would have imagined. First, they added wing players not big men that changed who they were defensively. Moreover, this is yet another example of a team increasing its defensive pressure, committing more fouls and forcing more turnovers to become a better defensive team. The foul rate increase seems to be corresponding to better defense which is very surprising.