No, I am not going to talk about how badly the Grizzlies need Mike Miller back for the game tonight but that would be a big help against the Rockets. Instead I want to talk about the hidden assassin killing this team's efforts. People wonder why the Grizzlies aren't playing better at the end of games this season. The answer could be that while the team abounds with great individual offensive talent, they don't play as a team.
How do I justify this comment? Look where the Grizzlies stand in assists compared to where the Grizzlies stand in team scoring. Memphis is 12th in scoring but only 25th in team assists. The Grizzlies are putting Juan Carlos Navarro, Rudy Gay and Hakim Warrick out on the court as starters right now. How many people realize that JCN has more assists than Gay and Warrick combined and JCN only averages 2.2 apg? This team isn't exactly playing unselfishly at this time.
Heck, Darko has nearly twice as many assists as Hakim does this year. The starting front line of Darko, Hakim and Rudy average a combined 3.3 assists per game. Rudy is the 42nd best forward in the league in assists and he leads the Grizzlies front line. When you consider assists per minute played Rudy is 95th among forwards and is 2nd on the Grizz front line behind Brian Cardinal (73rd in the league). Now I am not suggesting that Rudy play 48 minutes but that number reflects the number of assists a player gets per minute on the court. Memphis is supposed to be playing a motion offense like Phoenix. That motion is predicated on players sharing the ball and when they share the ball the team plays at a very high level.
So why doesn’t our frontline share the ball more? Is it a lack of confidence in their teammates? Is it a lack of confidence in the offensive system? Many people have stated they don't feel the style fits the players the Grizzlies have.
Maybe it is a coaching issue but I don’t know how much of an effect Iavaroni can have in 8 months compared to all the previous years of playing. And it isn’t like the team has a lot of people on the bench to set better examples. Casey Jacobsen has a career average of 1.1 apg (0.3 apg this season). Jason Collins is averages 1.1 apg over his career (0.3 apg this season). Brian Cardinal, the leading assist per minute played frontline player for Memphis, has averaged 1.2 assists per game over his career (0.6 apg this season).
What about Mike Miller? I know that is in the back of some of your heads. Yes, Mike Miller has played some small forward this season when Memphis goes with a 3 guard lineup but those minutes are minor in relation to the amount of time he plays at shooting guard and he only averages 3.6 apg this season. This is higher than his career average of 3.0 apg however.
Everyone knows Steve Nash leads the Phoenix offense in assists. If you don’t know this then why are you reading this blog? However Grant Hill averages 3.1 apg and Boris Diaw averages 4.0. Raja Bell only averages 2.2 apg but he is the fourth option offensively for Phoenix. Even center/forward Amare Stoudamire averages 1.2 apg. That is more than Darko and Hakim combined! And Memphis is led by Mike Conley’s 4.8 apg not Steve Nash’s 11.5. Memphis can't expect Mike Conley to double his assist totals as a 20 yr old rookie. He will get there but for now the onus falls on the frontline to help.
If people want to see improvement in the team, we need to see improvement in team play and that means looking more for the open man and less on trusting their individual talent.