The Memphis Grizzlies are the hottest team in the NBA, winners of 11 straight games to get within a half-game of the best record in the Western Conference. As I pointed out in this week’s NBA betting futures column, if the Grizzlies keep winning then Ja Morant will keep rising in the NBA MVP debate.
But, the Grizzlies’ success is about a lot more than just their superstar point guard, and in fact they are a rare team that gets major statistical contributions from almost every position in a true team synergy. When I was a kid, I used to love the cartoon Voltron, where the five robot lions could merge into a giant robot hero that could defeat any enemy.
This season, the Grizzlies are channeling their inner Voltron.
It all starts with the black lion that formed Voltron’s torso, and for the Grizzlies that is Morant. Morant has flirted with the top-10 in my fantasy basketball points rankings all season built on his tremendous scoring and distributing production.
Morant is currently on pace to tie or set career highs in every major offense counting category with 27.4 PPG, 7.9 APG and 1.7 3PG. He joins fellow 2019 NBA Draft top-2 pick Zion Williamson as the most exciting, explosive finishers in the NBA that are always on deck for a top-10 Sportscenter play.
Morant’s eye-popping dunks may get the most attention, but his game is more meat-and-potatoes than flash. Morant is extremely quick with the ball in his hands, and almost impossible to keep out of the paint. And, per the Voltron theme, the Grizzlies have done an excellent job of surrounding him with outstanding shooters that keep opponents from being able to double or even effectively hedge extra defenders towards him.
As a result, according to Second Spectrum, Morant’s by-far most common shot type is the Driving Layup with 293 instances thus far, more than twice his second-most common shot attempt, the Driving Floater (130 instances).
And, when Morant drives for a layup, he generates a whopping 1.48 points per possession that is among the best in the NBA. In fact, Morant generates a very strong 1.20 points per possession in all isolation situations, another
In addition to isolating in all the space that his teammate shooters affords him, Morant is also very adept at utilizing the on-ball pick to help create that extra bit of space and imbalance the opposing defense even further. Per Second Spectrum, Morant utilizes 50.0 picks per 100 possessions, the 10th-most in the NBA.
And, among those that utilize more, Morant’s strong 1.04 points per chance utilizing picks trails only Luka Doncic (1.13 points per chance) and James Harden (1.05 points per chance) among the top-10 pick users.
So, it’s clear that Morant isn’t doing it alone. His teammates help him maximize his game. But, in true symbiotic fashion, Morant’s ability to get into the paint and break down the opposing defense makes life much easier for his teammates as well.
Bane and Dillon attack defenses from downtown, averaging a combined 5.3 3s/game between them. Brooks is productive enough to be a starting flex in many FBA leagues (currently ranks 135th in my points rankings), but it’s Bane that packs the heavier punch.
Bane currently ranks 37th in my rankings, but was as high as 25th earlier in the season before injuries derailed him. Bane is getting healthy again, though, and should climb back up to where he was and potentially beyond. He is almost eerily accurate from long range, considering the volume that he shoots.
Bane’s 3.3 3PG would tie him for sixth-most among those with enough games played to qualify (so, notably, this doesn’t include Stephen Curry at present), but his 43.3 3P% is better than any other player in the top-45 in 3PG. And, this is clearly helped by playing next to Morant.
On offense, Jackson is another strong shooter (1.5 3PG, 36.8 3P%) that helps attack opposing defense and open up space for Morant. Both Jackson and Adams are also strong in the pick-and-roll/pop game with Morant. Per Second Spectrum, both Adams (1.20 points per possession) and Jackson (1.17 points per possession) generate excellent results as the screener for Morant.
But, their more important contributions to both the Grizzlies and fantasy basketball teams come on defense. Jackson’s 3.3 BPG would be leading the NBA if he had enough games to qualify, after he led the NBA last season with 2.3 BPG last season, and they are part-and-parcel for why Jackson has achieved a season-best 38th in my FBA points rankings.
Similarly, Adams is a vacuum on the glass (11.3 RPG), blocks shots (1.1 BPG) and disrupts with almost a steal per game as well. His nightly double-double potential on high efficiency with strong defense has him up to a season-best 101st ranking, knocking on the door to get into the top-100.
The Grizzlies are a true team in every sense of the word. It’s providing excellent results for their team on the court, but it also helps with their players’ fantasy basketball production and makes the Grizz one of the few teams in the NBA where all five starters are also potential fantasy basketball starters as well. As those of you that watched the cartoon knows, Voltron always wins in the end.