This roster will not produce, no matter what combination you pick.

GBB’s own Joe Mullinax wrote an article yesterday about how the deep the woes run for this year’s Memphis Grizzlies. Definitely read it, but I’ll spoil it a little bit. Essentially, early season injuries and under-performance have hamstringed this team, no matter what coach is at the helm.

So considering the injuries that have consistently been a problem in recent Grizz history (Grizztory?), the scramble of lineups getting playing time spreads wide and far. For perspective, here are some interesting statistics-

There are 792 possible lineups that can be created using a 12-man roster in the NBA (assuming the same 12 players on the roster are the same for the whole season, any math further than that is way over my head). So far this season, the Grizzlies have used 250 different lineups, ranging from one minute of use to 115 minutes. There are 64 lineups that have logged eight minutes or more, 13 that have played 19+ minutes, and seven for 50+ minutes.

There are a few things to note from the wide array of lineups- after all, Memphis’ coaches have used approximately 32% of all possible lineups with this team.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Los Angeles Clippers
Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

First, no one, including the coaches, really knows what lineup works best together on a consistent basis. Some lineups may take precedent in certain games because of matchups, but there is no lineup that is being used in dominant fashion. Considering that there are 64 lineups that have played together at least eight minutes, Head Coach J.B. Bickerstaff is doing his best to mix up the pieces he inherited.

There would be a code red, high alert concern if either coach (David Fizdale or Bickerstaff) was not trying to change things up after it is obvious the plan isn’t working. Fortunately, Bickerstaff especially, is doing his best to fix what is broken within each lineup. Also, to play devil’s advocate, Bickerstaff has had to change lineups largely due to injury, not by choice. Either way, he is still mixing things up.

Sadly, nothing is working. Of the 7 lineups that have logged 50+ minutes, the average net rating is -4.8. The lowest of which is -35.8, and the highest is 11.9. Below is a list of the lineups used with their net ratings.

There is one truth that is certain so far for the Grizzlies – they are consistently bad. One way to see this on the stat sheet, highlighted first by Ross Jarrar’s Week-12 Weekside Help, is the PACE of each lineup. This is an estimated number of possessions per 48 minutes for a given lineup. Looking at the 13 lineups that have logged 19+ minutes, only three lineups have a pace over 100. For context, a pace of 100 would be 10th in the NBA currently.

The Grizzlies play so slow (the slowest PACE in the league actually) and there aren’t many combinations on this roster that solve that problem. The league is leaving the Grizzlies behind, literally.

The second slowest lineup of 19+ minutes just so happens to be the lineup used most often. Coincidence? I think not. The following lineup has a pace of 90.46 (which would be 4 possessions slower than the lowest in the NBA right now) and has been used in 14 games for 115 minutes: Dillon Brooks, Tyreke Evans, Mark Gasol, JaMychal Green, and Andrew Harrison.

(Also note that the most used lineup on this roster has only been used in 14 out of 39 games – talk about changing things up!)

That same lineup shoots 49% from the field, 39% from three, and has a net rating of (6.7). Those stats are not horrible, but the problem lies in what that lineup consists of. Evans is obviously carrying this lineup scoring-wise, Gasol contributes average stats, and then it falls off significantly. Andrew Harrison should never be a part of the most productive lineup on a roster.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Sacramento Kings
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

To further push the randomness of this team, the next most productive lineup that doesn’t include Mike Conley is totally different. The following lineup has a pace of 100.75 and has been used in nine games for 71 minutes: Dillon Brooks, Mario Chalmers, Tyreke Evans, Chandler Parsons, and Brandan Wright.

So there are only two similarities of this lineup, one of which (Brooks) contributes very little statistically on either end of the floor. The point is, there is no rhyme or reason to this season other than the fact that Tyreke Evans is playing really well.

Also noteworthy are the players that the coaching staff is purposely staying away from, especially recently. Ben McLemore has been shown the door (minutes wise), clocking a goose egg (zero minutes) in five of the last seven games. Mario Chalmers, sans the last two games, was being essentially replaced by Kobi Simmons. Chalmers has made a recent comeback, playing well in the Clippers and Wizards games. In the previous 5, he recorded two DNPs, averaging 10 minutes a game.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Golden State Warriors
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kobi Simmons came on strong in the month of December, though with the return of Wayne Selden, Simmons and Andrew Harrison both have seen dips in playing time. Simmons has logged 11 total minutes in the last two games.

Other situations could be discussed: the disparity in playing time of Jarell Martin and Deyonta Davis or what the heck the role of James Ennis III is, but all come to the same conclusion.

No one knows what to do with this roster.

Perhaps the underlying strategy here is to keep opponents confused when preparing for each game, Grizzlies basketball is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re gonna get. And it doesn’t seem like the coaching staff has adopted the tanking strategy yet, at least not willingly.

So as fans, we as fans we should take games for what they are, random concoctions of poorly manufactured roster.


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