One Team, One Stat -- Memphis Grizzlies hurt themselves by fouling opponents

NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2017-18 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Memphis Grizzlies, who couldn’t keep their opponents off the line.


Memphis Grizzlies’ opponents attempted 34.1 free throws for every 100 shots from the field last season.

Highest opponent free throw rate, last 5 seasons


That was the highest opponent free throw rate of the last five years.

The Grizzlies had a top-10 defense for the sixth time in the last seven years. They were one of two teams (San Antonio was the other) that ranked in the top 10 in opponent effective field goal percentage (seventh), opponent turnover rate (eighth), and defensive rebounding percentage (eighth).

But the most efficient way to score is at the free throw line and the Grizz have had a difficult time defending without fouling. They’ve ranked last in opponent free throw rate each of the last two years and last season, they allowed 2.4 more points per game at the line (20.2) than the league average (17.8).

That might seem like a big difference, but if Grizzlies opponents had a league average free throw rate (0.271) last season, Memphis would have allowed about 2.1 fewer points per 100 possessions (once you account for the additional turnovers and shots from the field their opponents would have had on the possessions they didn’t get to the line).

That would have made them the league’s third best defense instead of its seventh best defense. And it would have resulted in about seven more wins. There can be a fine line between good a great in the NBA.

The Grizzlies have had more issues on offense than defense over the last several years. They’ve scored fewer points per 100 possessions than the league average in nine of the last 10 seasons.

But fewer fouls would also benefit them on both ends of the floor, because they wouldn’t have to play against a set defense so often. Last season, the Grizzlies were one of four teams that took less than 10 percent of their shots in the first six seconds of the shot clock, when they had an effective field goal percentage of 60.0 percent (compared to 48.5 percent thereafter).

Grizzlies last five seasons


History: Season by season results | Advanced stats | Franchise leaders

2016-17: Team stats | Advanced splits | Player stats | Player shooting | Lineups

Playoffs: Team stats | Advanced splits | Player stats | Player shooting | Lineups


  1. One of three teams (Atlanta and San Antonio are the others) that has made the playoffs each of the last seven seasons.
  2. Only team that has ranked in the bottom five in pace in each of the last five seasons.
  3. Were outscored by 4.4 points per game on fast break points. Only Dallas (minus-5.9) had a worse fast-break-point differential.
  4. Won four games in which they had an effective field goal percentage of less than 40 percent. The rest of the league won four such games total.
  5. Were one of six teams that had a winning record (they were 6-3) when they were at a rest disadvantage (where they were playing the second game of a back-to-back and their opponent was not).
  6. One of four teams (Cleveland, Detroit and New Orleans were the others) that had the same number of wins as “expected wins,” based on their point differential. Their winning percentage in games that were within five points in the last five minutes (0.522) was almost even with their winning percentage otherwise (0.528).
  7. Were the only team that never lost after leading by double-digits in the first quarter, but did so only nine times. Only Dallas (eight) held fewer first-quarter, double-digit leads.

Grizzlies shooting stats


  1. Ranked last in field goal percentage, 2-point percentage, and field goal percentage in the restricted area.
  2. Took 31.6 percent (the 13th highest rate in the league) of their shots from 3-point range, up from 22.2 percent (the fifth lowest rate) in 2015-16. That was the fourth highest increase in 3PA/FGA.
  3. One of two teams (Brooklyn was the other) that was better offensively on the road than at home. Had the 27th best home offense (103.4 points scored per 100 possessions) and the 13th best road offense (105.9).
  4. 11.6 percent of their possessions were post-ups, the highest rate in the league.
  5. Had an effective field goal percentage of 34.6 percent, the worst mark in the league, on contested jumpers, according to SportVU. But 76.7 percent of their jumpers, the league’s second highest rate, were uncontested.

Grizzlies four factors


  1. Have ranked in the top eight defensively in six of the last seven years.
  2. One of only four teams that allowed fewer points per 100 possessions than they did in ’15-16. Ranked in the top five in regard to improvement in opponent effective field goal percentage (from 51.8 percent to 50.5 percent) and defensive rebounding percentage (from 75.1 percent to 77.7 percent).
  3. Had the third best defense (104.1 points allowed per 100 possessions) in games played within the Western Conference. Were worse defensively (105.2) against the East.
  4. Had the league’s biggest increase in DefRtg after the All-Star break. They ranked 4th defensively (102.8 points allowed per 100 possessions) before the break and 20th (108.8) after the break, finishing seventh overall. They regressed in regard to opponent shooting, defensive rebounding, and forcing turnovers.
  5. Their opponents attempted 1.7 times as many 3-pointers as mid-range shots, the second highest rate in the league.


  1. Their three most-used lineups were other four starters with either Chandler Parsons, Vince Carter or James Ennis at small forward. The lineup with Carter was more than 20 points per 100 possessions the other two.
  2. The Carter lineup outscored its opponents by 19.6 points per 100 possessions after the All-Star break, the second best mark among lineups that played at least 100 post-break minutes.
  3. Were outscored by 13.3 points per 100 possessions in 368 minutes with Conley off the floor after the break.
  4. Their four best raw plus-minus marks among two-man units belonged to four combinations of Conley and regular reserves (Carter, Zach Randolph, Troy Daniels and Brandan Wright), though those five guys played just 15 minutes together.


  1. Mike Conley recorded career highs in usage rate (26.3 percent), effective field goal percentage (54.5 percent) and true shooting percentage (60.4 percent). He was one of nine players with a usage rate over 25 percent and a true shooting percentage better than 60 percent.
  2. Conley shot 39.0 percent on pull-up 3-pointers, the third best mark (better than Stephen Curry) among 17 players who attempted at least 2.5 per game. In the playoffs, he shot 44.4 percent on pull-up threes.
  3. Tyreke Evans was one of nine players to play at least 750 minutes and average at least 18 points, six rebounds and five assists per 36, though he had the worst field goal percentage among the group.
  4. For the fourth straight season, Marc Gasol led the league in elbow touches per game, though his average has dropped each of the last three years, from 14.7 in 2013-14 to 10.9 last season.
  5. Gasol scored 4.6 points per game (third most in the league) as the roll-man on pick-and-rolls.
  6. Gasol made 104 3-pointers, almost nine times many as he made over his eight seasons in the league. Only six (2.2 percent) of Gasol’s 252 3-point attempts came from the corners. That was the lowest rate among 135 players that attempted at least 200 total threes.
  7. Andrew Harrison had an effective field goal percentage of 38.5 percent, the worst mark among 279 players who attempted at least 300 shots. He had the second worst field goal percentage in the restricted area among players with at least 100 attempts and the 11th worst 3-point percentage among players with 100 attempts.
  8. Chandler Parsons shot 24.4 percent from outside the restricted area, the second worst mark among 334 players with at least 100 outside-the-restricted-area attempts, ahead of only that of Andre Roberson (24.3 percent). Harrison (27.0 percent) had the fourth worst mark.

NBA TV’s Grizzlies preview premieres at 6 p.m. ET on Saturday, Sept. 30. See the full preview schedule here.