Is the Grizzlies’ Small Ball Lineup the Answer to Their Struggles?

Since going with a smaller lineup, Memphis has seen a big boost to their offensive efficiency.

The Memphis Grizzlies have had somewhat of a rocky start to the season.

With the rest of the league going small and playing at a faster pace, Memphis stuck to their guns to start the season and ran out that familiar starting front court of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.

However, after getting Randolph back from a short injury absence, the Grizzlies got blown out in three out of four home games against the Spurs, Thunder and Hornets, and they almost lost at home to the Suns in that stretch.

Apparently that was all it took for coach Dave Joerger to make a change, and over the last three games, the Grizzlies have been starting an altered starting lineup, sliding Jeff Green to the four and moving Matt Barnes into the starting unit at small forward.

The results haven’t amounted to much for their record at just 1-2 since the change, but the Grizzlies’ offense has seen a transformation, and the numbers back up the move toward a smaller and more offensively efficient starting five.

The Numbers

The most notable difference since the change to small ball has been the Grizzlies’ efficiency.

In their first 24 games, the Grizzlies had an Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) of 45.54 percent, and in the small three-game sample size since the change, that number has shot up nearly ten percentage points to 54.97 percent.

That even includes their poor shooting performance on Wednesday night against the Bulls, when they shot only 42 percent from the floor and 26 percent from three-point land.

The other biggest difference to bringing Randolph off the bench has been the Grizzlies’ increased pace of play.

With Z-Bo on the floor, the Grizzlies were playing at a snail's pace of 90.8 possessions per 48 minutes, and with him off the court that number increases to 98.1. Their eFG% increases by almost a full percentage point when he is resting as well. With the acquisition of Mario Chalmers earlier in the year, the move has also given the Grizzlies a nice 1-2 punch their bench was lacking when the season started.

With Randolph anchoring the middle and Chalmers running the point with the second unit -- with Courtney Lee, Green and Barnes -- good things are happening. The Grizzlies own an eFG% 14.6 percentage points better than their opponents and are an amazing 47.9 percentage points better from beyond the arc. That lineup is 37 points better as well.

The Grizzlies have also been much better this season with Tony Allen at shooting guard and Green and Barnes at the forward spots. Allen’s recent injury has forced Lee into the starting shooting guard role with this current group, but with Allen, Barnes, Green, Gasol, and Mike Conley, the Grizzlies have an eFG% 14.6 points better than their opponents and are 18.4 percentage points better from beyond the arc compared to their opponents. Memphis is also 25 points better with that lineup on the floor.

While some of Memphis’ problems have not been completely solved by the move, their defense has looked slightly better in those last three games, as they have given up 100 points or fewer after giving up 105 per game in the prior eight games before the lineup change.

It may be a work in progress once they are completely healthy with Allen back in the rotation, but this smaller lineup should be here to stay for Memphis because, at the very least, it has added some definite punch to an otherwise below average offense.