Projecting the NBA using xWARP: Memphis Grizzlies

Unlike yesterday when looking at the Knicks, today’s post looks at a team that actually has a chance at winning a championship, the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies have a tough road to a title, given how stacked the top of the Western Conference is but they have the talent to make a run. Last year, Memphis won 56 games in the stacked West, and this offseason, they added Mike Miller and his three point shooting to the mix, a much needed skill for a team that often struggles to find efficient offense. So what do Nathan Walker’s projected xRAPM numbers and my minutes projections suggest that the Grizzlies will do next year?

Memphis projects to win 54 games via this method. Why, given that they won 56 games last year and added a solid player, with a needed skill in Miller, do they project to win fewer games? Well, regression to the mean mostly. Mike Conley was absolutely incredible last year as a two way performer by xRAPM, posting a +3.05 on offense and a +2.04 on defense. This leap forward for Conley last season was well above anything he had previously done, and statistically speaking, it’s likely that he regresses a bit to something closer to his prior levels of performance. Marc Gasol projects to regress a bit, too, from his +6 xRAPM to a still excellent +5 next year. Zach Randolph figures to suffer a bit of age related decline. Ed Davis should improve, though, and that should mitigate some of the expected drop in Z-Bo’s productivity. All in all, Memphis projects to be a very tough team yet again next year and they could easily emerge from the Western Conference to compete in the Finals.

One thing to note is that the Grizzlies could potentially be much better or worse than this projection depending on how good a coach Dave Joerger turns out to be and whether he’s able to make better use of the team’s talents than Lionel Hollins did. If Joerger were able to maximize the talents of his players and minimize their flaws, their per minute productivity (as measured by xRAPM) could see an overall boost. I think Hollins is a fine coach, but Joerger has been truly excellent in his previous head coaching stints (he’s one of the most successful minor league basketball coaches ever), so there’s some possibility that Joerger could help the Grizzlies reach new heights. On the other hand, Joerger is a rookie at the NBA head coaching level and his education at this level could leave the Grizzlies a bit short of their potential. Given his prior success, I’d bet on Joerger to do well, but only time will tell.

Image from seandavis via Flickr.

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