Fantasy Hoops: Grizzlies, Wolves, Hawks

The 2016/17 campaign is entering its eighth week and Hoops Rumors is examining the fantasy basketball landscape in order to help you dominate the competition.  Check back weekly for more fantasy basketball analysis.

The Grizzlies Keep Grinding

Memphis underwent drastic changes during the offseason with an eye on playing faster. The team brought in several athletic wings and moved Zach Randolph to the bench. David Fizdale‘s arrival in Memphis was supposedly going to change the basketball culture, transitioning the team to a style of play that fits in with the modern NBA.

The Grizzlies are again winning games this season, but it’s not because of a change in style of play. It’s because the team is reverting to its old identity. One of the keys to the Grizzlies’ success is their suffocating defense, as they showcased in their blowout win over the Warriors on Saturday night. Memphis leads the league in defensive efficiency and entering Tuesday’s contests, the team was tied for the league lead in opponent field goal percentage, allowing just 43.1 % of opposing shots to hit the bottom of the net.

The team’s slow, methodical style of play helps the defense arrive at these outstanding metrics. Entering Tuesday, Memphis’ pace factor is 95.7, which is identical to its factor last season. As a result, opposing teams are seeing less offensive opportunity against the Grizzlies than they are against most other teams.

Opposing centers are having a particularly hard time against the team this season, something that comes at no surprise given Marc Gasol‘s defensive ability. Memphis is allowing just 14.1 points to opposing centers, a figure which leads the league, according to Rotowire. Opposing centers are only making 45.4% of their shots, which ranks second in the league, and Memphis is causing opposing centers to turn the ball over 3.7 times per contest (only the Rockets and Suns cause more turnovers to the position).

With a different version of their grit and grind team, the Grizzlies are thriving yet again this season. Despite all the injuries, the team remains a defensive force; one to avoid in fantasy basketball match-ups.

Here’s more fantasy analysis from around the league:

  • The Grizzlies are utilizing Gasol more than ever this season, as his career high 26.9 usage rate indicates. He’s averaging career highs in points (19.9) and assists (4.1) per game and he’s added the 3-ball to his arsenal, knocking down 1.6 shots per game from behind the arc. Those are great numbers, but his play while Conley has been out has been even more remarkable. Over his last six games (contests in which Conley has been sidelined), he took control of the offense, averaging 25.5 points and 5.3 assists per game, while shooting 50.9% from the field. He’ll likely maintain this role while Conley misses games, so he’ll be even more valuable to fantasy owners over the next several weeks.
  • Ricky Rubio, whom Dana Gauruder of Hoops Rumors profiled as a trade candidate, remains a plus defender, per ESPN’s Real Plus/Minus, but he hasn’t been as effective on that end of the floor as he’s been in the past. In fact, the Wolves haven’t defended opposing point guards very well lately. Minnesota has allowed the most points to the position over the last ten games and opposing point guards are shooting 49.8% from the field during that span, a figure that ranks fourth worst in the league.
  • The Hawks are having their own issues guarding opposing point guards. Over the last ten games, Atlanta has been an excellent match-up, allowing the most rebounds, the second-most points, and the seventh-most assists per game to the position.
  • Last week, we discussed Jeremy Lin‘s potential fantasy impact. On Monday, Lin returned to the court and had a solid game, notching 10 points and seven assists in 20 minutes of action. He’ll likely remain on a minute count, but it won’t be long until he regains the Nets’ starting point guard spot. He’s still available in over 40% of ESPN leagues; Pick him up if he’s available in yours.

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