The Grizzlies have never had a problem with their identity. Grit n’ Grind is as synonymous with their front-court heavy attack as any system in the NBA, and unlike most squads in the Association, their year-on-year personnel consistency is only really rivaled by the Spurs. And it’s not like they haven’t achieved a large measure of success playing this way, either. They made the Western Conference Finals three years ago, and were up 2-1 on the defending champion Warriors in the Western Conference Semifinals last year. After re-signing Marc Gasol over the summer, and with two years still left on Zach Randolph’s deal, their primary Goliath’s on the low-block aren’t going anywhere soon. But they’ve also got a lower ceiling than most top-tier teams out West, and it all stems from their inability to space the floor, or consistently knock down an outside shot.
Enter Mario Chalmers.
The former whipping boy for the Big Three in Miami was dealt to the Grizzlies less than two weeks into the current NBA season. Not-so-coincidentally, after starting the year 3-6, they’ve gone 4-0 since dealing for Chalmers on Nov. 11. And the biggest reason why is the same thing that’s plagued Memphis since becoming the Grit N’ Grind smash-mouth of the West: three-point shooting.
Listen, this is a terrifically small sample size, and there might be deadline deals in February that catapult a team to the 2016 NBA Title. But right now, in the 10 days since ‘Rio joined the Grizzlies crew, it’s the best trade of the season.
He’s shown that he can go off, and lets not forget how instrumental he was as the starting point guard on a Heat team that went to the NBA Finals four years in a row and captured two titles. He had some huge games in the 2012 opposite Russell Westbrook, and in 2013 he appeared permanently stuck in Tony Parker’s craw when the Spurs attack was still predicated on TP’s pick-and-rolls with Tim Duncan.
Now, he’s airing it out for Memphis as Mike Conley’s backup, but also as an additional wing who can handle the ball and stroke it from deep (7-for-13 in four games, or 53.8 percent). Again, small sample size, but the Grizzlies are +32.4 when Conley and Rio share the court, per NBA.com
Will his addition prove fruitful over the long haul? Nobody knows, but for right now, he’s been the perfect elixir for what plagued Memphis to start the year.