Memphis Grizzlies look to Jordan Adams for scoring

Mar 26, 2014; Memphis, TN, USA; UCLA Bruins guard Jordan Adams addresses the media after practice for the south regional of the 2014 NCAA Mens Basketball Championship at FedEx Forum. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into each offseason, the goal of every NBA team is to somehow make next season’s team better than last season’s team. It’s not rocket science. Every team has weaknesses, and front offices attempt to mitigate those and strengthen their squad through various avenues i.e. the draft, free agency, or trades. In the case of the Memphis Grizzlies, their biggest weaknesses have long been perimeter shooting and shot creation.

Last season, the Grizzlies ranked dead last in three-point attempts per game. Lacking multiple three-point threats has caused less than ideal spacing in recent seasons, and that has hurt the Grizzlies a great deal in the playoffs. This offseason, their leading three-point shooter, Mike Miller, departed for the Cleveland Cavaliers, leaving the Grizzlies an even bigger hole to fill in the way of perimeter shooting.

As for shot creation, the Grizzlies lacked a perimeter player outside of Mike Conley that could consistently create a good look for himself last season. Teams (read: Oklahoma City in the playoffs) realized that things broke down for the Grizzlies offense rather quickly when the ball was forced out of Conley’s hands, so they began hard trapping Conley and forcing others to beat them.

If the Grizzlies are to progress as a team and move a step closer to winning an NBA championship, these issues must be addressed. Luckily for the Grizzlies, they might have found a guy that can address both aforementioned areas of weakness in Jordan Adams, their first round pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.

In college, Adams wasn’t as flashy as some of his UCLA counterparts, but he consistently led the team in scoring. The twenty-year-old shooting guard can score in a variety of ways and from all areas of the floor. His shot chart in his final season at UCLA reflects that.

The major thing that stands out is how efficient Adams is from so many different areas on the court. He can shoot the three, pull up from mid-range, and finish at the rack all with excellent proficiency. To get a better feel for how Adams scores so easily from almost every area and how that will help the Grizzlies, his shots will be separately analyzed using three areas of the floor: perimeter, mid-range, and the post/paint.


Adams hasn’t always been a proficient three-point shooter. His freshman year, he shot a meager 30.7% from beyond the arc. As is demonstrated in the shot chart above, he still has work to do to improve his consistency from downtown. However, he improved a great deal from beyond the arc his sophomore season, shooting 35.6% while looking much more comfortable as a spot-up shooter. Furthermore, he hit 38.9% of his three-point attempts (small sample size) in the Orlando Summer League, which is indicative of his development in that area.

Beyond his continued development as a spot-up perimeter shooter, Adams is also an excellent mover off the ball while using screens, and this enables him to get loose from deep as well. Under head coach Dave Joerger, the Grizzlies utilize a bevy of down screens, flare screens, and back screens to create enough space to free perimeter shooters for open threes, and this will likely be a huge way Adams is used. In college, Adams struggled from deep when he didn’t have his feet set, so shooting threes off of screens is an area where improvement will be necessary.

The Grizzlies tried to add additional shooting this offseason by bringing in a savvy veteran in Vince Carter, but he alone won’t provide enough perimeter shooting for the Grizzlies to improve vastly in that area. They must be able to rely on Adams to step in and be a consistent threat from the three-point line. Based on his marked improvement as a perimeter shooter year-over-year in college and during his impressive summer league showing, there is no reason to believe Adams can’t be a guy that helps the Grizzlies space the floor properly and makes defenses pay for giving him space to fire from the perimeter.


Although the mid-range jumper is dying a slow death in the NBA, it remains a highly efficient shot for some players. Adams happens to be one of those players. Again, his impressive movement off the ball puts him in advantageous scoring situations. He’s excellent at catching the ball after curling off of a screen and getting his body turned towards the rim quickly for the shot. When he rises, he almost always adjusts himself to have the proper base and balance necessary to ensure a quality shot. His ability to catch and shoot rapidly while remaining under control will be a huge asset in the NBA, where there is just a milliseconds difference between an open and a contested shot. There was a curl play that Joerger fell in love with early last season, and it would suit Adams perfectly.


Grizzlies not named Mike Conley have struggled mightily at breaking their man down off the dribble, and many bad shots have ensued as a result. Adams is an adept ball-handler that is perfectly comfortable playing the role of primary ball-handler if that’s what is necessary. He’s not particularly explosive, but he possesses a quick first step and good ball-handling ability that enables him to cross his defender up and blow right by him to the rim. A big shooting guard at 6’5″, 209 pounds, he’s also able to use his sheer strength to muscle his defender out of the way and get to the rack.

When he gets to the rim, he’s both big and strong enough to absorb and finish through contact. The ability to draw fouls and get to the free throw line certainly has great value, and Adams has a knack for getting to the charity stripe. He’s not afraid of contact, and he proved it in summer league action, where he got to the line twenty-two times in five games.

The major criticisms of Adams heading into the draft were his body frame and lack of explosiveness. He worked hard on his body leading up to the draft and since the draft, and it’s been rumored that he has shed 10-20 pounds. It’s easy to wonder if losing that much weight, while allowing him to move quicker and ideally become more explosive on his jumps, will hurt his finishing ability at the rim. He had several “and-ones” during summer league play, and he continued to throw himself directly into contact as he always has. If he can continue to draw contact and get to the line at a high rate while being able to run up and down the court with more ease and finish above the rim with regularity at the same time, then that’s a huge plus for the Grizzlies.

Adams’ size, or more accurately his girth, gave him a distinct advantage over many shooting guards in college. Despite limited opportunities on the block, he demonstrated a polished post up game in college. He has a nice turnaround jumper, and his exceptionally long arms create mismatches for smaller shooting guards. Coach Joerger could easily throw a wrinkle into his offense to get Adams post touches, although that won’t be a major priority from day one.

Considering that Adams is a rookie on a playoff team with a crowded backcourt, he might not be called upon often. It certainly wouldn’t be a bad thing for him to learn the ropes sitting behind Carter and Allen while he adjusts to the NBA game, particularly defensively. Adams showed excellent ball-hawking abilities in college, leading the Pac-12 in steal percentage in both of his collegiate seasons. Getting to learn from a master of pestering defense like Allen could really pay dividends for his two-way game.

Most importantly though, he can contribute immediately on offense. The Grizzlies could desperately use more three-point shooting and creativity on the ball, and Adams could be just the man to provide both.