The last meeting in the 2016-17 season between the LA Clippers and the Memphis Grizzlies came in March. The Clippers dusted the Grizz 114-98 on March 9. Scanning through the stats of that game as the two prepare to meet again early in 2017, one stat stands out. And it’s something that still separates these two teams from the NBA majority. Both teams employ big men who play with their backs to the basket in Marc Gasol and Blake Griffin. (Yes, both guys face up — Griffin does it plenty — but they are still big post players.) And both men excel at passing the ball. Indeed in the last matchup Griffin and Gasol led their teams in assists with 8 and 5 respectively.
Last year Gasol averaged a career-high 4.6 assists per game for the Grizzlies along with 19.5 points. Griffin was even better, averaging 4.9 assists per game in 2016-17. Gasol grew up playing the international game in Europe like his older brother, fellow NBA star Pau Gasol. European basketball has long placed a premium on passing for big men, going all the way back to the passing genius of Arvydas Sabonis. Griffin is, not surprisingly, a coach’s son. Clippers v. Grizzlies, November 4, 3:30 ET on NBA League Pass.