There are things in life that you can never have enough of. Money, time and health are great examples of things that can be limited in supply but wonderful to have in excess. In the NBA, you can add versatile and athletic wing players to that list. The ability to play and defend multiple positions can be cost-effective and allow for teams to vary line-ups to best take advantage of weaknesses in their opponents. This thought process can explain the Grizzlies disregarding their need for long range shooting in the draft and taking Jamaal Franklin out of San Diego State. The only player in the country this past season to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists and steals, Franklin fell from a projected last-1st round pick to the Grizz at 41 overall, and arguments for that include a bad attitude and temper.
This is not an assessment of Jamaal Franklin the prospect or draft pick. Andrew Ford did a wonderful job of covering that aspect of Franklin here. The question at hand is where Jamaal fits on this team now and in the future. The Grizzlies plan on contending for a NBA title this season, and rookies rarely make a big impact on a roster as proven as the Grizzlies, much less second round picks. But Franklin is considered a player who could impress and push for time this season. So, if Jamaal improves his shooting touch and is the "Grindson" who Jason Levien hopes he will be, how can he help the Grizzlies this coming season and in the future?
DEVELOPMENT- For players like Jamaal, minutes are key early on in their careers. And minutes, on a roster including Jerryd Bayless, Quincy Pondexter, Tony Allen, Tayshaun Prince and Mike Miller may be few and far between at first. Therefore, he should spend a good chunk of this season with the Grizzlies D-League affiliate, the Mad Ants, so he doesn't rot on the end of the bench. On the other hand, he could use big-league competition both in practice and in games, plus coaching from Joerger and company. Whenever there is an injury, of a stretch of multiple games in a week (4 or more), Franklin should spend that week or so with the Grizzlies. Miller should have games off anyway, and you can argue that fewer minutes for Tayshaun and Tony in select games would benefit their general health through the season. Franklin's versatility would be a big benefit during the dog days of January and March.
WHAT IF HE'S "THE GRINDSON" BY JANUARY?- There's a chance Jamaal could show out in camp, spend a majority of his time with the Grizzlies and prove he is capable of meaningful rotation minutes sooner than anticipated. If that is the case, it opens up a world of possibilities. Franklin and Quincy Pondexter could man the back-up wing positions soundly, with Mike Miller filling in at spots. With Jerryd Bayless on an expiring deal and being player who could help elsewhere in the league, he could be moved to add to a draft stock pile or added on to a trade involving other pieces like Tayshaun Prince or Zach Randolph/Ed Davis. The Grizzlies continue to need shooters; whether it is through upgrading with a bench shooting wing and starting Q-Pon or a starter so Q can stay the 6th man, the growth of Franklin would enable the Grizzlies to try to upgrade the shooting department moving forward.
THE HEIR TO "GRIT AND GRIND?"- Tony Allen recently signed a 4 year contract to stay in Beale Street Blue. Given the fact he is quickly becoming a Memphis legend, he will likely stay through that deal. But as it was said in the movie "Moneyball", at some point we all stop playing the child's game. Jamaal could very well be the answer long term at the shooting guard position. In 4 years Franklin needs to better develop his game all around, working on his shooting touch and offensive skill set. Defensively, he will have no better mentor than Tony Allen to teach him timing, positioning, harnessing his intensity for the good of the team and the film study needed to be the best perimeter defender in the NBA. Franklin has the physical gifts to be better than Tony Allen, but in order to ascend to the throne he will need to be willing to humble himself and learn and grow for the next few seasons.
Jamaal Franklin at 41 overall is indeed a steal. But how he impacts the upcoming season is really up to him. If he is in great shape and ready to play, he can push for minutes right away and possibly lead to a deal for shooters down the road. If he is not prepared for the intensity of the NBA and shows the side that cause him to drop in the draft, he can develop in the D-League and improve his game more gradually while the Grizzlies contend without him. Regardless of the timing in the immediate future, Jamaal will likely be counted on as the future starting shooting guard when Tony Allen leaves/retires.
Opportunity is knocking for Jamaal Franklin. He can either answer and become a key cog in the Memphis machine for years to come, or go the way of Tony Wroten and be shipped out of town due to a lack of work ethic and a bad attitude. Is he a future starter, or future trade for a 2nd round pick? Only time, and the grind, will tell...
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