2014 Orlando Summer League: Memphis Grizzlies Roster Impressions

USA TODAY Sports

Semi-Bear breakdown!

The Grizzlies summer league in Orlando was by and large a positive one for the team and for Griz fans.  The summer league Grizzlies, under assistant coach Shawn Respert, played as cohesively as a team can with very little time or practice together.  They finished 3-2, losing in the championship game.

Your friends at GBB realize that not everyone has the time or desire to slog through 5 games of borderline NBA players playing largely disorganized basketball, so I have put together my impressions of the Grizzlies’ summer league players.  Please note that I did not include analysis on players who either did not play at all (Neils Giffey, Edwin Ubiles) or barely played (Justin Cobbs).

Jordan Adams

G Mins FG% 3FG% FT% Pts Reb Ast Stl Blk TO
Jordan Adams, SG 5 25.8 41.1% 38.9% 95.5% 14.8 3.4 2.4 2.2 0.4 2.2

Adams, the Grizzlies' first round draft choice, had a successful summer league.  One big item is that he showed a smoother shooting stroke than many thought he'd have. How often he hit from 3 was up and down, but the stroke seems to be there. His best and most prominent skill is getting to the line and making free throws.  This was a big part of his game in college and will likely be his most consistent ability in the NBA. The kid is a scorer.

Adams' athleticism will always be a limitation, but he already, at a few days over 20, has a great understanding of angles, positioning, and how to get himself and teammates good looks.  Defensively, he's a decent on-ball defender with great hands who likes to gamble.  He didn't really get blown by a lot defensively, but he was beaten by superior athleticism a few times.

Adams in the summer league seemed true to his scouting report - a streaky shooter with limited athleticism who gets to the line and really understands the game.  Announcers several times talked about him as 10-15 year NBA starter.  That remains to be seen, but he seems to have the talent to develop into that.

Jack Cooley

G Mins FG% 3FG% FT% Pts Reb Ast Stl Blk TO
Jack Cooley, PF 4 22.5 57.7% 60.0% 54.5% 9.8 4.8 0.0 0.5 0.3 2.0

Cactus Jack was the lone bright spot on last year's disappointing summer league team and was solid again this year.  He hustles and works hard but is undersized, unathletic and doesn't have a particular NBA-ready skill.  He's tough, tenacious and still just 23 so I wouldn't put it past him to make the NBA someday, but the skill set is not there right now.

Jarrid Famous

G Mins FG% 3FG% FT% Pts Reb Ast Stl Blk TO
Jarrid Famous, PF/C 5 11.0 47.4% 0.0% 100.0% 4.4 2.8 0.2 0.0 0.2 0.8

Famous showed flashes of being a serviceable big man, but that's always been the book on him - flashes of potential mixed in with a fair amount of mediocre play.  It's not that he doesn't work hard, it just never seems to come together for him.  He's a few days short of 26 and while he might end up with the D league Iowa Energy, time is running short for the big man to figure out his game.  Famous seems likely to end up back overseas for the best contract he can find.

Jamaal Franklin

G Mins FG% 3FG% FT% Pts Reb Ast Stl Blk TO
Jamaal Franklin, SG 5 24.2 29.2% 25.0% 75.0% 10.2 3.8 1.4 1.4 0.4 1.4

The Grindson had a rough summer league.  Outside of a strong showing against Houston's SL team (17 points, 6 rebounds, 56% shooting), Jamaal showed little.  He did have 5 steals in the first game, but that was largely the result of gambling and some good bounces.  In the Houston game, he played excellent on-ball defense for the majority of the game, harassing his man and causing several turnovers.

Offensively, his jumper was really off, there was no consistent flow or awareness to his game, and he didn't look like an NBA contributor.  Defensively, he showed stretches of earning the Grindson moniker but not consistently.  Franklin's future seems cloudier now than before.  He played well in the D league last year, so he may spend some time there again in '14-'15.

Joe Jackson

G Mins FG% 3FG% FT% Pts Reb Ast Stl Blk TO
Joe Jackson, PG 4 13.3 46.2% 0.0% 90.9% 5.5 1.8 0.5 0.8 0.0 1.3

The young man with the "King of Memphis" tattoo showed flashes of being able to use his quickness to get to the rim and be a pest on defense, but didn't look like a player who's close to contributing in the NBA.  He's a small score-first guard without elite scoring ability or real ability to create for others.  I want all the best for Joe, and right now I think his best course of action is to find a good contract overseas.

Kalin Lucas

G Mins FG% 3FG% FT% Pts Reb Ast Stl Blk TO
Kalin Lucas, PG 4 15.5 48.0% 33.3% 87.5% 8.3 2.5 1.8 0.5 0.0 1.3

Lucas is a little like Jackson in that he's a small guy who can really score.  At 25, Kalin has a few years' experience in the D League and elsewhere, and it shows.  He can create buckets for himself with ease but isn't a real distributor.  The ball stopped an awful lot with Lucas at point.  He doesn't offer much defensively, so you'd have to be sold that his scoring ability alone would help you win games.  I'm not, and I would be surprised if the Grizzlies are.  Seems like D league or overseas for Kalin.

Jarnell Stokes

G Mins FG% 3FG% FT% Pts Reb Ast Stl Blk TO
Jarnell Stokes, PF 5 26.6 44.9% 0.0% 81.0% 12.2 9.4 1.0 0.8 0.4 1.8

Another product of Hoop City, Grizzlies second round pick Jarnell Stokes was true to his scouting report - big, strong, physical and an excellent rebounder, finishing 2nd in Orlando in rebounds per game.  His rebounding ability and capacity to make free throws will earn him minutes right away.  His offensive game is limited - he has a hook shot and an inconsistent jumper, but that's about it.  Most of his points were of the garbage variety - putbacks, cuts to the rim, etc.  He did have one eye-opening one-handed reverse dunk of the day that showed more athleticism than many thought he possessed.

Defensively, Stokes is a solid if unspectacular post defender - he holds his ground and moves his feet to stay between his man and the bucket.  He doesn't have the quick leaping ability to ever be a shot blocker but gets his hands up and contests around the bucket, and seems to have the awareness to know when he's beaten and not foul for the and-one.  One glaring deficiency though, is the pick and roll and rotations.  Several times I watched Jarnell roll off a pick the wrong way, or get hung up on a pick, or not switch when he should, or not rotate out to cover a stretch 4.  That area of his game needs a lot of improvement.

Although our Joe Mullinax has taken to calling him J-Bo and there are similarities to Z-Bo's game, Stokes is not as polished in the post as I had hoped.  I hope that in the coming years he can develop that under Zach's tutelage. Stories are already coming out about Stokes spending long hours at the Grizzlies' practice facility so work ethic will not be a concern with this young man.  If he can improve his defensive rotations and develop that post game, he could be a double-double starter in a few years.  For now, he should have a niche as a warrior on the boards who will get you hustle points but will likely struggle to defend stretch 4's.

Deon Thompson

G Mins FG% 3FG% FT% Pts Reb Ast Stl Blk TO
Deon Thompson, PF 5 19.0 41.7% 0.0% 42.9% 6.6 3.8 1.2 0.0 0.0 0.6

I have to say, Deon Thompson got a lot more minutes than I really understand.  He has a decent mid-range game but has to be set and wide open for the shot to consistently go in.  His defense was not good at all, his rebounding was average, he couldn't make free throws, he's unathletic, and he managed to embarrassingly flub an open dunk in the championship game.  He did score 15 points on 7-10 shooting in the championship game, but I just don't see the makings of an NBA player here.  He will be 26 in a couple of months and is another candidate to return to an overseas contract.

Janis Timma

G Mins FG% 3FG% FT% Pts Reb Ast Stl Blk TO
Janis Timma, SF 2 9.0 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0 2.0 0.5 0.5 0.0 2.0

Oh, Janis.  You know you've had a bad summer league when:

  • You have more turnovers than points
  • Your 1 assist is the highlight of your run
  • You get DNP-CD'd 3 straight games. In the summer league.
  • You go 0-for-the-the-summer-league
It really went as badly as possible for Timma.  He showed zero NBA skills.  I didn't have particularly high hopes for him, but those who did have to be disappointed with his summer league performance.  He may turn into something some day, but he didn't look like anything this past week.

Okaro White

G Mins FG% 3FG% FT% Pts Reb Ast Stl Blk TO
Okaro White, SF 5 16.0 36.0% 25.0% 84.0% 8.2 2.6 0.8 0.6 0.2 1.4
Okaro White is intriguing.  He was not on my radar at all going into the summer league, but caught my eye the first game.  Okaro was actually projected around #68 this year, so he's a guy who's got second-rounder-ish ability.  He's 6'8" and 200 with about a 7 foot wingspan.  He's a long-strider with good speed and leaping ability, hustles, is a decent rebounder, and has a shooting stroke that produced a 38% 3 point clip his senior year.

There are reasons why he went undrafted though.  Okaro has no real way to make a shot for himself.  He can dribble a little but is better in catch and shoot or cuts to the basket.  If he was elite at either of those things that would be okay but he's not.  On defense, he guarded point guards on up to centers with maximum effort and a fair amount of effectiveness.  His one big weakness is lateral quickness.  The best way I can describe it is that he seemed to get frozen or locked in his stance at times when a quick player would go to a crossover or other lateral dribble move.

I really think he would benefit from spending some time in just working on defense and 3 point shooting.  A guy with his length, speed, leaping ability and hustle would be valuable if he could develop a consistent corner 3 shot and the ability to stay in front on those lateral moves.  For the Grizzlies' sake, I'd love that work to be done on the Iowa Energy D League team.  For Okaro, he might be better spending some time overseas, as I think it will take a few years to develop that ability.

Terrico White

G Mins FG% 3FG% FT% Pts Reb Ast Stl Blk TO
Terrico White, SG 4 13.5 54.5% 33.3% 0.0% 3.5 1.3 0.8 0.3 0.3 0.3
The second of our White wings, Memphis's own Terrico White didn't show me a lot in Summer League.  There were times when he and Okaro were on the floor together that I became legitimately confused by the uniform number because I forgot he was out there.  That's partly on me, but Terrico also just didn't do much.  The scouting report is great combo guard physical tools but passive and doesn't play up to them.  4 years into his pro career, I still have to echo that.

Scottie Wilbekin

G Mins FG% 3FG% FT% Pts Reb Ast Stl Blk TO
Scottie Wilbekin, PG 5 19.8 30.0% 14.3% 80.0% 3.4 1.2 4.8 2.2 0.2 1.0
Scottie Wilbekin is intriguing to me.  On one hand, he didn't show much in the way of scoring ability at the next level. His outside shot looks inconsistent and he struggled to finish when got to the bucket.  It seemed he would get there and the rim protection was just too much for him to adjust to.  He did hit his free throws when he made it to the line, but that wasn't a lot.  On the other hand, he was an excellent distributor, and it seemed to me that some of the scoring success his teammates (Adams, Stokes, Okaro White) had was directly due to how effortlessly the offense ran under Wilbekin's direction.

Defensively, Wilbekin is a Memphis type of player - hard-working, scrappy, harrassing - and he forced several turnovers.  He did get taken out on some picks, and the 168 pounds he carries on his 6'3" frame is less than ideal at the NBA level.  He seems wiry strong though, and some of those picks were glaring because of  poor rotations by his teammates that left shooters wide open.

Wilbekin is a true pass-first point guard with defensive grit.  He also seems to bring a confident and calm demeanor to the huddle.  I think some NBA team is going to value that enough to give him a contract to sit at the end of the bench and hope the scoring develops enough to allow the rest of his excellent point guard skills to shine. Depending on the final result of the Calathes situation, that team could be the Grizzlies.

_____________________________________________________

So there you have it: BCJ's take on 5 games in an Orlando gym.  As always, keep in mind that it's Summer League and that careers are unlikely to be decided on those games alone.  They're just a part of the picture.

I'm ready for some real basketball, how about y'all?

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