The Memphis Grizzlies wrapped up Summer League play this past week, and now that the dust has settled and the NBA offseason has officially entered its early doldrums, we can catch our breath and take a look at who shined (and who shied away from the moment) in Memphis’ five Summer League contests.
Now it’s important to keep in mind that the Memphis Grizzlies Summer League should not be judged solely by their record of 2-3. The fact that these younger players, alongside a veteran like JaMychal Green, got a week or so of practice in with new Head Coach David Fizdale and his staff is just as important...perhaps even more important, than the performance in those games. The players who are key pieces of the Grizzlies’ future - Wade Baldwin IV, Andrew Harrison, and Deyonta Davis (who was out due to Plantar Fasciitis but still signed a multi-year deal) were out learning Fizdale’s schemes and developing chemistry. That is, while not discussed in the following observations, ultimately what matters most about the Grizzlies time in Vegas.
So what have we learned?
Vince Hunter and Levi Randolph Deserve NBA Training Camp Invites...Just Not in Memphis.
The numbers game is a cruel, cruel beast. Vince Hunter finished Summer League play with the ninth highest PER among eligible players according to RealGM, and he played for the LA Clippers Summer League team in Orlando as well as the Grizzlies squad in Las Vegas. The 6’8” forward out of UTEP showed real scoring efficiency at times for Memphis, earning more minutes as the Summer League went along and scoring 17 and 18 points in two of the last three Grizzlies games in Vegas. He rebounded well (earning a double-double in a loss against Minnesota) and showed the ability to get to the free throw line in a win against Milwaukee as well.
Levi Randolph, in the meantime, shot the lights out in Vegas. After playing for Philadelphia in the Utah Summer League, Levi was 59.5% from the floor overall and a scorching 63.6% from beyond the arc, and he did this over five games, averaging 26.4 minutes per game. The 6’5” guard from Alabama protected the ball and did not miss a free throw the entire Summer League (9-9) - that is impressive.
Hunter has size enough to play multiple forward positions, and he should find himself in some NBA team’s training camp in the fall. Randolph showed the ability to be a lights out shooter. But with Memphis already carrying so many larger forwards and wings, it is unlikely that a camp invite will come from the Grizzlies for either player.
It is possible of course - trades may still occur, making the roster perhaps more friendly for a player with Hunter’s size and skill set, or Randolph’s shooting touch. As of now, though? Hunter and Randolph likely won’t be Grizzlies beyond Sin City.
D.J. Stephens is Coming to Grizzlies Camp, and He Damn Well Should
What else can be said about this young man that hasn’t already been said on this site and elsewhere? His athleticism and explosiveness have never been in question - those skills are on display with every high-flying dunk and earth-shattering block he executes - but whether D.J. could take that talent and make himself a basketball player worthy of the NBA? Very much an uncertainty when Stephens left the University of Memphis years ago.
Now? A reliable three-point stroke, consistent footwork, and understanding of defensive scheme on the perimeter make Stephens a real threat to make the Grizzlies’ 2016-2017 roster. It’s still an uphill battle, but where Hunter’s size makes him unlikely for Memphis, Stephens’ makes him much more likely. The Grizzlies need a wing with athletic ability who can hit threes and defend multiple positions on the end of their bench.
Why not D.J. Stephens?
JaMychal Green’s Vegas Value was Between Games
Remember when I said the practices were probably more important than the games for this crew and coaching staff? Enter JaMychal Green, a now veteran member of the Grizzlies rotation, the member of the Memphis roster who played in the most games last season surely did not need game reps in this Summer League. Where his skills were best used was surely on the practice floor, providing invaluable experience and competitive looks in drills for the guys who would be getting those in-game minutes.
Green played in two games and averaged 15.5 minutes in those games and blah blah blah...who cares? JaMychal proved he could play in this league last season. His role on this team was to be that role model for these younger players, and whether or not that was successful is known by the coaches and players who worked in those practice sessions.
Wade Baldwin IV is Talented, but Raw
...which can be said of most rookies, right? There were moments of tremendous execution where Baldwin looked every bit the player that we hoped he would be when Memphis took him in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft:
El novato, Wade Baldwin con el Dunk!! pic.twitter.com/bddTkFl7KR— Espacio NBA (@Espacionba_) July 11, 2016
There were examples of his vaunted wingspan creating turnovers and issues for opposing offenses. There were times when he looked like he could be a key player for Memphis early in his career with the Grizzlies. Then, there were times when he looked out of sorts. He averaged 3.3 turnovers in his four Summer League games, versus only 2.5 assists. He did not make a single three point shot, and shot 28.6% from the floor overall. He struggled mightily at times, and that is certainty worthy of note.
It isn’t worthy of concern as of yet, however. Baldwin has a ways to go, but the tools are there. David Fizdale was hired to develop talent. Wade Baldwin IV will be an early test of that.
Andrew Harrison is Vastly Improved, but Still Has a Ways to Go
When Harrison was taken in the second round of the 2015 NBA Draft, it was widely assumed he would essentially be a domestic draft-and-stash, a player who would spend a full year in the NBA’s D-League with the Memphis Grizzlies’ D-League affiliate, the Iowa Energy. He wasn’t ready for the NBA, but he was a player with a good frame and skill set who could use the game time and reps in Iowa to get ready to perhaps contribute starting in 2016.
That plan looks to be unfolding slowly but surely. Harrison struggled from the floor much like Baldwin did (23% overall, 15% from three) but again, those percentages don’t tell the whole story. Harrison attacked the basket aggressively and converted free throws at a consistent clip (84%) while creating for others out of sets designed by Fizdale. He did not play to his capabilities, but he showed flashes that are cause for optimism.
Now, for Baldwin and Harrison both, that development needs to kick up a notch or two. They as of now look to be potentially very important backups to Mike Conley in 2016-2017, and they must play much better overall than they did in Vegas to make that a comfortable reality. Between their coaches, frames, and athleticism, however, they should be given every chance to succeed.