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Memphis Grizzlies Roster News: Williams waived for Douglas, Wright returns tonight

Two very relevant pieces of Grizzlies news- one good, one potentially not so good.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

The Memphis Grizzlies have had an active 24-hours. Here’s the latest-

  • Mike Wallace of Grind City Media/ reported last night that Toney Douglas was going to be signed to a 10-day contract by the Grizzlies and that rookie Troy Williams was going to be waived to make room on the roster for Douglas.
  • Tim MacMahon of ESPN reported yesterday that Brandan Wright expects to make his season debut tonight for Memphis in Phoenix against the Suns.

The Wright news is welcome. Memphis has essentially been playing a three-man big rotation of Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, and JaMychal Green. While all three front court players have played well, Wright adds depth to a group that sorely needs it. JaMychal has a knee issue that has him questionable for tonight’s game, Zach Randolph is 35 and could perhaps use a slight minutes reduction, and Marc Gasol leads the Grizzlies in minutes played at 1619. A healthy, impactful Wright utilizing his athleticism and length to once again be an elite pick and roll big would be massive for Memphis, even in short bursts, off the bench.

The Williams/Douglas move is a bit more interesting, on multiple levels.

  • First, the hope of Grizzlies fans and others was that the Memphis front office was now firmly committed to developing young players. The hire of David Fizdale as head coach and the minutes Andrew Harrison has received were tangible examples of looking to the least that was the thought. While Harrison has struggled shooting (worst on the team among players who have played in more than 20 games at 31.5%), he has done well defensively and has been a steadying presence as a facilitator. He is a rookie, and was improving, but seems to have been out of the rotation of late.
  • Second, what does this say about the development of young players like Harrison players? Is Wade Baldwin IV that far behind that he needs to stay in Iowa with the D-League Energy? Does Harrison need someone like Douglas to push him? Is Williams, who was kept instead of former Grizzlies 1st-round pick Jordan Adams, less valuable now than a journeyman point guard who couldn’t make a Cleveland Cavaliers roster that NEEDS a back-up point gaurd? Or is Douglas, after a stretch earlier in the season with the Grizzlies where he played well at times, being looked at as a potential solution to a problem for the rest of the year in a potentially cold trade market?
  • Third, and this is most important, how much does this really move the needle in the here and now? Is Toney Douglas really that much better than Andrew Harrison? Also, Harrison is 22 years old, and Douglas is 30. Douglas is an almost finished product at this point, and Harrison is nowhere near that. If Douglas is to be more than just insurance for a raw Baldwin and struggling Harrison this season, how much does that make the Grizzlies better relative to just playing Harrison, or even Baldwin?

This in no way is meant as disrespect to Toney Douglas. His run with Memphis earlier this year clearly impressed Fizdale and his staff, as well as Grizzlies fans. There were folks that wanted to waive Brandan Wright for Douglas- that would have been a poor decision, but the sentiment is clear. Toney is viewed as potential help.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

But the trouble with that is, you are measuring potentially slight help in the here and now and taking that in exchange for limiting the long-term development of potentially three younger assets. Troy Williams may clear waivers and wind up in Iowa with the Energy again, but he also may be claimed by another team and therefore no longer under Memphis control. Andrew Harrison hopefully will remain the main back-up to Mike Conley, but Douglas may eat in to his minutes. And Baldwin, arguably the player with the highest upside of all three young talents, surely will remain in Iowa now, at least as long as Douglas is on the roster. Baldwin was recently called up, but once Douglas is officially back Baldwin will likely go back to the Energy.

The Memphis Grizzlies are as close to a playoff lock as you can be with a record of 27-20 on January 30th. Barring some health-related calamity (knocks on all the wood), this team is getting healthy and surely will not collapse as long as that health is maintained since the current eight seed in the West is well below .500. So if Douglas is not a game changer, why make this move?

Unless...waiving Williams and having Douglas for a 10-day contract opens up a roster spot once that deal expires, and the Grizzlies hope to be active on the trade market.

That is possible, and time will tell on that front. But for now, the good news of Wright’s return from injury is muted a bit by yet another short-term fix at potentially the cost of developing long-term potential.

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