The Memphis Grizzlies have jumped out to a 2-0 record to start the Summer League season in Las Vegas, Nevada. The young Grizzlies have played well so far in the most important summer league in recent memory for the franchise. With the beginning of a new era unfolding in Memphis, roster spots and rotation minutes are up for grabs, and some of the players we’re watching in July could become key contributors for the Grizzlies come October.
Eight out of the sixteen players on the Grizzlies summer league roster have a realistic chance of making the Grizzlies’ opening day roster and earning real NBA minutes. In part 1 of GBB’s Summer League Takes, I’m going to examine the play of four players who have stood out to me so far. As always, we must be cautious with summer league play since it does not always translate to NBA success (shoutout Josh Selby).
Wayne Selden already has his roster spot guaranteed after signing a two-year contract this offseason. Selden’s play this summer has shown he wants more than just a roster spot, and is now making Grizz fans wonder if he’ll end up the starter at shooting guard come late October. He’s lit up the scoreboard in Vegas, averaging 24.5 points (48.5% shooting) 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals per game. In both games Selden has been by far the best player on the court. While everyone was rusty in Saturday’s win over the Wizards, Selden took over and carried the Grizzlies to victory.
His solid defense was expected considering he looked like a fine defender to finish out last season, but I wasn’t expecting him to be this efficient of a scorer. He’s been solid from beyond the arc, going 6-11 so far, but my favorite has been his willingness to listen to Summer League Coach Glenn Cyprien and Coach Fizdale. When either coach yells for the team to push the pace, Selden gets the ball and makes a B-line for the basket, often resulting in a layup or free throws. He’s been the leader of this Summer League team and has more than earned his roster spot. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Grizzlies shut him down after tonight’s game and will let him battle for rotation minutes and potentially a place in the starting lineup when training camp rolls around.
Jarell Martin should be in the same position Wayne Selden is in. He’s the oldest of the eight players with a realistic shot at getting rotation minutes with the Grizzlies and has the insane athleticism that should allow him to excel in these pick-up style games. Unfortunately for Martin, inconsistency has plagued him throughout his career. In the first game against Washington, Martin shot poorly, was ineffective on defense, and picked up 8 personal fouls. He then turned around and dropped 21 points and 10 rebounds in the win over the Kings. Martin was clearly more aggressive in the second game against the Kings, attacking the basket in the pick-n-roll and hitting a few mid-range jumpers to keep the defense honest.
This is a big summer for Jarell. He could be getting valuable minutes off the bench at power forward with the departure of Z-Bo, and could even end up starting depending on what happens with JaMychal Green. That’s a very scary sentence right now if you’re a Grizz fan. You have to like what you saw in Sunday night’s win against Sacramento, but you have to also be worried that you’ll see more performances like you did against Washington. The Grizzlies will need more consistency from Martin if he hopes to stick with the team.
If his up and down performances continue, Martin may not even be a Grizzly come October.
Wade Baldwin IV
This summer is also a big one for Wade Baldwin. Andrew Harrison had his moments as the Grizzlies backup point guard last year, but he didn’t do anything that makes him irreplaceable. After a year of learning in the D-League and brief stints with the NBA squad, Baldwin has a great opportunity to jump Harrison in the lineup and take the backup point guard spot.
So far this summer Baldwin has looked much like he did last year. He’s extremely careless with the ball and his jumper isn’t good. However, he’s great at attacking the rim and drawing contact to get to the line. My biggest concern with Baldwin is his lack of playmaking. He’s only tallied up 5 assists and it never seems like he’s trying to create for others when he’s out there. Baldwin will get the chance to compete with Harrison for the backup point guard role in training camp, but if he can finish the summer league strong he can walk into camp with momentum on his side.
If you look at the stats, Dillon Brooks hasn’t had a great summer so far. He’s 4-14 from the field, but he’s made up for his poor shooting with solid defense. He’s aggressive and confident in his shot, but doesn’t really force shots like J.R. Smith does. He had a nice rebounding day against Washington, grabbing 5 rebounds, but then couldn’t even grab 1 against Sacramento. He had 2 assists against the Kings but couldn’t register 1 against the Wizards. Brooks will need to really focus on becoming a consistent rebounder or facilitator if he wants to get playing time this season. He’s got the size to be a point-forward or a stretch four but he’ll need to rely on more than his streaky shooting to be a valuable NBA player.
It hasn’t shown yet, but Summer League is the ideal style of play for Brooks to succeed. Since it’s more of a pick-up game, Brooks should be able to take over offensively if he gets hot since the defenses aren’t going to be as set as they will be in the NBA. Look for the Grizzlies to try and get Brooks going one of the upcoming games the way they did Jarell on Sunday.
None of these players are going to turn the Grizzlies into contenders to the Warriors throne, but they all figure to be key parts of the Grizzlies future plan in a post-Warriors era. Other than Selden, it’s too early to tell which players will step up and separate themselves from the competition but they will all be given the opportunity to prove themselves as summer league moves on.