It’s no surprise that the Memphis Grizzlies are essentially working with a seven man roster at the Las Vegas Summer League. Eight if Ivan Rabb can play in the Grizzlies’ second round game tonight against the Phoenix Suns.
Six of those guys already have contracts—Rabb and Dillon Brooks are the holdouts with only one two-way contract left and two roster spots available (and the fate of JaMychal Green still up in the air). Four played with the big club last year, three will be second-year players, one will be a third-year player and another was a starter in the playoffs.
These factors, one would think, would contribute to a team which looks and plays better than its relatively less seasoned opponents. And if you look at the team’s record of 3-0 and it’s first round bye in the Summer League tournament bracket, then one may believe that the team has actually been significantly better.
But the fact of the matter is, they haven’t. They blew multiple double digit leads against the Washington Wizards in the fourth quarter of their first game, only to prevail on the shoulders of Wayne Selden’s clutch 28 points. They beat the Sacramento Kings by just six after being up 17 in the third, and had to take the Jazz to overtime to defeat it.
And before I go any further, I know. It’s Summer League. It could barely matter less. And believe me, I’m taking these performances with heaps of salt. So you should take the rest of what I’m going to say with a lot of nonchalance and eye rolling.
The Grizzlies have underwhelmed in Summer League, almost to a man. With the exception of Selden, no player has shown any sort of consistency, which, to be fair, is normal for Summer League and especially for the newest guys like Brooks, Rade Zagorac and Kobi Simmons. And without Selden, this team would be straight up terrible.
That’s because the play of the remaining three players has been mostly uninspiring when it should be at the very least a little better than that.
Of the three, Jarell Martin has been the best insomuch as he is the only one to have a standout game. Against the Kings he was a game-high scorer with 21 points on 50 percent shooting and added 10 rebounds in a win.
But outside of that game he’s been mostly nonexistant. Overall he’s shooting 34.2% while scoring 14.3 points per game, both south of where you’d expect them to be, especially for a third-year player. And while he’s rebounded the ball well (eight per contest) and been generally active on the offensive end, his penchant for fouling (4.7 per game—12th in Summer League per Real GM) and midrange jumpers have hindered him thus far.
When watching Martin, he’s clearly one of the biggest, strongest dudes out there. And while he doesn’t have a quick first step, he should be able to bore full steam ahead to the basket against smaller, unprepared defenders. He’s had three years of NBA strength and conditioning to bulk up—no one should be able to stop him, such as on this transition bucket against the Wizards.
Against the Kings, he was aggressive in driving to the rim resulting in his best game yet. But against Washington and Utah, and to an extant Sacramento as well, he settled for midrange jumpers that have plummeted his field goal percentage. Weak takes to the hoop have also hurt his shooting (though they at least have earned him a decent amount of trips to the line—seven per game, good for top 20 in Vegas).
The same cannot be said for Wade Baldwin IV, who seems at his best when driving—half the time recklessly—into the lane.
Baldwin’s per game averages of 15.3 points on 33.3 percent shooting with 6.7 boards and 3.3 dimes actually aren’t bad (except for the FG%). But extrapolated to per 36 minutes—props to Real GM for these sweet Summer League stats—his scoring barely cracks the top 100 players in Summer League while his rebounding, though very solid for a point guard, doesn’t hit the top 100 at all.
When he gets into the paint you’re left with either a feeling of excitement or a feeling of disgust by the end of the play. He can turn the corner on a pick and roll and elude defenders on the way to a suave layup in traffic or he can careen out of control into a ready defender and cough up the ball, like so.
Here Baldwin takes advantage of his man playing too far out on the perimeter and blows by him. The help defense rotates over to impede his progress and instead of finding Deyonta Davis on the backdoor cut, he forces a shot up over the bigger defender hoping to draw a foul. While the 21-year-old has shot the tenth most foul shots per game this summer, he gets stonewalled here and coughs up the rock.
Here Baldwin unwisely attempts a one-on-three in transition, throwing up a wild, off balance shot that’s heavily contested by two defenders. If instead he backs it out and waits for his teammates to get into the frontcourt, the team would have a much better chance of scoring in the halfcourt.
And finally we arrive at Davis, who, like Martin, looks as if he should be more physically imposing than he has been.
At 6’11 with a 7’2 wingspan, the Michigan State product has been a rebounding machine. He’s averaged 8.7 boards per contest, tied for eighth in Vegas, and has additionally caused 1.3 steals per game and 1.7 blocks per game. This is all stuff we knew he was good at, he has continued to be good at.
Unfortunately his defensive good deeds are undone by his unbelievable fouling problem. At 5.3 per game, he’s committing the eighth most fouls per contest of anyone in Summer League.
And offensively he’s been a ghost. Any time he touches the ball it appears that he has no desire whatsoever for having it in his hands and usually passes it away fairly quickly. So far he’s averaging 3.3 points per game on 38.5 percent shooting and only a smidge over four attempts per game.
For a guy of that size with his skillset, you absolutely cannot be shooting 38.5 percent from the field, and you certainly should be shooting more than five times per game in Summer League.
And I know I’m not crazy about this, because look at what he does on this isolation play.
I mean, good-NESS! Dare I say Anthony Davis-esque? And the kid has a decent enough midrange jumper to one day make him a threat outside the post as well. If he’s going to show us those kinds of flashes, he has to start shooting the ball more.
Though Memphis has won all three of its Summer League games thus far, they haven’t been pretty. Which is pretty much standard for Summer League action. But fans should expect a bit more consistency out of Martin, Baldwin, and Davis considering their experience and respective physical gifts.
Luckily Selden, and to a much smaller extent Brooks, have shown that consistency on both ends. Let’s hope those two and the other three “vets” can find a groove tonight against a talented Suns squad.