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Memphis Grizzlies Summer League Preview: What to watch for

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Which young Grizzlies have the most to prove?

NBA: Orlando Magic at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

There have been far too many goodbyes lately for Memphis Grizzlies fans. It is time for some hellos.

The 2017 NBA Las Vegas Summer League will deliver plenty of those, as Memphis will be introduced and reminded of the young core of this roster that remains after the departures of key veterans Vince Carter and Zach Randolph the past few days.

The Grizzlies Summer League squad, led by the Head Coach of the new G-League affiliate of the Grizzlies the Memphis Hustle Glenn Cyprien, promises to showcase some athleticism and length. There will be brand spanking new faces, as well as players who have had some chances to show what they can do with the main club over the course of the past season or two.

So who should you keep an eye on? Which returning Summer Leaguer has the most to prove? Some highlights of what to watch over as the Grizzlies begin play Saturday out in Vegas.

The Baby Grizzlies

NCAA Basketball: Oregon at California Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Both Grizzlies draft picks from the 2017 NBA Draft, big Ivan Rabb and wing Dillon Brooks, will be taking part in Summer League for Memphis. Clearly the Grizzlies Front Office values their talents, or they would not have traded in to the second round of this past draft to acquire their rights and services. Brooks’ athleticism and length in the NBA is in question, however, as is Rabb’s ability to score outside the paint and defend on the pick and roll.

Both players have upside. Rabb was once projected to be a lottery pick, and Brooks was the 2016-2017 PAC-12 Player of the Year. While Summer League is not the best proving ground (cough JOSH SELBY cough) you can see flashes of what is right, and wrong, with the game of a player. Here’s to hoping there are more good flashes than bad ones.

Also keep an eye on Kobi Simmons, the Grizzlies’ first two-way contract signing. He will be spending lots of time with the Hustle this coming season, but hopefully he shows the ability to create off the dribble and be versatile on both ends of the floor.

Rade Zagorac Has Arrived

For the first time since he was drafted by Memphis in the 2016 NBA Draft, Grizzlies fans will get to see Rade Zagorac play NBA basketball. He stayed in Europe this past season and played for the KK Mega Leks club, posting a 42.4% shooting percentage and 33.3% three point shooting percentage over 38 games, 34 of which he started. At 14.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.5 steals per game, Zagorac shows the potential to have multiple layers to his game, a la Chandler Parsons. At 6’9”, Zagorac can play both the wing and the small ball stretch four and can also potentially lend a versatile hand to this Grizzlies roster if he does indeed come across the Atlantic to Memphis for the regular season.

But at 21 years old, will the young Serbian wing be able to adapt to the physicality and athleticism of the NBA? The Summer League is a proving ground for a bunch of guys who won’t make opening day rosters, so if he cannot stay in front of a G-League journeyman on defense it may be cause for concern. Again, success or failure in the Summer League isn’t final by any stretch. But you hope to see NBA-ready movement and comprehension of scheme and spacing, angles and anticipation.

Zagorac will likely be thrown in to the fire. Will he be able to handle the heat? He’s played at high levels of competition in Europe, so hopefully he has his A-game in Vegas.

Current Grizzlies Rising or Falling?

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Toronto Raptors Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

There are four Grizzly Summer Leaguers who actually logged minutes for the big club in Memphis this past campaign - Wade Baldwin IV, Wayne Selden Jr., Jarell Martin, and Deyonta Davis. Assuming those four are either starters or large rotation pieces out in Vegas this coming weekend/week ahead, it is a massive opportunity to show development of skill sets and overall games while competing at a high level...for Summer League, at least. Wayne Selden Jr. was recently re-signed and is clearly in the Grizzlies plans. Don’t expect to see him play a ton, as Memphis surely wants to see him play but also is more sure of what they have in Wayne than the other three.

Speaking of which, what does that say about Jarell Martin? It says this Summer League is gigantic for him. Baldwin and Davis are still young and while growth is expected, they still have some time to develop. Jarell is entering his third season in the Association, and he has not amounted to much more than a brief glimpse of athleticism here, followed by a disappearing act there.

Make no mistake, Davis should be a better rim protector and finisher around the rim. Baldwin must take a step forward as an actual point guard/combo guard so he is more playable alongside Mike Conley. But Baldwin and Davis are a part of the plans. Their names are rarely, if ever, in Grizzlies trade rumors. When fans and bloggers alike bring up trade ideas, though, Martin’s name is often the first one mentioned. Martin must show the capacity to be a fringe rotation big for the Grizzlies, be it in games or practice, or the Martin era in Memphis may be over before it ever really began.

Jarell need a good week in Vegas.

Other quick things to keep an eye on -

  • Vince Hunter shined throughout last Summer League for the Grizzlies. He is back this year, and with one more two-way contract opening for Memphis between the Grizzlies and Hustle available he may be a prime candidate. Hunter averaged 16.3 points and 7 rebounds per game on 59% shooting while playing for the Thunder in the Orlando Summer League. If he is able to do that on the larger Vegas stage, the Grizzlies would be wise to offer their second two-way deal to him.
  • There are some older players on this Grizzlies Summer League squad hoping to get a look at a training camp invitation, be it from Memphis or someone else. Both Ray Cowels and Victor Rudd are 26 and probably close to the end of their proverbial ropes when it comes to these types of opportunities. These players often play the hardest - be ready to fall in love with one of these guys if they get game minutes.
  • This isn’t Grizzlies-specific, per se, but former Memphis player Jordan Adams will be suiting up for the Portland Trail Blazers this Vegas Summer League. Adams’ run with the Grizzlies was marred by injury and squandered opportunity by Adams and his former Head Coach Dave Joerger alike. It would be nice to see him compete and play well.

The Grizzlies open Summer League with a game Saturday afternoon against the Wizards. From there, Memphis plays Sacramento Sunday night and then Utah on Tuesday afternoon before the Vegas tournament begins Wednesday. GBB will have tons of coverage, from Game Recaps to videos from our own Mark King, who will be covering the festivities for GBB and SB Nation NBA.

To take our minds off of basketball transactions? Let’s watch some actual basketball, shall we?

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