It’s hard to feel sorry for professional athletes...but as Jaren Jackson Jr. walked across the stage in Brooklyn at the NBA Draft last week, I couldn’t help but be empathetic towards JaMychal Green.
Yes, Jackson is more likely to be the center of the future than he is Marc Gasol’s “little buddy” beyond 2020. Yes, JaMychal is still getting paid quite nicely compared to where he was just years ago as a D-League alum scraping to make an NBA roster. Still, for all Green has done to earn his place as a solid, worthy NBA rotation player, the selection of Jackson - and Ivan Rabb the year before - had to feel a bit like Memphis preparing for a world beyond JaM.
The Alabama alum surely won’t feel sorry for himself. His character as a basketball player won’t allow it. This all does cause a central question to rise as we move on from the draft and approach free agency, though-
What should Memphis do with JaMychal Green?
The good news is, they have options.
When you look up the word “professionalism” in the dictionary (or Google it in 2018), a picture of JaMychal Green may pop up. In the very definition of a lost season last year for Memphis once Mike Conley was shut down, Green picked up his effort and production as the campaign grinded along. Until he was shut down himself the last six games of the season, JaM was showing that he was capable of being a rebound machine. Green posted 13 double doubles across his final 25 outings for Memphis in 2017-2018, scoring 14 or more points nine times over those games.
That’s pretty good, considering the pieces around him as time went on.
His usage rate was far too high (17.8% according to basketball-reference.com), again a necessity due to those he was playing with, and that helps explain his lesser shooting percentages. He has shown the capacity to shoot the three, defend multiple positions, and after last season the work ethic and desire to clean the glass on a consistent basis. A player like Green has a role on most NBA teams, especially ones trying to compete now like Memphis insists they are heading in to next season.
He also fits the new/old “Grit and Grind” mantra of GM Chris Wallace and Head Coach J.B. Bickerstaff. The versatility he brings on both ends of the floor makes him malleable and able to play alongside both Jackson and Marc Gasol, which is good for anyone trying to maintain a key role on a squad. Green may not be a “center”, but thankfully for him the two guys probably in front of him either now or in the near future either are (Marc) or will be (Jackson). He fits next to each both defensively and in terms of overall scheme.
The competition with Jackson, if there even is a competition, won’t impact JaMychal too much. Whether he starts or comes off the bench, he can be a good fit for the “new” direction of the franchise.
But what if that isn’t enough? What if the team wants to give Jarell Martin or Rabb more defined spots in the rotation, or want to “give” the starting job to Jackson without real fears of him getting beaten out by JaM?
There are options for that, too.
With an expiring contract and a roughly $7.9 million price tag heading in to 2018-2019, there may be value in moving JaMychal that there wouldn’t be most other seasons. There have been a couple hypothetical trade ideas floated out there - in my “Perfect NBA Draft for the Grizzlies” article I suggested a Serge Ibaka for JaM, Ben McLemore, and Jarell Martin trade. You would have to include a future 2nd more than likely in that deal, although Toronto may be grateful to get the Ibaka contract off their books.
Serge still can contribute as a shooter and defender, and considering a realistic measuring stick for Jackson is a better Ibaka they would be interesting playing alongside each other. I am higher on Ibaka than most, however, and between the money and the top heavy nature of the roster as it is I am OK with this never coming to pass.
Another idea is from Chris Herrington, formerly of the Commercial Appeal, who wrote about an eye opening possibility in his latest blog post-
The hardcore NBA podcast Dunc’d On does an annual simulation of the entire NBA offseason and they had the Grizzlies’ free agent interest in Milwaukee forward Jabari Parker resulting in a sign-and-trade sending JaMychal Green and a future first-round pick to the Bucks for Parker on a deal roughly in the MLE ballpark. I could see the Grizzlies having some interest in Parker for the right price, but I don’t see them being willing to deal another future first (they still owe one to Boston) and it’s hard to imagine Parker and Chandler Parsons both on the same roster.
Chris is right in that Memphis would probably have to give up a 1st in that deal, and that hasn’t gone very well for the Grizzlies in recent years (you can argue the Jeff Green trade cost Memphis Luka Doncic years later). He also is right in that Parker and Parsons are a bit redundant, but Parker has youth on his side and could still manage to be a pretty explosive scorer in the league. This trade would be great, if it were something Memphis would consider...
They probably won’t, though.
Who could be other possible trade targets? Al-Farouq Aminu can JaMychal Green better than JaMychal Green, at least as a perimeter shooter and hedger/switcher on defense. Miami may want to free up some salary cap space, and if that’s the case Kelly Olynyk could play in the pick and pop with a variety of Grizzlies perimeter players and wings. The Lakers could perhaps be talked in to a sign-and-trade with Julius Randle, especially as part of a larger deal as they try to assemble a LeBron/Kawhi Leonard superpower.
A combination of salary cap filler and a 2nd round pick (or two) alongside JaMychal could really make sense for a squad with loftier expectations, or a team that strikes out in free agency with cash to burn. Like the Lakers, Philadelphia could use a player like JaMychal for something “bigger”
. Unlike the Lakers, the 76ers could work beyond just a salary cap watching move. With Amir Johnson and Trevor Booker gone, Philly and JaM could be nice with Green coming off the bench. The Sixers have the resources to make a Green trade work for both sides.
Options, options, options.
So is there a problem?
JaMychal has more value to Memphis as a flexible asset that can fill almost any role needed for the Grizzlies in the front court. Jaren Jackson Jr.’s arrival in Memphis surely means Green is not a major piece of the long-term picture for the Grizzlies, but Jackson’s ideal place as a “5” makes JaM’s spot sound for now.
More than the presence of Jackson, the upcoming Summer League and how Ivan Rabb and Deyonta Davis perform may mean more in terms of whether or not Green can be moved on from. Assuming Parsons gets more and more time as a stretch four, there are not a ton of minutes to go around. Both Rabb and Davis have shown bits and pieces of potential, but neither has done enough to make anyone affiliated with the Grizzlies say “yes, there’s our 3rd or 4th big! He can get good minutes for us!”
If they show real growth, not just in games but in practices? Green trade rumors may heat up. Until then, JaM will remain in Memphis and be what he’s always been for the Grizzlies - a pro’s pro that has earned everything he’s ever gotten through gritty effort and a tough, grind-it-out work ethic.
As part of an evolved “grit and grind”, there is certainly no problem with that in Memphis.