The Grizzlies have quietly had a solid off-season, giving fans cautious optimism going into next season. Although the fan base was split on Jaren Jackson Jr. on draft night, JJJ’s summer league performance has turned many naysayers into believers. Kobi Simmons has flashed the potential he showed in Southaven last season, Wayne Selden Jr. looks healthy and fans are excited about second round pick Jevon Carter as the team looks to get back to being a force on the defensive end.
You also hear fans talking about how a healthy Mike Conley and Chandler Parsons, along with Marc Gasol, can help push the Grizzlies back into the playoffs with the emerging young talent on the team. You know whose name is hardly ever mentioned when looking ahead to next season?
In fact, with the selection of Jevon Carter and the emergence of Kobi Simmons, some people have suggested Andrew Harrison be cut, as the Grizzlies are currently one player over the roster limit. Andrew Harrison does have a partial guarantee ($100K, per Bobby Marks of ESPN) so cutting him would save the Grizzlies a little over a million dollars. Kobi Simmons has been great offensively, and the defensive potential is great in Jevon Carter, but to cut Andrew Harrison for either player would be a poor decision by the Grizzlies front office. Harrison has improved greatly since his rookie season and can have a breakout season for the Grizzlies next year.
Andrew Harrison had a pretty good year last year, despite the team tanking. The team even decided to sit Harrison because he was playing so well it could have won them some games (technically, he had a hurt wrist). His 9.5 points, 3.2 assists and 2.3 rebounds don’t jump out at you, but his numbers in the second half of the season will.
In his last 14 games, February through the end of the season, Harrison averaged 14.8 points, 2.7 rebounds and 4.8 assists, showing the ability to score, as well as improving upon his playmaking. Harrison also showed efficiency by shooting 48% in February and making 40% of his 3 point attempts. Harrison’s strong finish to last season showed that he’s a vastly improved player that has quietly been developing the past two seasons.
Even if the Grizzlies decide to give Kobi Simmons and Jevon Carter larger roles, it doesn’t necessarily mean Harrison needs to go. Standing at 6’6” and 213 pounds, Harrison is able to play as a 2 or even a 3. Harrison won’t trick you into thinking he’s the best playmaker on the team, but he’s able to bring the ball up the court and run the offense effectively, which would allow Conley and Simmons to play off the ball.
If it’s Conley or Simmons as the primary ball handler, Harrison’s increasingly reliable 3 point shot will keep defenders honest as will his improved cutting ability. Harrison’s ability to play multiple positions gives the Grizzlies some lineup flexibility going into next season.
In an ideal world, the Grizzlies will cut or trade one of their many big men and keep Harrison. From a financial perspective, the Grizzlies would be best off keeping Kobi Simmons on his two-way deal for the season and split 3rd point guard duties between him and Jevon Carter with Andrew as the backup point guard. After this season, the Grizzlies can decide if between Harrison or Simmons (or both) as Simmons would be a free agent and Harrison would be a restricted free agency. The Grizzlies could also make a in-season move to free open a roster spot to sign Simmons to a multi-year deal.
As GBB’s McCarty Maxwell pointed out last week, this Grizzlies team will be looking for someone to help fill the scoring void that Tyreke Evans left to help complement Mike and Marc. The obvious answers are a healthy Chandler Parsons or Wayne Selden, both Brooks’ get mentioned, but Andrew Harrison could also help be a scoring option next season. It doesn’t necessarily mean Harrison has to average the 15 points he did the tail end of last season, but having the ability to score buckets when needed makes Harrison a sneaky candidate for most underrated Grizzly for next season.
Blog boys and fans will sing the praises of the previously mentioned young guys in the Grizzlies locker room, while Andrew Harrison will likely go unnoticed. However, given his improvement over the past two years, Andrew Harrison could break out in a big way next season. He may be underrated this season, but look for Andrew to change that by seasons end.