In the wake of the Memphis Grizzlies waiving D.J. Stephens, thus opening up a two-way contract spot, Memphis made it official today when they announced the signing of Jarnell Stokes to a two-way deal. Eric Lentz of Blu3WorldOrder.com and Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium had the report a couple of days ago, but the team announced the signing via press release this afternoon.
He joins Yuta Watanabe as the team’s two two-way contracted players, meaning they spend a majority of their time with the Memphis Hustle G-League affiliate of the Grizzlies but are eligible to play for 45 days with the NBA club.
From the Grizzlies press release-
Stokes (6-9, 260) has appeared in six games (five starts) this season with the NBA G League’s Sioux Falls Skyforce and has averaged 15.2 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.00 steals and 1.50 blocks in 27.2 minutes while shooting 60.0 percent from the field and 70.6 percent from the free throw line. Stokes is in his second season with Sioux Falls after he led the Skyforce to the 2016 NBA G League Championship; he was named the NBA G League MVP and Finals MVP, selected as an NBA G League All-Star and earned All-G League First Team honors during the 2015-16 season.
The 24-year-old has started 47 of his 57 career NBA G League games and has averaged 17.8 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 30.9 minutes for the Skyforce and Iowa Energy (now Wolves).
So what does the arrival of Stokes mean? It is essentially trading one unlikely NBA player with Memphis ties (former Tiger Stephens) for another in Stokes, a Memphis native who played his college ball at the University of Tennessee. Listing Stokes at 6’9” is kind - in his time in the past with the Grizzlies (yes, Stokes has already been in Memphis after a trade with the Utah Jazz in the 2014 NBA Draft), he consistently was unable to score and defend at an NBA level due to his lack of height, and even more importantly his lack of length. He is an undersized big who connects to Memphis, like Stephens was.
The main difference? Stephens was a bit out of place as a big, whereas that is where Stokes “thrives”. It is possible that this move, while it makes Memphis slightly better as rebounders with the Grizzlies when Stokes is with the big club, has more to do with the Hustle. The Grizzlies G-League team is currently 4th in the Western Conference, and Stokes brings a steadying low-post presence at that level of play. He has proven he can be a force in the G-League...a home town kid helping solidify the fan base for the minor league squad through a G-League title makes sense.
It’s not how I would use the two-way (give me a 19 or 20 year old with lots of potential), but hey, at least they’re willing to invest in their squad in Southaven. Welcome back, Jarnell.