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Building around Jaren Jackson Jr. - Part II: Finding a co-star

It’s slim pickings.

Memphis Grizzlies v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Memphis has never really had a true “star”...which is what makes Jaren Jackson Jr. so enthralling to the fan base of the Memphis Grizzlies. His talent and immense set of tools at such a young age really make you believe that his potential is limitless. It is pretty refreshing to see the Grizzlies hit on a key first round draft pick - while all the top-five picks in the 2018 NBA Draft have shown positive signs to varying degrees, Jaren’s youth and versatility puts him on Doncic levels of excitement for most in Memphis.

So how do you build around that type of player when your resources are limited? It isn’t easy...in part one of this post, we talked about role players and the rules that go along with that type of player if you are going to acquire them via trade. Similar concepts will be applied here, where the goal will be to acquire other “star”-types of players before they become free agents...with lack of a better word, options.

Updated ground rules-

  • They must be young...but don’t have to be too young. Kyle Anderson is 25, and while Kelly Oubre Jr. would’ve been a nice younger fit the Grizzlies seem to be interested in players at least near their primes, or at the start of them.
  • They must be restricted, and “flawed”. We combine these two rules in pursuit of a “star” because if they’re truly a star, teams aren’t going to be willing to trade a young player with a controllable contract. Kristaps Porzingis isn’t coming to Memphis...sorry, guys.
  • You’d better be sure they’re going to make Jaren better. Because the cost of what it will take Memphis to get such a player is going to be quite high. It would almost certainly force you to not be able to get the role players we discussed in Part I - all your resources in one spot.

Lose a 1st or take on money...your choice.

Memphis Grizzlies v Milwaukee Bucks Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Malcolm Brogdon is a dream Memphis Grizzly.

The 2016-2017 rookie of the year is having a career season. .153 win share per 48 minutes, +10 net rating, an absurd 44.2% three point percentage...he is a terrific combo guard who is a key part of the Milwaukee Bucks.

So why the hell would they consider trading him?

Because he is already 26.

This isn’t to say that Brogdon won’t be a priority of theirs when this summer comes along - Milwaukee made the move they did with Cleveland (George Hill for Matthew Dellavedova and John Henson) to be able to have flexibility to re-sign Brogdon and/or Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton when free agency hits. But for the right deal, Milwaukee may decide to invest in the latter two and move on from Brogdon, who despite his excellent play is perceived to have a limited long-term ceiling, right or wrong.

He’d be amazing next to Jaren Jackson Jr., though. A truly malleable guard, he would fit alongside just about anyone. A smart defender who plays passing lanes well and also can defend on the ball, he would make Jaren’s life easier on his side of the court defensively. On the offensive end? Brogdon pick and rolls with Jackson would lead to infinite possibilities. The basketball intelligence would be through the roof...it’d be like Conley and Gasol 2.0.

(Swoons)

The cost for Brogdon would be quite high, though, you would imagine. Memphis would have to make some sort of sacrifice - for example, the following trade works great assuming Memphis sends their 2019 1st to Boston this summer, as they’re currently projected to do-

Memphis sends Dillon Brooks, 2019 2nd round pick, 2021 1st round pick lottery protected (2022 top-10 protected, two future 2nd round picks in 2023-2024 if it doesn’t convey) to Milwaukee for Malcolm Brogdon.

The Grizzlies immediately become a more legitimate playoff threat, and do not lose any of the expiring contracts that allow for them to sign Brogdon to the type of contract he will probably command in the $16-$20 million price range without going in to the luxury tax. But you do lose multiple future picks, including a potential first, plus a cheap solid rotation player in Dillon Brooks. It weakens the Bucks in the moment, but Hill helps a bit in that department when motivated and three nice assets for a guy they drafted in the 2nd round is solid return for the Bucks.

Don’t want to possibly give up a first? OK. How about future cap flexibility?

Memphis sends Dillon Brooks, JaMychal Green, Garrett Temple, and a 2020 2nd round pick to Milwaukee for Malcolm Brogdon, Ersan Ilyasova, and Tony Snell

Memphis would need to find a way to move Ilyasova and Snell to sign Brogdon long-term. Or they’d have to give up a 1st to get off the Chandler Parsons contract this summer. This just makes things more complicated moving forward for the Grizzlies, so the 1st round pick option would be “best”...

But is it really best to lose that asset for Brogdon? Depends on how you feel about Malcolm alongside Mike Conley/Kyle Anderson/JJJ/Marc Gasol. That starting five would be pretty impressive, especially defensively...but what next? Who would be the reserves? The Chandler Parsons deal, and the lack of flexibility it creates, strikes again.

Speaking of Parsons...you could move off of him to acquire a “star” in theory...but it will cost you.

The ultimate project

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Chicago Bulls Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s just jump right in.

Memphis receives Andrew Wiggins for Chandler Parsons, 2022 2nd round picks (Memphis’ and the least favorable of the Pistons/Bulls)

Oh boy.

One of the toughest contracts to stomach in the NBA would be coming to Memphis in this scenario. It isn’t John Wall bad...but it is rough. Wiggins is currently shooting 39.7% from the field, 35.2% from beyond the arc, and has an atrocious -15 net rating and .013 win shares per 48 minutes. He doesn’t rebound as a wing (6.4% rebounding percentage, woof), his true shooting percentage is 48.9% (double woof), and opponents are better offensively when he is on the court than when he is off (triple woof).

Aside from being a former Kansas Jayhawk, why does Andrew Wiggins make sense for Memphis?

You can easily argue that he doesn’t, but remember the rules.

He must be young. Wiggins turns 24 this season.

He must be restricted...and “flawed”. Wiggins is restricted by the fact he is under contract until 2023. He would be in Memphis for four full seasons. As far as “flawed”? His numbers do not warrant the contract, and he is having a career worst season.

You’d better be sure he makes Jaren better. Here is the stretch...but Wiggins as a wing scorer in theory would help Jackson Jr. a good bit. Jaren does not have one of these right now..Wiggins would command attention, and the team offense of the Wolves is statistically better with him on the floor than it is off, despite his poor shooting numbers. Also, in theory this would happen in a world where, in this hypothetical-will-never-occur exercise, you could acquire both Brogdon AND Wiggins if you’re trading the 1st for Brogdon. That would mean the following rotation...

Mike Conley/Malcolm Brogdon/Andrew Wiggins/Jaren Jackson Jr./Marc Gasol.

Shelvin Mack/Garrett Temple/Kyle Anderson/JaMychal Green

That is pretty...good. And you have flexibility - if you want Brogdon to be your sixth man, slide Wiggins to the 2 and Anderson to the 3. Marc Gasol walks? Slide Jaren to the 5, Kyle to the 4, and use that money to rebuild your reserve unit. There are possibilities there, and in this situation you are better because not only are you getting something - even a slim something - where you currently are getting nothing in Chandler Parsons, but you’re also allowing for players like Garrett Temple to get in to a role more suitable for their skill set and point in their careers.

And Wiggins is going to be 24 at the start of next season, 28 at the end of his current contract. He’s the largest example...but he fits the Memphis mold.


There’s a lot of hypotheticals here that almost certainly will not happen. But the point of this half of the exercise is driving home the idea of just how hard/unlikely it would be for Memphis to acquire an elite talent/player to pair or line up alongside Jaren at this stage - maybe Minnesota won’t part with the Wiggins deal for a Parsons buyout and two 2nd round picks. Perhaps Brogdon isn’t on the table for a 2nd round pick, a protected 1st, and Dillon Brooks. Hell, Trey Lyles, Delon Wright, and Stanley Johnson all have varying levels of value in the eyes of many.

But these conversations have to continue to happen in the front office of the Memphis Grizzlies. From the top of the salary chart to the bottom of restricted free agency, Memphis must find pieces that make the development of their new franchise pillar the priority moving forward. If they make this year’s team better, that is icing on the cake.

Youth. Potential. Flexibility. Versatility. There will be other names and options floated around, but the fact remains that these NBA bodies all must revolve around the star that is Jaren Jackson Jr if they are to be future Memphis Grizzlies.

Stats provided by basketball-reference.com.

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