With training camp behind the team and two preseason games in, fans and the Grizzlies front office have gotten a good early look at what their team will look like for the upcoming season. For the most part, the past couple weeks have been about guys fighting for their spot in the Grizzlies rotation, or even the starting lineup. For others, though, they’ve been fighting just to make the Grizzlies roster. With the Grizzlies currently at the preseason maximum of 20 players on their roster, they will need to make 3 (or more) cuts prior to the October 21st deadline where all NBA rosters can have a maximum of 17 players (including two two-way contracts, already taken in Memphis by Yuta Watanabe and John Konchar).
With just over a week before that deadline and a few preseason games behind us, I took a look at the Grizzlies roster to figure out who is likely to be cut.
Guaranteed Roster Spots
For one reason or another, the following 16 guys are all but guaranteed a spot on the Grizzlies 2019-2020 roster barring a sudden pick up in trade talks: Grayson Allen, Kyle Anderson, Dillon Brooks, Bruno Caboclo, Brandon Clarke, Jae Crowder, Marko Guduric, Andre Iguodala, Jaren Jackson Jr., Josh Jackson, Tyus Jones, John Konchar (Two-Way), De’Anthony Melton, Ja Morant, Jonas Valanciunas and Yuta Watanabe (Two-Way).
The only semi-surprises on that list should be Andre Iguodala and Josh Jackson. Although Iguodala will never put on a Grizzlies uniform, the organization will keep him on the roster until a trade comes up during the season up until February’s trade deadline. The front office is allowing Josh Jackson to repair his image down in Southaven with the Hustle, so it doesn’t seem like they are going to give up on him prior to October 21st.
The NBA trade market is currently dead as teams are focused on guys they have in camp, making an Iggy trade unlikely. Josh Jackson has too much upside potential to cut bait this early, especially since he has seemingly been open minded about using the G-League stint to revitalize his career.
Say your Goodbyes
Ivan Rabb had a guaranteed date on his contract pushed from July to October 19th. This was essentially so that Rabb could get a chance to participate in the Grizzlies training camp and preseason to prove his worth to the front office, but mostly to opposing teams. With the addition of Brandon Clarke this offseason, Rabb became obsolete for the Grizzlies future. Rabb has only played in one of the two preseason games, and he played less than 9 minutes of garbage time in his lone appearance. Rabb may get more minutes as preseason winds down, but with a non-guaranteed contract Rabb is good as gone. Anything he does in any future games will be to entice other teams to sign him once the Grizzlies waive him.
Matt Mooney signed an Exhibit 10 contract with the Grizzlies back in early September. The plan all along was for Mooney to participate in training camp and preseason with the Grizzlies, then head on down to Southaven to spend the season with the Memphis Hustle as they will own his G-League rights. Expect Mooney to be officially cut at some point prior to October 21st.
The Battle for the Last Spot
So far 16 players are roster locks, with 2 all but certain cuts. This leaves just two players to fight for the last roster spot: Solomon Hill and Miles Plumlee.
Both players were acquired from Atlanta when Memphis unloaded the $25.1 million remaining on Chandler Parsons contract. The Grizzlies essentially split Parson’s contract in two as both Hill ($12.7 million) and Plumlee’s ($12.5 million) contracts would be an easier financial burden to swallow. Neither player figures to be in the long term plans for the Grizzlies, but both could be useful this upcoming season.
Hill is a versatile wing player who has played at the 3, 4, and 5 so far this preseason. He’s a fine defensive player and, in theory, can be a decent spot up 3 point shooter. Unfortunately for Hill, the Grizzlies have an abundance of wing players they should prioritize over Hill. Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Jae Crowder, and Bruno Caboclo are all likely ahead of Hill in the rotation. The list only grows when you factor in some of those guys playing small ball at the 4 along with the minutes Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke will get at the 4 as well.
However, Hill could prove useful should Kyle Anderson need more time off to recover from offseason shoulder surgery and once Jae Crowder is (likely) eventually traded. Any moves like that would open up a chance for Hill to see the floor. So far this preseason, Hill has averaged 4.5 points per game and 6 rebounds. He is shooting just 30% from the field and 20% from beyond the arc in 17.5 minutes per game. His versatility has proven useful, but his production hasn’t been great.
Miles Plumlee may already be on the outside looking in, as he only played in the first preseason game for 8.5 minutes and did not play in the second game. While Plumlee is the inferior player to Solomon Hill, he could be more useful on the roster this upcoming season. As a true 5, Plumlee has been working on expanding his range but is mostly just a big body to have down low for defensive and rebounding purposes. However, Plumlee figures to be behind Jonas Valanciunas, Jaren Jackson Jr., Brandon Clarke, and potentially Bruno Caboclo for minutes at the 5 position. If the Grizzlies coaching staff thinks Bruno can competently play the 5 without it severely hurting them on the glass, Plumlee is the easy cut. However, with Caboclo no guarantee to play the 5 well, Plumlee could serve as some valuable insurance.
The Grizzlies big men also have some injury concerns the front office should be thinking about. Jonas Valanciunas missed 33 games last season due to injury, granted some of those were precautionary at the end of last season. Jaren Jackson Jr. missed the final 24 games of last season due to a quad injury. Brandon Clarke, despite being super efficient, figures to have a rookie learning curve and the Grizzlies front office shouldn’t want to force more minutes at the 5 for Clarke or JJJ than necessary.
The Grizzlies will have a tough decision when they have to decide who to cut between Solomon Hill and Miles Plumlee. The front office and coaching staff seemed to be high on Solomon Hill going into camp, and his preseason performance could sway their decision. Plumlee isn’t going to wow you with any spectacular plays but he’s ultimately a nice safety blanket for the Grizzlies bigs.
Ultimately, I expect the Grizzlies to cut bait with Miles Plumlee and roll with going small a lot this upcoming season. Coach Taylor Jenkins has preached “letting it fly” from 3 and hinted at playing position-less basketball. This would give the edge to Solomon Hill to stay on the Grizzlies roster.
Personally, I think there is value in having a big man like Plumlee available at the end of the bench for a team that looks like they may struggle rebounding the ball this season as Jonas is the only other proven consistent rebounder on the roster at an NBA level.
At the end of the day though, wins and losses don’t matter next season. What matters is the growth and development of the young guys, especially Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke. Whether it’s Hill or Plumlee who gets cut, it shouldn’t make much difference in the grand scheme of things.
Who should be the Grizzlies 3rd roster cut?
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