The Memphis Grizzlies got their roster to the league-mandated 15 players (and two two-way contracts in John Konchar and Yuta Watanabe) over the weekend. The roster is now as follows-
Guards- Ja Morant, Tyus Jones, DeAnthony Melton, Grayson Allen, Marko Guduric, Dillon Brooks
Forwards- Kyle Anderson, Jae Crowder, Solomon Hill, Bruno Caboclo, Josh Jackson, Andre Iguodala
Bigs- Jonas Valanciunas, Jaren Jackson Jr., Brandon Clarke
Of course, Andre Iguodala (likely traded by 2020) and Josh Jackson (starting the season with the Memphis Hustle) are not in Memphis with the Grizzlies and will naturally be the two inactive players come opening night on Wednesday in Miami.
Beyond the obvious, however, what does the decision to move on from two more traditional bigs in Rabb and Plumlee mean for the Grizzlies?
A new era has truly begun
Gone are the “we in the mud”, “throw it to the hand” days of low post dominance.
In their place? Let it fly, and born to run.
This was already known given the moves made over the summer by the new-look Grizzlies front office and the words we have heard from the coaching staff, but action is once again reinforcing words. There is one true center on the entire roster - Valanciunas, who if he can stay healthy should eat up a lot of playing time and points/rebounds. Beyond Jonas, we will see plenty of Jaren Jackson Jr. and even some Brandon Clarke and Bruno Caboclo at the “5” position.
Jaren isn’t ready to be the main big on the roster. His foul trouble reflects that. But as the “backup” center, playing alongside other athletic bigs that can also space the floor, he can hopefully find his footing more solidly. As he gets used to his body (he is still very young and learning how to position himself) and the physicality of the game, he will get more and more successful in those short spurts.
The main reason Valanciunas is still here is Jackson can’t be that “big” yet. If Jenkins is indeed the long-term answer at head coach, he has some time to develop on that front it would appear. Once the deal is done for Jonas a few years from now, Jaren will hopefully be ready to be unleashed as a mismatch against just about every big man in the NBA.
Solomon Hill is better than Miles Plumlee
You probably already knew that.
The Chandler Parsons trade almost certainly spelled doom for one of these two players. Waiving someone making a little more than $12 million this season is easier to stomach than buying out the max contract of Parsons, so either Hill or Plumlee was going to be on the chopping block. Plumlee, we thought (at least I thought), had an opening to be the 2nd “true” big on the roster assuming Rabb was going to be gone (more on that in a moment). Hill fit what Jenkins, Zachary Kleiman and company have been preaching - positional versatility, with the ability to score from range and defend all types of forwards and perhaps even some bigs, depending on match-up.
Plumlee, limited as a true center who is trying to learn to shoot threes, didn’t stand much of a chance.
Hill will probably ride the bench much of the season, with Jae Crowder/Kyle Anderson/Bruno Caboclo/eventually (hopefully?) Josh Jackson getting those forward minutes. But Hill is solid insurance to eat minutes if necessary, considering the possibility of trades (Crowder) or injury (Anderson especially) as the season grinds along.
Ivan Rabb didn’t make the most of his moments
In a lot of ways, Ivan Rabb is a victim of circumstance.
If Marc Gasol and Mike Conley were indeed capable of leading the Grizzlies to the playoffs - as so many thought they were - and Chandler Parsons was 80% of what he was signed to be through the length of his stay in Memphis, he may still be here. Rabb fit what Memphis once was. He has an old school game, one where he can play with his back to the basket and rebound and defend the rim not as well as a Gasol but in a similar fashion. Where he had his greatest issue was in the fact he was not truly elite at any of these skills. He showed flashes of potentially rebounding well, or scoring at the rim efficiently, but he did neither of these things well enough to negate his limitations...especially defensively in terms of rotation and switching.
He was given opportunities. The extension of his team option to October 19th allowed for Ivan to get a full training camp in with Memphis, and also get plenty of work in with the Grizzlies staff as they were trying to find what he was capable of within their schemes. But it would appear that pretty quickly, Jenkins and his crew realized that worst case scenario they could get basic rim protection from Bruno Caboclo while utilizing his offensive game more effectively given his athleticism and range.
Rabb will surely get looks at least in the G-League, and it is unlikely he will never play in the NBA again. But Ivan must grow his game, offensively in particular, to make teams see his gift at that end worth the loss of positional versatility.