There’s one strength of Mike Budenholzer’s that I hope Taylor Jenkins inherits: the ability to develop perimeter players.
Over the course of Budenholzer’s coaching career, he’s elevated the play of his perimeter players. DeMarre Carroll went from non-shooting defensive wing to a coveted 3-and-D player; Kent Bazemore from bench cheerleader to serviceable wing; Taurean Prince from a low-ceiling four-year college player to one of the most underrated young players in basketball; Malcolm Brogdon from solid role player to an elite one; and Khris Middleton from borderline All-Star to a legitimate sidekick for a contender.
That’s a stellar resume.
The Grizzlies have plenty of young wings that Jenkins could mold into a perfect supporting cast alongside Jaren Jackson Jr., Ja Morant, and Brandon Clarke. The quartet of Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Grayson Allen, and Bruno Caboclo have flaws, but they possess some upside as complementary players alongside this new Big 3.
However, the Grizzlies need more wings, especially considering the questionable status of veterans Jae Crowder, Kyle Korver, and Avery Bradley — who may be assets or cap relief more than players on the opening night roster.
The frontcourt is set, barring any trades. Jackson and Clarke should start by the All-Star break, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Jonas Valanciunas, a cheaper center on the market, or a salary dump player starts next to Jaren on opening night. If that’s the case, Clarke is the backup 4, and you don’t really need a “backup 5,” because Jackson should receive those minutes. Chandler Parsons is more of a 4, as is Bruno Caboclo. This list doesn’t even include Ivan Rabb, whose rebounding and post scoring make him serviceable for 10 minutes a night.
Now, it’s time to find some players that can space the floor, play in transition, and defend multiple positions alongside its newest Big 3. Though some of these players may not be key pieces in the next Grizzlies playoff run, it’ll at least help form how they want a contending Memphis team to play.
Let’s get these out of the way before you go to the comments.
There are some interesting fits in this free agency that are somewhat realistic, but mostly long-shots.
Malcolm Brogdon would be a grand slam signing. Coming off a 50/40/90 season, Brgodon is a stellar guard that can run the offense, create off the dribble, and shoot the lights out from downtown. He would definitely be the starting shooting guard of the present and future, and he can also move down to the 3 to make some compelling 3-guard lineups. However, some team will throw a fat offer sheet at him and put pressure on the Bucks to match, and I don’t think the Grizzlies could shell out that money.
Former Grizzly (ha) Kelly Oubre Jr. is another compelling free agent signing. At 23, he’s still young, and he’s coming off a strong season with Phoenix — averaging 16.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1.4 steals in 40 games. Is it more stat-padding or actual production though? He’s a long player that has the potential to be an awesome defender, but is the work ethic there? He has good scoring chops, but can he develop an outside shot? I have him as a long shot here, because I don’t know what would get the Suns to not match this deal.
Jeremy Lamb has stepped up as a decent sidekick alongside Kemba Walker, but I can see him getting overpaid by a playoff team looking for perimeter play.
For the Memphis Grizzlies this summer, they should target young-ish players off contenders that may be looking to upgrade or add veteran’s minimum players.
One of the first players that comes to mind here is Reggie Bullock. The Lakers traded for him at the deadline, as he filled a need for perimeter shooting. With the Lakers chasing a max-level player, the Grizzlies could look to pry him away from Hollywood quick. He has the size to play either wing position (6’7”, 205 pounds). Though his defensive chops aren’t great, he makes up for it with his 3-point shooting, as he shot 37.7 percent from deep last season — 44.5% the year prior. Bullock could be the next starting shooting guard, and he would be an easy target for Ja Morant to hit in the dribble-drive and for Jackson to kick out too in potential double teams.
Tomas Satoransky would be an awesome veteran addition on the wing for the Grizzlies. Though his profile suggests that he’s more of a point guard, his size projects more as a 2-guard — 6’7”, 210 pounds. With Satoransky, he would be excellent as a starting 2-guard next to Ja Morant, creating a nice 2-guard lineup without sacrificing size. In addition, he can run with the second unit without taking time away from rising sophomore Jevon Carter. In such situations, he can still run the offense, while allowing Carter to wreck havoc defensively. His shooting is a valuable asset as well, as he nailed 39.5 percent of his 3’s last year. Like Bullock, he’s 28 years old, but he’d still be a cheap, veteran presence that could aide these young fellas and produce at a starter-level clip.
Portland could probably afford to keep only one of Jake Layman and Rodney Hood, and either one of those players would be fine additions. Both players are streaky, but unspectacular, offensive players with meh value defensively. At this stage though, the Grizzlies would have nothing to lose if they gave one of these players a short-term deal. It’s a simple low-risk, medium-reward move.
My favorite (cheap) free agent is Danuel House. Starting on a two-way deal, House emerged as an integral part for the Houston Rockets. He struggled in the playoffs, but he provided tremendous value as a reliable 3-and-D wing that can defend and play multiple positions and shoot the 3 at a 40-percent clip. I honestly wouldn’t hesitate offering him a 3-year, $18M deal — a contract I’m not so sure a luxury-tax prisoner like the Rockets could afford. Of this list, he’s a player that could emerge as a key role player in the next great Grizzlies team.
Acquiring more wings is essential for the Grizzlies this summer, as it can help build a blueprint for the next Memphis playoff team. The trio of Jaren Jackson Jr., Ja Morant, and Brandon Clarke is gifted and versatile on both ends of the court, and surrounding them with versatile, low-usage 3-and-D wings could elevate their ceiling.
Offensively, they could run with about anyone in the league, but imagine giving Morant some snipers and cutters on the wings. That opens up the offense big time not just for Morant, but for Jackson and Clarke as well.
Defensively, imagine if they could find another wing or two that could defend positions 1-4. The switchability between said player, Kyle Anderson, Clarke, and Jackson is tantalizing. It almost becomes a modernized form of the Grizzlies’ GNG defense — one that wrecks havoc with swarming activity, aggression, and switches everywhere.
Not to mention, adding a player that fits the mold with guys like Dillon Brooks and Bruno Caboclo on the roster give the Grizzlies that luxury of possessing multiple lineups with the credentials above.
The Grizzlies now have one of the most promising futures in the league. For the Grizzlies to fly towards that sky-high ceiling, they need some wings, whether it’s now or in a future offseason.