When evaluating the NBA draft, I prefer prospects that produce and put up real numbers to those with upside and potential that couldn’t play in college. Great college stats are no guarantee of professional success, but players that have proven themselves generally have a lower rate of failure than those with nothing more to offer than jaw dropping measurements. I was sold on Ja Morant as soon as he became the first player in NCAA history to average 20 points and 10 assists.
If draft night was any indication, the new Grizzlies front office appears to share a similar philosophy.
In addition to Morant, the Grizzlies selected another effective college player in Gonzaga’s Brandon Clarke and almost immediately after the draft ended used one of their two-way contracts on Purdue Fort Wayne standout John Konchar. Of course Morant and Clarke are more likely to stick on the Grizzlies roster, but there is reason to believe that Konchar may have a path to an NBA career as well.
John Konchar was a do it all combo guard for the Purdue Fort Wayne Mastadons and like Morant he put up historic numbers at an unheralded mid-major program. Konchar is the first player in NCAA Division 1 history with at least 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, 500 assists and 200 steals. Konchar is the exact type of low risk high reward prospect a rebuilding organization like the Grizzlies should invest in. He is a versatile, competent player who has a chance to be a long-term back up to Morant and fits the mold of the type of player the new front office has fallen in love with. He can plug several holes on the roster and if he shows any promise could get opportunity sooner than many anticipate.
For Grizzlies fans groaning that the front office didn’t draft a shooter, there is reason to hope that Konchar can help fill that void. He averaged 41% from three point range at Purdue Fort Wayne, however there is concern that his shot will not translate as he only shot 70% from the free throw line. Despite the lackluster free throw shooting, he has a reputation as a relentless worker and I am confident with a coaching staff focused on developing young talent, he will be able to knock down threes consistently.
Memphians love when people choose Memphis. An essential part of the Core Four story is that up until their situations became unsustainable Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, Marc Gasol, and Mike Conley all decided to stay in Memphis and Memphians embraced them for it. If his on court production doesn’t excite you, Konchar also chose Memphis. According to Fort Wayne Journal Gazette’s Elizabeth Wyman, Konchar had a promise from Golden State they would draft him with the 58th pick but he instead decided to sign a two-way contract with the Grizzlies.
This probably doesn’t mean much but it makes me smile that he preferred Memphis to the Warriors.
A few knocks on Konchar are his age (23) and level of competition (Konchar played in the Summit League). Konchar’s age doesn’t concern me. I believe too often teams pass on older players thinking they have reached their ceiling when the truth is they are awesome at basketball and will stay awesome at basketball. This is why teams pass on players like Malcolm Brogdon and it is why Brandon Clarke dropped to the Grizzlies on draft night. The level of competition Konchar faced in college is a bit of a concern and I admit I have the same concern with Ja Morant but there are several examples of elite NBA point guards from smaller schools. I’m not saying Konchar will be Stephen Curry or Damian Lilliard, but I don’t believe the conference he played in precludes him from being successful.
Looking at the odds, John Konchar is probably just another two way player that won’t find a role in the NBA. Even so, his production in college and versatility should give him a better shot than most. I am heartened that the new Grizzlies front office has a type and that type appears to be players that were dominant college basketball players.