The Memphis Grizzlies front office certainly established the future as the focus this offseason. They added significant young talent to both the roster and the coaching staff, and acquired a good amount of future assets to operate with. However, the construction of a roster that can become a sustainable winner is just in the beginning stages. While the Grizzlies may not have been too aggressive as a long-term buyer in free agency this year, they could become one as early as next summer.
One obvious question mark Memphis will eventually need to address is consistent scoring on the perimeter, especially in the form of shooting from the mid-range and from three. Thankfully, next offseason offers several options that significantly help in that area and will not cost the Grizzlies a ton of future cap space. The Grizzlies have had recent success through restricted free agency in adding pieces to their present and future core, such as Tyus Jones and Kyle Anderson. That same avenue could produce yet another significant addition for the Grizzlies future next summer.
As a result, anyone following Memphis may find it beneficial to extend their focus beyond the home franchise. Here are five players who Grizzlies’ fans may want to pay attention to this year that could be targets for the team to pursue next summer:
A versatile wing who can contribute on both ends of the court, Jaylen Brown has shown he can score and defend at respectable levels. His decision-making and shot selection have improved in each of his three seasons, as his two point FG% has increased from every distance within the arc since his rookie year. He also has made 121 and 95 threes in each of the past two years, and has shot 36.5% from three in his career.
Brown is a decent shot-creator inside the arc, but is strictly a catch and shoot three point option with 97% of his career threes assisted. A significant part of his allure could be his impressive play from the 2017-2018 playoffs, a level he took a small step back from last season. Furthermore, Brown’s numbers as a reserve are better than as a starter.
This season is a pivotal one for Brown’s career. Were the 2018 playoffs more of an outlier or a sign of what he could become in the future? With large commitments to other players and draft picks to utilize, Boston may decide a significant investment in Brown does not fit their future. While avoiding paying him like a star, Memphis could make an aggressive offer to force the Celtics hand, if they feel Brown could be a valuable piece to add for the future.
As many of Denver’s regulars were dealing with injuries, Malik Beasley stepped into an expanded role and a became consistent source of offense for the Nuggets as a key reserve and spot starter. Beasley shot 40% from three on the season, with nearly 55% percent of his shots coming from beyond the arc. However, the majority of his two point attempts were at the rim, where he converted 73% of his shots. While 75% of his shot attempts were assisted, his ability to convert at the rim and beyond the arc was quite impressive. Beasley’s 59.4% effective field goal percentage was in the 95% percentile for players at his position.
Perhaps the most encouraging sign from Beasley’s play last year was how he played as his role expanded. Beasley’s PER, Offensive Rating, and +/- measures all got better the more minutes he played. In 18 games as a starter, Beasley was absolutely sensational. He averaged 15.8 points with a 129 offensive rating, and shot 50% from three, 55% from the field, 94% from the free throw line, and had a 70% True Shooting percentage.
Much like Boston with Brown, Denver has made future commitments elsewhere that may limit their ability to significantly pay Beasley in the future. If he continues to produce this upcoming season like he did last year, he could be an ideal target for the Grizzlies to aggressively pursue.
While Prince may not have the future ceiling of Beasley or Brown due to being older and limited ability, the strengths of his skill set could be a nice addition to the Grizzlies roster. The main reason is his ability to shoot beyond the arc. Prince has made 176 and 123 threes in each the past two seasons, and has shot 38% from beyond the arc for his career. He also has shown the ability to be decent within the arc, as he can create his own shot at the rim and convert consistently. Per Cleaning the Glass, Prince was among the best at his position in scoring at the rim and from three. Furthermore, he has posted per-36 minute averages of 5.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.3 three steals for his career. Though he is an average defender at best, Prince can create plays for himself and others on both ends of the court.
Prince was traded to Brooklyn earlier this offseason, and likely will be a reserve and occasional starter. The fact that the Nets have made significant investments to other players over the past few months means they could be less inclined to invest in Prince. If the Grizzlies could get him at the price tag of a key reserve versus a long-term starter, he could be a good addition to future Grizzlies rotations.
Bogdan Bogdanovic has shown the ability to be reliable three point shooter in his career. However, he also adds significant value as a mid-range scorer. Over his two year career, Bogdanovic has shot 48% when he is 10 ft. to 16. ft from the basket. He also has been assisted on just 38% of his two point shot attempts in his career. He has been near the 70th percentile or better in terms of both attempting and making mid-range shots compared to other NBA wings. The fact that he can be relied upon to create his own shot adds another offensive layer that opposing defenses must respect. Furthermore, Bogdanovic has been one of the most effective passers in the league in terms of his assists being converted to points.
Bogdanovic can remain productive as his playing time increases, as in the 26 games he played more than 30 minutes, he averaged 17.5 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 5.1 assists. When he is on the court and involved, Bogdanovic can be highly productive offensively. Much like the others mentioned above, his defense should be considered average at best. The Kings committed a lot of money to Harrison Barnes this offseason, and will have to do the same to Buddy Hield (not mentioned due to likelihood he stays with Kings) and others in the near future. As a result, if Memphis feels Bogdanovic improves their future, the Kings may not be too keen on matching a significant offer.
Denzel Valentine probably exists on a tier or two below the aforementioned options, but could still be an attractive piece to add if the Grizzlies were to miss out on those options. Valentine missed the 2018-2019 season due to injury, but is still young with potential upside. He showed significant improvement in his game between his rookie and sophomore years. For his career, Valentine has produced 13.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 1.1 steals on a per-36 minute scale.
Valentine improved his two point field goal percentage from 36% to 45% from his first to second season, and made 143 threes in his sophomore year. He also has experience has a starter, and has better career rates in that role than as a reserve. A decent defender, Valentine adds value in multiple ways when on the court. His return from his injury will certainly be something to monitor, and with large investments to other wings, the Bulls could view Valentine as expendable next year. As a result, the Grizzlies may be able to add Valentine at a lower cost than the options mentioned above, possibly making him just as good of a value for the future.
Other options such as Buddy Hield and Brandon Ingram were not mentioned due to the likelihood their current teams will make it a priority to extend them. The key trait each of the players above share is the ability to score and contribute offensively as a wing on the perimeter. The Grizzlies have a lot of future potential on their current roster when it comes to defense, and have Ja Morant and Tyus Jones to develop as point guards.
If Memphis could add a reliable scoring option next summer, it could take another step toward becoming a playoff contender. Therefore, beyond watching the development of their own team, Grizzlies’ fans may want to focus on these players as potential targets this season in the hopes Memphis may bring the right one on board in the future.
Stats found on basketball-reference.