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Two-Way Targets for Memphis: Part II - The Wings

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Finding a diamond in the rough

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NCAA Basketball: Big West Conference Championship Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

To check out Part I - The Ball Handlers, click here.

The Memphis Grizzlies roster is pretty much set. But one spot where a bit more depth would be welcome, as was articulated here yesterday, is with a bigger wing that can play multiple positions on the perimeter - and perhaps even be a stretch four. Perhaps this draft isn’t your cup of tea and you don’t agree with the idea of trading up beyond #40 to get said player, and the Grizzlies front office decides to go in a different direction at that selection. Maybe Nico Mannion, Grant Riller, or Payton Pritchard are still there as a ball handler. It’s within the realm of possibility Xavier Tillman or Killian Tillie tumble to #40 as well - flawed bigs, but with high upside to help Memphis more that any wing on the board at that stage of the draft.

Those two-way openings with the Memphis Hustle could come in handy with a wing. Sure, John Konchar and Yuta Watanabe were wings and replacing them with more unproven/underappreciated wings may not seem fully logical since both know the system. But as stated in Part I, while Konchar may perhaps be willing to spend a second season on a two-way (but perhaps should take Marko Guduric’s roster spot) Yuta has already been in this spot for multiple campaigns. Just because they were here doesn’t mean they should take a two-way from someone else who potentially fits the long-term plans more...especially in the case of Yuta.

Who could be some wing two-way targets?

Honorable Mentions

Syndication: Burlington BRIAN JENKINS/for the Free Press, Burlington Free Press via Imagn Content Services, LLC

3. Josh Hall, Moravian Prep. There is certainly a line of logic that suggests that stashing a young player loaded with both upside and questions with your well-connected G-League team makes sense. That could be especially true in the case of Hall, a former top recruit who decided that college wasn’t for him and declined attending NC State to prepare for the NBA Draft. If he did indeed enroll with the Wolfpack, the idea that he’d even be a possibility for a two-way contract would probably be laughable. When you’re 6’9” with the athleticism and length to suggest you may be able to be an above average NBA defender with a smooth jump shot, you’re usually getting drafted.

Add on the fact that despite he wasn’t drafted, Jalen Lecque (the last NC State top prospect to not enroll in school) still got an NBA contract with the Phoenix Suns? It’s likely safe to say that Hall made the right call. But in a year where so much uncertainty is in place, teams may decide to shy away from what might be for what will be a hell of a lot sooner than Hall. He surely will need seasoning in heightened competition, and while the G-League isn’t ideal for that it’s a step up from Moravian Prep. If he works out, he becomes a restricted free agent and you add him to the roster long-term. Getting him around a pro locker room, practicing with the likes of Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr...that would be a wealth of experience for a young player (just turned 20 earlier this month) that desperately needs it.

The sky may well be the limit for Hall...but that window is as clear as mud in 2020, which is why he’s #3 on this list. The more you see of him on film, the more you imagine a team with multiple 2nd rounders will take a shot with him. You could also see him flaming out jumping from prep school to the NBA. This isn’t Lecque though, who is a combo guard - the positional fluidity of Hall is sure to be in demand. And that positionless ability to handle, score, and defend would be fun to watch in Southaven with the Hustle.

2. Anthony Lamb, Vermont. This young man is going to remind you of a current member of the Memphis Grizzlies. His name rhymes with Chillin Cooks.

Yes, when I watch Anthony Lamb play, I see a lot of Dillon Brooks...but in a more unique way.

The two-time American East Player of the Year may be a bit undersized to be a stretch four. Yet he has said in the months leading up to the NBA Draft than he feels he can be a PJ Tucker-type in terms of how he can play multiple front court positions, even including center in spots depending on matchups. That’s a wise spin on his limitations - he is a mediocre athlete at best, and the potential of him sticking with NBA perimeter players given his limited foot speed is not high.

Thankfully for him, his time in Vermont he was a 4 and at times a 5, so he’s shown the capacity to be not just a wing, but a versatile front court force. His rebounding (career 14.3% rebounding percentage according to sports-reference.com) and shot blocking (5.8% block percentage for his career) are better than they should be with his physical shortcomings - that’s indicative of his willingness to compete and make winning basketball plays. He can score in a variety of ways - he’s shown the capacity to be near-elite as an efficient scorer inside the arc (57.7% from two point land his junior season) and beyond it (36.5% from three in the junior campaign).

So when you see he isn’t exactly refined as a passer/facilitator (almost an exact 1:1 assist to turnover ratio) alongside a career 31.9% usage rate, or that he may be one of the streakiest scorers in this draft class (over a 7% dropoff from three in his senior season - again, hi Dillon), adding that to his age (23 in January) moves him down the list compared to our #1 selection. Yet again, Lamb fits the mold of the Memphis “type” - a grinder, a player who understands what it took for him to get this opportunity and is willing to compete to continue his basketball career. Could it be worth a year of a two-way deal to see if his defense as a combo forward is legit, and that he can steady his offensive production? Could this team use a 3/4/5 version of the mindset of Dillon Brooks?

You can certainly do worse with a two-way.

The Choice - Lamine Diane, Cal State-Northridge

NCAA Basketball: Big West Conference Championship Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Never heard of this guy? Understandable - Cal State Northridge isn’t exactly a basketball powerhouse. But Lamine Diane, if he is not drafted on November 18th, may well be the first call the Memphis Grizzlies should make to sign to a two-way contract. The two-time Big West Player of the Year has that level of ability to impact a game on both ends of the floor. The question becomes whether or not he can do it at the NBA level...and whether or not he can grow his game enough to be a rotation-level contributor.

The numbers jump off the page. In two seasons, he averaged 25.1 points, 10.8 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 2.1 blocks per game while averaging 35.5 minutes per game. He was the Matadors’ offensive and defensive scheme - his usage rate was sky high (38%!!!), and his career steal (2.5%), block (6.2%), and rebounding (16.8%) percentages while playing almost entire games is quite impressive considering what he was asked to be offensively for Cal State-Northridge. He was so dominant against this level of competition that Diane won the Big West Player of the Year award after playing just 19 games, roughly two-thirds of the season.

And he wasn’t just beating up on the Big West. The Senegal native dominated Washington State his first year playing for Cal State-Northridge to the tune of 32 points on almost 58% shooting and 18 rebounds. At 6’7”! Despite what was asked of him both on (offensive and defensive scheme foundation) and off (learning English thousands of miles away from home, multiple injuries) the floor, he was able to display an elite level of athleticism and positional versatility that should have NBA teams lining up to take this young man.

So why the lack of noise? He is older (23 years old by the Draft), and because of the questions around why he played less than a full slate of games this past year (academically ineligible) he was unable to put together as complete a picture of his game as others were playing 30-ish contests. He cannot hit the three with consistency right now (career 29.1% long-range shooter) and he did not show the ability to create for others on a night in, night out basis. That’s slightly concerning, considering the fact the game plan of opponents had to be STOP LAMINE DIANE NO MATTER WHAT.

Despite those flaws, it’s important to know he just began playing basketball in the United States in 2015. He in a lot of ways is still developing his overall skill set. What can’t be taught is his ability to play on the run in transition given his athleticism, or his motor/willingness to compete at an elite level on a nightly basis. According to NBA.com, he was a staggering 72.5% within five feet of the rim. As the highlights above suggest, he has in a short time grown his game to be able to take advantage of opposing defenses and they ways they scheme to slow him down. It isn’t that he can’t shoot threes - it’s that he hasn’t achieved that aspect of productivity yet.

He can defend all front court positions, including the 5. He can switch on to perimeter-based scorers. He has the potential to evolve even more offensively (career 58% free throw shooter but 66% last season) and the mechanics in his shot suggest that his perimeter game is a work in progress. Which is why, if a team with multiple 2nds decided for some reason to not take this guy, the Grizzlies have to find a way to get this guy on a roster. A year in Southaven would be ideal - a chance to acclimate to professional basketball while working with good coaching and other younger players also in the developmental stage of their careers. If he takes off, you ink him to a long-term deal and bask in the glow of knowing you acquired a potential key reserve cog in the next great Grizzlies team as an undrafted free agent.

Diane has the talent that may be worth getting back in to the 2nd round for. But if Memphis rolls the dice and sees him go to free agency, the Grizzlies should make him a two-way offer he cannot refuse.

On Friday we will conclude the series with Part III, breaking down three potentially undrafted bigs and giving a final take on what Memphis should do with their two-way players.

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