Over the past 18 months, the Grizzlies have used a variety of different methods to acquire a variety of different players. Along the way, they have shown preferences to specific traits and skill sets that has made the Memphis roster both talented and deep. This is especially true when you consider many of the 2018 and 2019 draft class/roster members that Memphis has acquired outside of Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr.
The above reference centers on Brandon Clarke, John Konchar, and De’Anthony Melton. Clarke and Konchar were acquired via the 2019 NBA Draft and undrafted player free agency, while De’Anthony Melton arrived in a trade from Phoenix last summer (though some speculation had suggested the Grizzlies liked Melton as a draft target in 2018.) The strengths of these players seem to fit much of the criteria the Memphis front office values in young players.
Front Office leader Zach Kleiman has mentioned the types of talents that really stand out to the Grizzlies. From a qualitative perspective, these players are highly productive and intelligent who play with energy and passion on both ends of the court and display good character and a desire to improve. From a quantitative perspective, these players are efficient, can contribute in a variety of different ways, and can consistently create advantageous opportunities. Clarke, Melton, and Konchar each meet much or all of this criteral with how they play.
While the Grizzlies will certainly complete their due diligence in learning about the personalities of potential draft targets, from a statistical standpoint there are three general areas they will likely gravitate toward as they narrow their list of options. These are efficient shot selection, the ability to add value outside of scoring, and defensive playmaking. The skillsets of Clarke, Melton, and Konchar each fit into more than one of these categories.
As a result, members of the 2020 NBA Draft class who compare favorably to Clarke, Knochar, and Melton in the ways mentioned above could emerge as the most likely candidates to be selected by the Grizzlies.
EFFICIENT SHOT SELECTION
One reason as to why the Grizzlies emerged as one of the biggest surprises in the NBA this season was there efficiency in plenty of key areas, especially from their bench. From Clarke’s historic scoring efficiency to Tyus Jones’s historic passing and the overall production of the Grizzlies in the paint, Memphis was able to perform better offensively than many expected. The ability to find the right shot was a big reason for this success, and that has been a key area the Grizzlies have focused on when acquiring talent.
Both Clarke and Konchar displayed highly efficient shot selection in college. In fact, since 1992, they are two of the 49 players who have produced both a True Shooting Percentage and Effective Field Goal Percentage above 60% during their NCAA careers (minimum 900 FGA). Applying that same criteria to this draft class (while lowering the minimum FGA to 500 due to different levels of college experience), names such as Killian Tillie and Udoka Azubuike emerge as potential targets early in the second round.
With his ability from beyond the arc, Tillie especially makes sense as a developmental big. The main reasons are his familiarity with Brandon Clarke at Gonzaga and the preference toward shooting head coach Taylor Jenkins showed at times with his lineups and rotations. Regardless of position, widening out the criteria identifies names such as Sam Merrill, Desmond Bane, and Xavier Tillman as other draft targets who have shown good decision making on shots during their collegiate careers.
ADDED VALUE BEYOND SCORING
Beyond scoring, the Grizzlies place a significant emphasis on players who can add value in both expected and unexpected ways. The expected skills for front court players is to rebound and for back court players is to pass. However, finding wings and post players who can pass effectively and guards that can rebound is ideal. Furthermore, finding talents who can do these things without frequently committing turnovers is an added bonus.
In the case of Clarke, he is one of only nine frontcourt players who have produced 750 or more rebounds and 180 or more assists in less than 100 collegiate games played since 1992. His production resulted in total rebounding and assist rates above 14%, each. Regarding this draft class, a familiar name showed similar levels of production to Clarke in these skill areas over 105 collegiate games. Also, like Clarke, this player showed good decision making with his passing. This could be a reason why Xavier Tillman has been a popular name for the Grizzlies in recent mock drafts.
In regards to Konchar and Melton, both guards displayed impressive rebounding ability in college that has translated to the NBA, along with a good ability to set up their teammates with assists. In his lone collegiate season, Melton produced total rebounding rates of 9.9% and 22.5%, respectively. Konchar accomplished that feat in each of his last two collegiate seasons. This past season, 25 collegiate guards produced at these rates or higher while playing in at least 25 games. Among these players is, once again, highly logical draft target for Memphis Desmond Bane.
Obviously, in terms of individual talent and as a roster overall, the Grizzlies have a lot of potential on offense. Another reason why the Grizzlies targeted Clarke, Melton, and Konchar as talents is due to their ability as productive defensive playmakers. Not only is creating turnovers a positive development for a roster that is still a work in progress overall when it comes to defense, these specific plays also lead to fast break opportunities for Memphis, a scenario in which the Grizzlies are among the best at in the NBA.
Since 2009, Brandon Clarke is one of only 29 frontcourt players with a block rate of 8.8% or above and a steal rate of 2.0% or above in 90 or more games played. Though no one in this draft class meets that specific criteria, a few names who could be available at pick 40 do appear among the players who have played at least 50 games over the past four years and have produced block and steal rates at or above 7% and 1.5% respectively. These two players are Paul Reed and Xavier Tillman. The significance of these numbers shows that Tillman and Reed can alter or eliminate both shots and passes on a regular basis.
Over the past four years, Melton and Konchar are two of the 19 guards who have produced a steal rate of 3% or better and a block rate of 2.5% or better while playing at least 900 minutes in a single season. Though no guard produced at these rates this past season, a few notable names who could make sense for the Grizzlies that generated at least 30 blocks and 30 steals each in a season in college are Robert Woodard II and Tyler Bey. This shows that Woodard and Bey can make it difficult on opposing players to find good shots or passing lanes on the perimeter. While there is a good chance both of these names will be off the board by the time the Grizzlies pick arrives, this shows either one of them would be considered a steal if available.
As mentioned above, there are many different factors that will likely be considered by the Grizzlies when narrowing their list of potential of draft options. One factor that will carry heavy significance is projected shooting ability. However, Memphis also wants to check as many preference boxes as possible with their selection. If the Grizzlies use the same criteria that helped them identify Clarke. Melton and Konchar as valuable additions to their roster, a few options become more obvious than others as likely targets based off how they compare to this trio of Grizzlies.
They are Xavier Tillman, Desmond Bane, and Killian Tillie.
It should come as no surprise that, like Clarke, Melton, and Konchar, each of these three names are highlighted as potential steals among projected selections in the late first or early second rounds. As a result, it seems that if Memphis simply sticks with how it has identified talent over the past few years, it will very likely continue its trend of highly successful draft night decisions in 2020.