The Josh Jackson experience was an intriguing secondary storyline this past season.
He was came to Memphis in a deal where the Phoenix Suns attached De’Anthony Melton (a promising young player) and 2 second-round picks in exchange for Jevon Carter and Kyle Korver’s salary. Even though he was a top-5 pick two years prior, it was a clear indication that Phoenix didn’t want to invest in him any longer, and the Grizzlies took a flier.
A reclamation project at its finest.
He spent most of his time with the Memphis Hustle down in the G-League. Around February, he joined the main roster and salvaged his value a bit. In 22 appearances, he averaged 9 points, 3 rebounds, and 1.6 assists in 17.3 minutes per game, and he shot 44% from the field and 31.9% from 3 (3.3 attempts per game). His minimal role in the bubble likely indicates that Jackson won’t be back with the Grizzlies, but he’ll surely garner interest as a big wing that can defend multiple positions, play in transition, shoot 3’s, and facilitate at a secondary level.
But the Grizzlies got what they wanted: a flier on a young player with pedigree that could potentially fit alongside Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr.
And they should look to do such again.
Contrary to the belief generated from the Grizzlies’ surprising run, they’re still a rebuilding team looking to form the pieces necessary to bring a championship during its next great era. Granted, any of these moves wouldn’t bring another cornerstone, but they need to capitalize on any low-cost moves possible to add young complementary talent.
Any of these players would be intriguing low-risk, medium-upside fliers for the Memphis Grizzlies.
Any Young Knick not named Mitchell Robinson or RJ Barrett
Everyone knows the New York Knicks have been a dumpster, and these expendable prospects might be worth saving.
Dennis Smith Jr. has had the most “success” in the NBA, but his value tanked after an abysmal 3rd season. He looked the part of an explosive guard that can get to the rim and finish at will — think Steve Francis. But I don’t know what happened to him. Last season, he didn’t score efficiently, facilitate well, or defend at an average level. Some team needs to go buy low on him, but he doesn’t fit in with the Grizzlies’ current crop of guards.
Frank Ntilikina is better than given credit for. Though his offensive numbers are rough, he’s a quality defender that can also serve as a secondary playmaker. He improved as a shooter this past season, and in a good system, he can be a nice defensive specialist off the bench in the NBA. If De’Anthony Melton isn’t back in free agency, Ntilikina is a nice, one-year flyer to make a deal. It’s worth noting that the Grizzlies previously had interest in Ntilikina back in 2018.
Kevin Knox is the most intriguing player of the 3, as he has the prototypical skillset for a modern wing. He’s a 6’9” wing with good measurements, and he’s flashed the upside as a good perimeter creator. However, his inconsistent role has hurt his efficiency, as he has the lowest win shares of anyone in the 2018 draft class. Knox is a player that needs a change of scenery where he’s surrounded by better playmakers and playing in a system that generates better offensive looks for him. He’s barely 21 years old, and if the Grizzlies could buy low on him, he could evolve into a nice scoring option off the bench.
Potential deals: Marko Guduric, 2021 second round pick from Portland, own 2023 second round pick for 1 of Kevin Knox or Dennis Smith Jr. Sign-and-trade Josh Jackson for Frank Ntilikina — if the Memphis Grizzlies don’t retain De’Anthony Melton.
I don’t even know what the Orlando Magic aredoing. They have a lot of nice young pieces in Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, Markelle Fultz, and Mo Bamba. However, they have veterans taking minutes away from those players.
No player has suffered in this circumstance more than Bamba, who has been stuck behind Nikola Vucevic.
Bamba’s career hasn’t gone off to the best start, as he’s low on the depth chart, and he saw his rookie season cut short due to injury. As the Magic are in this mediocrity limbo, the Grizzlies should inquire about a Mo Bamba deal for pieces that are fit to contribute immediately.
Even then, it could help Bamba get a new scenery and find his NBA footing. He has the tools to be a good NBA contributor. He has ideal size for the 5 position, and he can block shots at an efficient clip (3.5 blocks per 36 minutes), and he can step out and shoot the 3 (34.6% on 1.7 attempts per game).
In Memphis, he’d immediately slide in the Gorgui Dieng role, as the backup 5 with defensive versatility and good shooting touch from deep. However, he offers more upside, as he can be a nice 3rd big man alongside Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke. If Jackson is a long-term 4, Bamba would be a nice 5 next to him. However, if the plan goes accordingly where Clarke and Jackson are the 4 and 5, Bamba is the backup big that can play next to either starter.
He’s not the most appealing name on this list, but I’m keeping an eye on how Bamba would evolve in his next spot. The verdict’s not out on him.
Potential deals: Sign and trade Josh Jackson for Mo Bamba. Kyle Anderson and a 2021 second-round pick for Mo Bamba.
Miles Bridges or Malik Monk
This was a popular topic on Grizz Twitter this past weekend, after The Action Network’s Matt Moore suggested that Miles Bridges will be available in trade talks.
Bridges is an ideal fit for this Grizzlies team, and not just because of his connection with fellow Michigan State Spartan Jaren Jackson Jr. He’s a hyper-athletic wing that can defend multiple positions, fly in transition, and theoretically serve as a secondary playmaker. He did improve his counting stats with more playing time, but his efficiency suffered — as his field goal percentage, PER, and BPM dipped from his rookie season.
In Memphis, he’d slot in Kyle Anderson’s spot as a combo-forward that can play the 3 in bigger lineups, while running as a small-ball 4 too. He’d also provide more athleticism and outside shooting in that role, as opposed to Anderson. If he continues on his trajectory, he can fit in the next great Memphis playoff team.
Another name that could be interesting in these talks is Malik Monk. Long thought to be the prize jewel of the 2017 Kentucky team, Monk’s NBA tenure has been disappointing. His size leaves him in a funk, as he’s a naturally shooting guard in a point guard’s body, but doesn’t have the handle and playmaking chops to be the 1.
So far, he’s a small guard that’s an inefficient shooter from all 3 levels and a subpar defender and playmaker. Why want him?
Monk can create his own shot, and he may need a better system with better playmakers. He gets that in Memphis, and not in Charlotte. He could fit in as the team’s microwave 6th man scorer alongside a really efficient bench unit in Memphis.
There is some off-court concern though. As he was finding his rhythm (16.7/3.9/2.2 on 45.5/38.6/85.2 shooting over 9 games), he was suspended for violating the NBA’s anti-drug program. That may draw teams away from him in negotiations.
As the Charlotte Hornets are figuring out what they are, it may lead them to making certain young players expendable. Though either, or both, of these players would be available in a potential Russell Westbrook deal. However, if they strike out, the Memphis Grizzlies should try to make an offer for one of these young prospects.
Potential deals: Kyle Anderson, Gorgui Dieng, Marko Guduric, 2021 second round pick, and own 2023 second round pick from Portland for Nic Batum and Miles Bridges. Or Anderson, Dieng, Guduric for Batum and Monk.
The Memphis Grizzlies have shown that they’re willing to invest and take fliers on young, expendable talent. Grayson Allen was first in the Mike Conley trade. Then, they got a look at Josh Jackson and another young player in De’Anthony Melton. We’re also waiting on the verdict on Justise Winslow.
As the Grizzlies are in this rebuild, and figuring out how to build around their core, I’d bet they’ll continue to take fliers on young players that have became afterthoughts on their teams.
When they make these deals, they’re not going to find another cornerstone next to Ja and Jaren — if they did though, it’d be absolutely fantastic. However, it’d be interesting to see how they could fit in as complementary pieces next to them.
When you’re a rebuilding small-market team, you have to take any shots at talent you could get. The draft is the obvious one, but if the Grizzlies can continue finding value through second-chance fliers at a low trade cost, that could bode well for the team’s trajectory going forward.
Stats found on basketball-reference, and trades generated through tradenba.com