This coming season, the Memphis Grizzlies front court is relatively set. In fact, long-term it may be locked in - Jaren Jackson Jr., Brandon Clarke, and even Jonas Valanciunas have at least two years (assuming no trades) together to eat big-man minutes for Memphis. They compliment each other well, and all do different things at elite levels. None of them are superstars alone at this stage, but together? You have the perfect NBA big. That holds real value, as a vast majority of the time in the traditional “4” and “5” positions will be taken by those guys for the foreseeable future.
Add in the fact that Gorgui Dieng is on the roster (for now), Kyle Anderson is likely best utilized as a ball handling combo forward moving forward, and Jontay Porter appears to be of interest to the team in some way with a team option (maybe he himself fills a two-way spot?), there probably isn’t too much room for another big with the Grizzlies full-time in the upcoming campaign. But with Dieng’s expiring contract, there will eventually be a hole on the roster for a 4th big that will need to be filled. At #40 overall it may make sense to take that future backup if they are the best player available on Memphis’ board. But given the near-certainty that Dieng will be gone after this season (if not sooner via trade) a two-way big man to store in Southaven with the Hustle may make a lot of sense.
Here are three names to watch in such a scenario if it were to play out.
3. Mamadi Diakite, Virginia. Diakite finished his career at Virginia nicely, posting career highs across the board including games started, minutes played, and points scored. Diakite spent five seasons with Tony Bennett at UVA (he redshirted his freshman year) and showed real growth in his game throughout the years, especially offensively. He is tremendous as an on-ball defender for his size (6’9” 225) and can defend well at the rim, making him quite versatile on that end of the floor. But he brought that capacity with him to Charlottesville.
The three point marksmanship? That’s relatively new.
In his final season with the Cavaliers, Diakite shot a remarkable 36.4% from beyond the arc. The percentage itself isn’t what is particularly noteworthy. The fact he grew that shooting mark seven points in one season is what is most impressive. In one season, Mamadi went from a relative three point non-factor to a legitimate threat. That makes him much more relevant to the NBA, potentially - just being a very good defender isn’t enough anymore. There must be one aspect of your game offensively that teams have to at least respect. Diakite isn’t creating any shots for himself or others on a regular basis. Considering his length (7’3” wingspan) and strength, he isn’t a good enough rebounder. He has significant flaws in his game.
But he has a frame capable of screening and defending, and a shooting stroke that could be beneficial as an end-of-the-bench contributor. Which makes him intriguing for Memphis as a two-way option.
2. Omer Yurtseven, Georgetown
Our Justin Lewis wrote about Omer recently (read the entire post here), so I am breaking my “not covered by GBB” rule here. But considering his skill set (soft shooting touch, solid rebounder) and the fact that there are reports that Memphis has already met with Yurtseven, he makes a lot of sense to include on this list. His three point shooting (21.4% from beyond the arc for the Hoyas this past season, yuck) leaves a lot to be desired, but there is not much in his mechanics that would suggest that can’t be improved upon. He has a wonderful capacity to catch passes and despite a lack of athleticism he can excel in transition situations.
I’ll let Justin explain his take on Omer’s prospects...because he’s exactly right.
...Omer Yurtseven would be 2-3 seasons from contributing to Grizzlies and Memphis should not consider him with the 40th pick unless literally all the wing prospects are gone and he is able to showcase an improved shooting stroke and defensive presence...
40 would be a massive reach. As a two-way player? Not so much - he could get those necessary seasons if needed (Yuta Watanabe played two years on a two-way contract with the Grizzlies) to develop those areas of need. As a true big man (6’11”) he definitely possesses skill sets this front office values in terms of his offensive versatility, and additional time to grow as a perimeter threat could benefit both Yurtseven and Memphis.
The Pick - Yoeli Childs, BYU
A two-time All-WCC first team selection, Childs boasts an offensive repertoire that certainly makes a lot of sense for the Grizzlies/Hustle. His 35.1 PER was elite in college basketball this season, and boasts other advanced statistics (59.7% true shooting, .245 win shares per 48 minutes according to sports-reference.com) that suggest he contributed in winning ways. Per 40 minutes he scored 30.8 points while snagging 12.5 rebounds and converting a truly surprising 48.9% three point shooting mark. Now he wasn’t a three point volume scorer - he only attempted 45 threes this past season - so his career mark of 35.6% may be more indicative of his ability from three.
Still, he has a vast array of skills that can score the basketball from the front court.
He can score with his back to the basket, he can score off the dribble (depending on who is guarding him - a wing with comparable length and better athleticism would give him issues), and he has shown flashes of shooting acumen from three. He is more athletic in terms of his jumping ability than he gets credit for and is a solid passer both off the dribble and out of the post (16.8% assist percentage). He was an exceptional rebounder considering his size (18.9% total rebounding percentage) and while he didn’t blow folks away defensively, he has enough evidence of movement when playing offense that he should be able to grow on that end. He will probably never be a good to great defender, but he can develop in to a switchable forward who can play passing lanes and help weak side at the rim.
It’s very possible Childs gets drafted. He would make a ton of sense for Utah, for example, and any team that needs bench scoring would benefit from taking a shot on Childs. But if he is indeed available after the draft, the Grizzlies should be kicking the tires. He’s older (23 in January), but depending on availability he also may be a perfect 4th big moving forward in terms of offensive contributions. Another player may need to be brought in to help with rim protection eventually, but Yoeli has too many offensive weapons to write off because of his lack of traditional big size.
Finally, who to sign
Let’s review the nine names written about in this series. The choice in that category is in bold.
BALL HANDLERS - Myles Powell, Jordan Ford, Markus Howard
WINGS- Josh Hall, Anthony Lamb, Lamine Diane
BIGS- Mamadi Diakite, Omer Yurtseven, Yoeli Childs
The following is a ranking of who would best fit with the Grizzlies while also bringing skills that would most benefit from being in the organization with a two-way contract.
9. Myles Powell, Seton Hall. Myles did a wonderful job helping get Seton Hall back to relevance. It’s tough to see him growing beyond that in to being an impactful NBA player.
8. Mamadi Diakite, Virginia. This is more a circumstantial spot Diakite finds himself in. He and #7 are probably roughly the same in terms of ranking, but Memphis needs another lead guard in the system more than they need another big at the moment.
7. Jordan Ford, St. Mary’s. He’s smart, he can play on the run, and he can make threes. But his age and lack of NBA athleticism make him an unlikely pick for Memphis (although I would support it - he’s that intriguing in terms of what he does well compared to what the Grizzlies value offensively).
6. Omer Yurtseven, Georgetown. Part of me wanted to put Ford ahead of Yurtseven. But the Grizzlies clearly value Omer, and that gives him the nod on this particular ranking.
5. Josh Hall, Moravian Prep. A young player with all the tools. He is likely two years away from meaningful NBA contribution, but as a project you can certainly do a lot worse.
4. Anthony Lamb, Vermont. Lamb almost made the top three - I like his game that much. He has a swagger and confidence that ties in with the ability to be truly positionless in the front court. He was able to carry his team and compete at a very high level.
3. Yoeli Childs, BYU. Yes, the top big on my list barely made the overall top-3. I like Childs, but I am not sure of how he will respond to being an undersized five. Childs probably can do it (he can certainly jump enough), but he will need time to get comfortable in that role.
2. Markus Howard, Marquette. This guy is, aside from being too small, an excellent fit for what Memphis needs. He’s an elite shooter. He’s a winner. He’s busted his tail to get to this level. He fits the Grizzlies mold.
1. Lamine Diane, Cal State Northridge. He has the best chance to be an NBA rotation player, and one on a good team at that. One year to get his feet under him with the Hustle would be massive. Then, sign him to a long-term deal. He’s that good.
The decision - Assuming Diane and Howard go undrafted (they could very well be selected late by a team with multiple 2nd round picks) both should get two-way offers. They both could help in the short-term in select spots while also being possible long-term fits. From there? Work your way up, again assuming availability - Childs, Lamb, and Hall all have potential to be solid end of bench NBA players. Yurtseven fills a need, but he has a lot of holes in his game. Hall, Diakite, and Powell could be “Summer League” types/training camp invites, but long-term they have a tall mountain to climb to get to the NBA and stick.