The Zach Kleiman, Jason Wexler plan for long-term, sustainable success is another way to say “trust the process.”
Trust the process — a famous term dubbed by former Philadelphia 76ers exec, the architect of the NBA’s biggest tank-job ever, Sam Hinkie.
While the Memphis Grizzlies organization isn’t equipping the team for a mountain of losses in hopes of acquiring high draft picks, Kleiman is following a path that emulates one of Hinkie’s tactics from his time in Philly.
Over the past week and a half, the Grizzlies signed John Konchar, Jontay Porter, and Xavier Tillman Sr. for savvy, low-cost 4 year deals. That’s strikingly similar to some of the contracts Sam Hinkie gave out to undrafted — or second-round — prospects.
Hinkie signed Robert Covington to a 4-year, $4.6M deal, TJ McConnell to a 4-year, $4.5M contract, and Jerami Grant to a 4-year, $4.2M deal. The Sixers extracted tremendous value from those deals.
Covington emerged as one of the better 3-and-D role players in the league, and was later flipped as a cornerstone piece in the Jimmy Butler trade. McConnell is one of the league’s most reliable backup point guards. Then, they used Grant to acquire Ersan Illyasova (who was a veteran floor-spacer to help in the playoffs) and another first-round pick — which was later used to select Tyrese Maxey.
For the Grizzlies, each of these players have nice upside as complementary role players alongside Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr., and they’ll still cost under $3M when their stars’ extensions kick in. In addition, the partial-guarantees on their deals give the Grizzlies wiggle room in case they need to make roster crunches.
Regardless of the outcome, this is just another savvy move from this Kleiman-led front office that could pay dividends in the long run.
The Memphis Grizzlies will be getting jitty for 4 more years, following Konchar’s re-signing contract. He’s an example of a player with nice partial-guarantees, in case roster spots get crunched down the road.
John Konchar's contract with the Memphis Grizzlies is a bit interesting:— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) November 24, 2020
22-23 is guaranteed for $840K, becoming fully guaranteed on 7/3/22.
23-24 is non-guaranteed, becoming fully guaranteed on 7/3/23.
Why the Grizzlies signed the deal (what we know): Konchar’s skillset is interesting. Similar to De’Anthony Melton, he’s a standout in the analytics, and he seems to do all the little things. His rebounding rate is remarkable for his position, so remarkable that The Athletic’s Peter Edmiston dubbed him as “Tennis Rodman.” He also doesn’t force anything on the offensive end, as he’s a good ball-mover as well. He has potential defensively, given his strong nose for the ball on the glass and his hustle for loose balls.
What to watch in these 4 years (where’s the upside): Where Konchar’s value will rise is tied directly to his 3-point volume. He’s stressed both in his media day scrum and in his interview on the Core 4 podcast was a focal point in his offseason. Last season, he shot 23-64 (35.9%) from deep in his combined stint with the Grizzlies and the Memphis Hustle. The percentages are encouraging, and he also has nice mechanics on his jumper. The big thing for Konchar is making sure his volume is up from last year.
If he can trend in that percentage, while shooting roughly 3 three’s a game, he’ll become an interesting piece in the Grizzlies’ wing rotation over the next 4 seasons.
MEM used part of the Non-Tax MLE to re-sign Jontay Porter:— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) November 24, 2020
21-22 is guaranteed for $300K becoming fully guaranteed if Porter isn't waived on/before 7/20/21.
22-23 is non-guaranteed, becoming full if Porter isn't waived on/before 6/28/22
Why the Grizzlies signed the deal (what we know): If it wasn’t for ACL tears, Porter probably would’ve been a first-round pick. GBB Senior Staff Writer Brendan Smart highlighted Porter’s upside this past week. The upside is warranted too.
Porter has long been praised for his playmaking — The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor likened him to a “Thrift-Shop” Nikola Jokic, take that how you see it — and his outside shooting potential. In his lone season at Missouri, he shot 36.4% from 3 on 110 total attempts. If he can tap into that playmaking and outside shooting potential, the Grizzlies will have a treasure chest of assets in its frontcourt.
What to watch in these 4 years (where’s the upside): If he hits his ceiling, and the Grizzlies want to decide to make Jaren Jackson Jr. a permanent 4, could he emerge as the starting 5 of the future? It’s not far-fetched, as most contenders don't spend a boatload of cash at the center spot (unless you’re Nikola Jokic or Joel Embiid). Or he could emerge as the 4th big behind the Jackson-Clarke-Tillman trio. He’d be a hand-in-glove fit for a bench unit with tremendous playmaking from multiple positions. His passing and outside shot could make him one of the most valuable backup 5’s in the league.
Regardless, he has the upside and skillset to succeed in the NBA. Snagging him for around $2M annually for 3 years could be one of the league’s best value deals... if he stays healthy. And if can’t stay healthy, and if there’s a roster crunch, the Grizzlies won’t be strapped financially with any future guarantees.
Xavier Tillman Sr.
The Xavier Tillman contract may be even better than where he fell in the draft.
Contract info for Xavier Tillman, Sr. in Memphis:— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) November 29, 2020
23/24 $1.9M (Team)
Ranks behind Bruno Fernando (also done by @PrioritySports) as the most guaranteed $ of a 2nd rd. pick who played in the NBA right after he was drafted.
Why the Grizzlies picked him and signed the deal (what we know): Tillman is an exceptional playmaker for his position, and his quick feet and decision-making will make him a beast in the short roll. The reigning Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year also projects as a versatile defender who can switch, defend in space, and protect the rim.
What to watch in these 4 years (where’s the upside): Of these 3 players, Tillman has the most upside here, as he’s someone who can play immediate minutes and could eventually transition into becoming the starting 5 of the future — again, if Jaren Jackson Jr. is a permanent 4, and Brandon Clarke is the 6th man.
And it’s not crazy to suggest either.
Sports 56’s Anthony Sain has started the early “Xavier Tillman, future starting center” campaign on his Twitter page, and wow, what a luxury would it be to have a starter on that type of deal towards the end of his contract.
He’s a good fit for what the Grizzlies are trying to accomplish. Tillman and his best man Jaren Jackson Jr. also shore up each other’s deficiencies. Jackson’s size allows him to switch on 5’s, while Tillman guards 4’s. Tillman also is a strong rebounder, and great positional rebounders should be a priority when building around Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr.
When taking into the account the upside hit from the Hinkie-esque deals — like Covington, McConnell, and Grant — Tillman is a player that can hit that similar upside as a good rotation player on a contending team.
Finding value in multiple avenues is important in a rebuild. Sam Hinkie showed it through finding diamonds in the rough like Robert Covington, Jerami Grant, and TJ McConnell. And it looks like Zach Kleiman is adopting the same practice of investing in certain prospects, while also minimizing the risk down the road.
And each of these players have the upside to evolve into pieces next to Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. on the next great Grizzlies team, whether that’s as a starter or a contributor at the end of the rotation.
Whether it’s trading up for their guys, signing the right role players to deals that won’t hurt the team long-term, or finding value in players like Konchar, Porter, and Tillman... This Grizzlies regime is backing up their word of long-term, sustainable success, thus making it easy to trust the process.
Contract information found on spotrac, stats found on sports-reference.