Part 1 — Long-Term Fits in Memphis.
Taking chances is a part of a rebuild.
Whether it’s the former top-5 pick that hasn’t found his footing yet, the young player thrown into a trade, or the first-round prospect plagued with injuries, it never hurts to take a chance. The Grizzlies have been doing this with multiple players, because they have the luxury to do so — they’re set with their stars.
In addition, they’ve nailed it with some young potential complementary players — Brandon Clarke, Dillon Brooks, De’Anthony Melton, and Tyus Jones. They also have younger veterans like Jonas Valanciunas and Kyle Anderson that are key cogs to the system in place.
Because of the Grizzlies’ success here, they have the flexibility to use roster spots on fliers on young players. Grayson Allen, Josh Jackson, Jontay Porter, and John Konchar are all players that could find a role in the Grizzlies’ future. All, excluding Porter, have flashed the promise to do so.
As I alluded to in my last piece, the Grizzlies will need to make some decisions eventually. It’s the nature of the beast in today’s NBA.
With that said, what long-term approach should they take on these fliers? Do any of them have long-term staying power?
Potentially Nice Depth, but Questionable Future with Team
Grayson Allen (24 years old, under rookie contract through 2021-22)
Josh Jackson (23 years old, UFA this offseason)
Both of these players came into Memphis with certain baggage. Grayson Allen was known more for his tripping and temper antics than his production on the court. Josh Jackson, on the other hand, had off-court issues that were shaky at best. Nonetheless, it seems to be forgotten, since both players have proven their worth on the court.
Injuries plagued his season, but Grayson Allen had a solid stretch where he served as a spark off the bench. After his first ankle injury, Allen averaged 7.4 points and 1.4 assists in 16.5 minutes a game, while shooting 48.2 percent from the field and 38.9 percent from 3. His 3-level scoring, defensive energy, and 3-point marksmanship was a nice lift off the bench. With his rookie deal expiring in 2022, he likely has a role on this team beyond this season.
Josh Jackson has been a fun story this season. After spending the first several months of the season with the Memphis Hustle, Jackson finally got his call and has delivered. The Grizzlies are 7.9 points better with him on the court than off, per Cleaning the Glass. In Memphis, he’s become a more efficient player on both ends of the court, as he notched a career-best True Shooting Percentage (53.9) and Defensive Box Plus/Minus (+1.2).
He has emerged as a potential complementary player for the Grizzlies both short- and long-term, but his pending free agency makes things hazy. Does another team see his progress in Memphis and take a chance? Does Memphis get priced out beyond the 1 year, $8.9 million they can offer him?
Despite what the long-term future holds for Allen and Jackson, it’s been nice to see them prove their worth on the court — the perfect cash-in on a flier.
Cheap Flier Worth Looking In To
Jontay Porter (20 years old, league minimum with team option for next season)
John Konchar (23 years old, two-way contract)
Jontay Porter and John Konchar will probably be the Grizzlies’ 14th and 15th roster spots next season, and they will be perfect insurance for whatever hits the Grizzlies.
Former GBBer Chip Williams wrote a great, extensive blog on Jontay Porter and his fit with Memphis, and it’s promising. Porter projects more as a fourth big behind Jaren Jackson Jr., Brandon Clarke, and Jonas Valanciunas, which isn’t a bad thing at all. He’s an extraordinary passer for his position and has excellent touch from mid-range to 3. Though his defense is limited, his offensive repertoire and skillset make up for it. If he is healthy, he’ll surely get some reps with the Hustle and a shot to prove his long-term worth with Memphis. However, if his knee problems persists, it’s a cheap way to clear a roster spot.
I did a deeper dive on John Konchar earlier this week, highlighting why the Grizzlies should give him a look at the main roster. His ability to impact the game without scoring is marvelous, and his scoring efficiency is great as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Grizzlies use Anthony Tolliver or Marko Guduric’s roster spots next season to make room for John Konchar, while also freeing up a two-way spot for more fliers.
We don’t know what the future holds for Grayson Allen, Josh Jackson, Jontay Porter, and John Konchar because they’ve proven that they have NBA-caliber potential. That’s a huge credit to the front office for taking a look at them, and to Coach Jenkins for finding how to utilize Konchar, Jackson, and Allen in particular successfully.
Because of their front office success, the Grizzlies can afford to take chances — whether it’s the big trade, a risky draft pick, a player with injury concerns, or a reclamation flier. And with the returns thus far, we should give them the benefit of the doubt when they make these moves.
Maybe, one day, that flier they take will become an integral part in the Grizzlies’ championship aspirations.
Or that player is already on the roster.
Stats found on basketball-reference.