MALACHI FLYNN: GUARD, SAN DIEGO STATE UNIVERSITY
- 6’1” (6’3” wingspan), 185 lbs., 22 years old, from Tacoma, Washington
- 2019-2020 season: 32 games played, 33.4 minutes per game, 17.6 points, 5.1 assists, 4.5 rebounds, 44.1% from the field (37.3% from three), 85.7% free throw shooter
- ACCOLADES: 2019-2020 Mountain West Conference Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, 2nd Team All-American, Wooden Award Finalist
- ADVANCED STAT STRENGTHS (per Tankathon): Defensive Rating (90.3), Box Plus Minus (12.2), Projected NBA three point percentage (38.3%)
- ADVANCED STAT AREA TO GROW: Free Throw Attempt Rate (.336)
- CURRENT BIG BOARD RANKINGS: 42nd (Tankathon), 36th (Ringer), 45th (CBS Sports), 39th (ESPN), 37th (The Athletic)
Apparently folks haven’t learned their lesson.
This time last year, leading in to the NBA Draft, beyond the obvious Zion Williamson and Ja Morant (and RJ Barrett to be fair) there was a bit of uncertainty about who else should make up the top of the Lottery. By the numbers, Brandon Clarke should have been in that mix (he was 4th on the official Mullinax Big Board). His advanced statistics were through the roof, and he played a style of game in terms of versatility defensively and an elite pick and roll offensive skill set that fit the NBA. Yet apparently his size, age, and the competition he faced while at Gonzaga limited his potential, and led to a free fall down to where the Grizzlies were able to snag him at 21 overall.
The rest is history - a legitimate argument can be made that not only will both Morant and Clarke make the 1st Team All-Rookie team, but Clarke should be the runner-up for Rookie of the Year to his teammate.
Now Malachi Flynn is not going to make that kind of an impact, more than likely. Barring an injury he will not get a ton of playing time right away as the third point guard on the roster behind Morant and Tyus Jones. But at the 40th pick overall in the 2020 NBA Draft, there may be no better value on the board that a guard with an NBA-ready game who is outside the first round for most big boards because of three key factors - his age (22), his size (6’1” with a 6’3” wingspan), and his school - San Diego State, after a year sitting out due to transferring from Washington State.
Even the transfer connection exists with Clarke! Flynn may be the next Brandon.
What he does well
Flynn is a true two-way player. While players like Payton Pritchard of Oregon are elite offensively, Flynn displayed the ability to make an impact on both ends of the floor this past season at San Diego State. To be the Defensive Player of the Year as well as the Player of the Year in the conference speaks to that versatility, and despite the Mountain West competition he was able to dominant both in and out of conference play. Very few players in the country contributed to winning as a defensive and offensive weapon as much as Flynn did, and his 27.2 PER is further evidence of his efficiency.
He can create for others while limiting his own mistakes (as his 2.84 assist to turnover ratio suggests) and also has the ability to shoot the ball from beyond the arc. After watching some film, what makes him elite defensively is his grit and willingness to fight - his athleticism is not top-level (more on that later), but he gains a step or so by scrapping to get over the top of screens and also is an awesome help defender. He has elite conditioning, taking on tough assignments defensively on the perimeter while also needing to facilitate offense on almost every possession and also attacking the glass at a high level for a guard his size.
He made his team better on both ends of the court and led by example. That would make for excellent value in the 2nd round.
Where he can improve
Unfortunately for Malachi, two of his major weaknesses are out of his control. He cannot help that he is about to be a rookie that is roughly 18 or so months older than the two cornerstones of the Grizzlies, Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. He also cannot help that his size and athleticism are not higher level for NBA guards. He does not have terrific size, which limits what he will be able to do beyond a reserve role, and bigger/stronger guards should be able to have their way with him both offensively and defensively more often than not.
What can he control? His ability to attack the rim. His glaring offensive weakness is that he does not draw fouls or finish well in the paint. His main offensive shot in the lane is a floater, which can be effective given his limitations in terms of size and athleticism. But that isn’t a sustainable option if it’s the only thing you can do. He must improve as a ball handler and in terms of his ability to draw contact to get to the charity stripe (.336 free throw attempt rate is pretty low for someone with his 26.8% usage rate).
He can’t control his size or athleticism. What he can control is the tools in his offensive toolbox. For Flynn to become a back up point guard of the future option for Memphis he has to build up those skills.
Memphis again has the ability to draft the best player available. It’s possible the Grizzlies decide to make a pick for potential because of that - Flynn’s upside isn’t very high because of his physical limitations. But there is a need on the Memphis roster for another true point guard, and Malachi fits that bill and then some. He cold benefit from some time with the Memphis Hustle getting live game reps against professional competition and also having to defend the likes of Ja Morant in practice on a daily basis.
Long-term, Flynn could be a potential Tyus Jones replacement. That isn’t to say that Jones needs to be replaced - he’s arguably the best backup point guard in Memphis Grizzlies history already. But what Tyus is elite at - his assist to turnover ratio - Flynn could also potentially be great with as well, and Malachi could be a better defender than Tyus. Add in his three point ability, and if a trade possibility arises for a starting-level scoring wing that needs Tyus’ contract to be pulled off down the road? Or the fact that Tyus may play himself out of the Memphis budget on his next contract as likely max deals for Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ja Morant need to be given out?
It creates even more flexibility to a roster that already has a ton of it.
The Grizzlies don’t have massive issues on their roster - at least none that can be properly addressed at #40 overall. If Memphis stays at that pick, and Malachi Flynn is on the board, unless there is a player that drops somewhat unexpectedly (Precious Achiuwa, for example) Flynn should probably be the selection. He fills a need, achieved at a high level in college, in theory will be there without a trade being necessary for the Grizzlies to take, and he fits the mold of what Memphis appears to value in players. He’s an analytics darling, a self-made player who has fought for everything he has earned, and has proven that he can play the game at a high level.
For the Grizzlies as constructed, he makes too much sense to pass on.
Unless a first-round level talent falls leading to trading up using #40 overall and other assets or that prospect makes it all the way to the pick at #40, the Memphis Grizzlies should select Malachi Flynn and solidify their point guard position for years to come.