An underrated storyline of the Orlando bubble will be the tampering that could go down. With the hotel assignments, amenities offered, and the boredom bound to come from not having friends and family around, friendships will be made during this time. In fact, some of these new friendships may result in teaming up down the line.
The Memphis Grizzlies will be joining the Orlando Magic, Oklahoma City Thunder, Philadelphia 76ers, Houston Rockets, Brooklyn Nets, Dallas Mavericks, and Indiana Pacers in the Grand Floridian at Walt Disney World. Is there a possibility we see some recruitment coming out of the Grizzlies’ side?
It’s definitely a possibility. Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. have friendly, extroverted personalities and are probably two of the most likable young players in the league. In addition, telling by Ja’s jersey swaps over the course of the season, the possibilities sure are tantalizing, right?
Assuming teams have to stay inside the respective hotels in non-game, or practice, scenarios, the Grand Floridian has some interesting young players, ones where they could potentially be recruited to Memphis.
Obviously there are pipe dreams.
For starters, let’s get the easy one out of the way. As hard as Ja and Jaren may try, Luka Doncic won’t leave Dallas; in fact, Mark Cuban would probably give up a ton of his life assets to ensure it. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are two cool possibilities, as they’ve both been in trade rumors seemingly every season. However, the Grizzlies won’t have the assets to pull anything off, nor would the Sixers bite on anything anytime soon.
The fascinating pipe-dream scenario is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. He’s probably the Jaren Jackson Jr. of guards, a smooth, big guard with nice handle and craft around the rim but flies under the radar. If Oklahoma City never cashes in on assets, or never take the leap to contention, this is a long-term play to keep an eye on.
Now I’ll get out of the pipe dreams, so I don’t try to talk myself, or anyone else, into these.
An enticing name that wouldn’t gain a lot of attention is Josh Richardson. The former Tennessee Volunteer has a player option for the 2021-22 season, but could enter free agency to secure a longer-term deal. He’d be a nice, sweet-shooting option in the wing rotation that could alleviate playmaking pressure off Morant.
Realistically, a name to keep an eye on is Victor Oladipo. His contract situation in Indiana could be tricky, since he’s coming off a major injury and they also have long-term money in Malcolm Brogdon, Domantas Sabonis, and Myles Turner. The Grizzlies will have Gorgui Dieng’s $17M off the books, an extra $13 if they decline Justise Winslow’s team option, and expiring contracts of Jonas Valanciunas, Tyus Jones, and Kyle Anderson. If they look at making upgrades at the 2, Oladipo could be a nice option for the Grizzlies as he’d thrive as a perimeter scorer, playmaker, and defender next to Morant.
There are also a few intriguing names out of Orlando as well. Aaron Gordon will be the one that comes to mind for casual fans, and maybe a switch to being a pure 4 alongside Jackson or as a 6th man could be enticing. Wow, imagine the lobs...They could realistically recruit Mo Bamba as well. Yes, you’ll scoff at Bamba, since he’s more well-known for a song than his NBA career. Maybe, a “grass is greener here” pitch could get him to Memphis on a cheap, prove-it deal in the summer of 2022. The player I’m dying for them to recruit is Jonathan Isaac. He’s emerged as one of the best defenders in the league, as he has the tools to defend all 5 positions at a high level. He also has a budding offensive game. Playing next to a point guard like Ja Morant could unlock that offensive arsenal. Also, imagine someone trying to score on Isaac and Jaren. It’d be impossible. Barring an extension this summer, it’d take a lucrative offer sheet for the Magic to (probably) not match it.
Nonetheless, “tampering” is going to be a fun league-wide storyline that could send ripple effects in the landscape over the next half-decade.
There are a lot of rabbit holes to go down here, but that could be too messy, as there are too many moving parts going on.
However, take this point home — Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ja Morant will be assets in free agency recruiting. The Grizzlies will likely in the future get a bigger free agent acquisition than Chandler Parsons.
Jackson and Morant’s personalities and energies have been a driving force in the chemistry and continuity established within this Next-Gen Grizzlies team. On the court, they have exciting brands of basketball that have led to early success — in relation to standard rebuilds. Who wouldn’t want to join a fast, electric playmaker and a 7-foot flame-thrower for a 3 or 4-year contract — or beyond?
For the first time in franchise history, behind their star cornerstones and their front office’s asset management, the Grizzlies are primed to be major players in free agency down the line. And that process could start in the Orlando bubble.