The NBA’s transaction period in preparation for the Orlando bubble came and went without much noise. The Grizzlies essentially stayed put by signing Anthony Tolliver, who was on the longest 10-day contract in NBA history, to a rest-of-season deal and filling their last open roster spot. It was the only transaction the Grizzlies made, despite the options given to them by the NBA. Given the available depth at the 4-spot, one could question if the Grizzlies would’ve been better off signing someone else instead of Tolliver. Ultimately, I don’t mind the Grizzlies keeping him on as an emergency stretch-4 and a veteran presence in the locker room.
The Grizzlies roster looks solid going into the Orlando bubble. GBB Associate Editor Parker Fleming did a great job looking at projected lineups for the Grizzlies in the bubble earlier this week. Still, the Grizzlies are entering into a world of the unknown in Orlando, and I couldn’t help but wonder if there was more the Grizzlies could have done in preparation.
The only “weakness” on the Grizzlies roster is the lack of a 3rd point guard or center. These problems seem mute when you can argue that Kyle Anderson or Justise Winslow could be the 3rd point guard, or that both Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke can eat up minutes at the center position if necessary. The Grizzlies are likely screwed if either Ja Morant or Jaren get sick or hurt, but what happens if Tyus Jones or Gorgui Dieng have to sit out?
The Grizzlies would have the option to replace a player who tests positive or gets hurt but the sick/hurt player would have to leave the Orlando bubble and would be ineligible to return this season. The Grizzlies would have had to maneuver their roster a little bit, but there were precautions they could have taken going into the bubble to prepare for any potential illnesses or injuries. The Grizzlies would have to open up a roster spot, but there are 3 players in particular the Grizzlies could have waived to make room.
The cleanest move could have been to waive Yuta Watanabe and sign someone like G-League MVP Runner Up Jaylen Adams to an end of season two-way deal. Instead Adams was able to sign as a replacement player for the Portland Trail Blazers. Yuta had shined for the Hustle, but didn’t do much in limited action for the Grizzlies over the past few seasons, and he will be a restricted free agent this summer. It would make sense for the Grizzlies to move on.
The Grizzlies could have also waived one of Jontay Porter or Marko Guduric. Porter was a low-risk high-reward signing back in March right before the season was suspended. He’s injured and won’t be making the trip to Orlando, but the Grizzlies clearly hope the signing pays off next season. He has a team option for $1.5 million next season so waiving him wouldn’t have any future financial implications on the team. Guduric is an interesting option to waive. as he is owed $2.75 million next season, but he has also fallen out of Jenkins’ rotation. Guduric was already losing minutes to John Konchar right before the season was suspended, and with a potentially healthy Grayson Allen, he could be 5th in line on the Grizzlies depth chart at shooting guard in Orlando. Simply put, he’s replaceable but at a financial cost.
My personal favorite move would have been converting John Konchar’s two-way contract to a standard NBA deal and waiving Marko Guduric. Konchar had already seemingly jumped Guduric in Jenkins’ rotation and converting his contract would have prevented him from becoming a restricted free agent this fall. The Grizzlies could have then signed someone to an end-of-season two-way contract. The Grizzlies could have also just waived Guduric or Porter and replace them with a veteran point guard or big.
A 3rd center behind Jonas Valanciunas and Dieng would’ve been a luxury, but the Grizzlies could likely survive should one of them miss time and give those minutes to JJJ or Clarke. Even if it doesn’t lead to direct team success, the experience for both would be good for the Grizzlies down the line.
My real concern comes with what happens if Tyus Jones misses time. The Grizzlies could run with Justise as the emergency point guard, but with him potentially starting at the 3, it could make the rotation fairly tricky. It would also be fairly difficult to prepare Justise for two different positions on a team he’s never played a minute with. Kyle Anderson could also be the emergency point guard, but his lack of a 3-point shot and overall “fit” in Jenkins’ system is worrisome if he needs to play extended minutes at the point.
Overall I think it’s a relatively minor mistake the Grizzlies essentially stayed put during the transaction period. Health isn’t a given, especially in these crazy circumstances, but the Grizzlies have options should something bad happen. GBB’s own Justin Lewis highlighted how the Grizzlies depth will be a strength in the Orlando bubble. Still, I think they could’ve done more to make themselves more prepared for whatever comes by replacing some of the guys who likely won’t even sniff the court in Orlando.