The Memphis Grizzlies have already lost Justise Winslow for the season, and now Tyus Jones is out for at least a week with knee soreness. Depth has been widely discussed as a strength for Memphis and now that the Grizzlies are down two playmakers, that depth will be on full display.
Tyus has been arguably (to some) the best back up point guard in franchise history — replacing him will be no easy task and will have to be done by committee. This current iteration of the Grizzlies roster has a total of three minutes on the floor without either Ja Morant or Tyus Jones leading the way. So how will Taylor Jenkins adjust his lineups to keep up the success without Mr. Jones leading the bench unit?
An immediate popular opinion has been to swap Kyle Anderson and De’Anthony Melton in the starting unit to allow Kyle to run the point for the reserves. While Kyle is certainly the better playmaker, he is more valuable in the starting lineup, especially if he continues this surprising outburst of three point shooting.
The biggest value Anderson has is being on the floor with Ja Morant. Giving Morant off-ball minutes not only opens up the offense, but allows him to find on court minutes of rest. Kyle’s defense and size allows him to guard the more elite small forward players such as Kawhi Leonard while Dillon Brooks would guard Paul George. Melton’s small stature would make the starting lineup smaller.
In the past, Brandon Clarke would be the first sub in either for Valanciunas or a foul troubled Jaren Jackson Jr. To satisfy the vacancy at back up point guard with Kyle Anderson, Jenkins could sub Anderson out first for Josh Jackson. This allows Josh, who is great in space, to run with the first unit and benefit from Morant’s excellency.
Staggering Kyle’s and Ja’s minutes may be the solution. Here is a sample if Ja’s minutes bumped up (which we will explore later):
Ja’s 35 minutes against Orlando on 3/10/2020 Kyle’s 26 minutes vs ORL 3/10/2020
Q1 12:00-4:47 12:00-4:53
Q2 12:00-5:16, 2:32-0:00 6:28-0:00
Q3 12:00- 3:53 12:00-4:33
Q4 9:32-6:08, 4:52-0:00 6:08-0:00
Suggested Ja 35 Minutes & Suggested Kyle 31 minutes
Kyle has averaged around 19 minutes per game thus far, but if he does indeed continue his improved shooting from deep, 30 minutes per game is certainly feasible. This staggered minutes rotation allows Kyle to be the primary playmaker for the 13 minutes Ja is off the floor, while also logging 17 minutes on the floor with him. In those 13 minutes, both De’Anthony Melton and Grayson Allen could be relied upon as secondary playmakers for Kyle.
The easier option would be to split Tyus’ minutes up between De’Anthony Melton and Grayson Allen to share the playmaking duties in the bench backcourt. The reality is that if Ja Morant plays 35 minutes, which needs to happen no matter what scenario, there are only 13 minutes needed out of the bench at the point position. Grayson Allen is the seventh leading scorer on the team in PER-36 on 36% from three with 3 assists per game. Only Brandon Clarke, Jonas Valanciunas and Kyle Anderson have a better offensive rating of the players that would be in the rotation without Tyus Jones. Allen can contribute — he has a comparable defensive rating to Ja Morant, brings solid secondary playmaking and perhaps the smoothest three point stroke on the roster.
While this chart shows Melton as the only backup point guard, this scenario calls for Allen and Melton to be interchangeable bringing the ball up and initiating the offense. Grayson still has some rust to knock off, but the Grizzlies are forced into Plan B after the Tyus injury.
The reality is that Tyus’ extreme efficiency is near impossible to replace and Ja Morant cannot play 48 minutes. It must be a combination of Kyle Anderson, Grayson Allen and De’Anthony Melton to carry the load of the backup playmaker responsibilities.
The earliest Jones could return is August 7th against the Oklahoma City Thunder, missing tilts against the Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs, New Orleans Pelicans, and the Utah Jazz. Memphis will need to stay afloat sans Jones for at least a week and thankfully they have the depth to do it.