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Jarrett Culver’s second act

Will a new team revitalize the lottery picks career?

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2021-22 Memphis Grizzlies Media Day Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

The Grizzlies acquired Jarrett Culver in a low-risk, high reward move this past offseason while trading Patrick Beverley to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Culver had an up and down two seasons in Minnesota, where he showed flashes of his potential in his rookie season before an inconsistent sophomore season last year that saw him fall in and out of the Timberwolves lineup. Overall in 97 games, he averaged 7.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists on 40.6% shooting and 28.8% from beyond the arc. Not exactly ideal numbers for the former 6th Overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Despite his struggles in Minnesota, there is still hope for Jarrett Culver to turn his career around. He’s still fairly young, for prospect standards, entering this season at 22 years old. Minnesota hasn’t been the best organization in the NBA at developing young but raw talent. Outside of Karl-Anthony Towns and seemingly Anthony Edwards, the Wolves haven’t had much success with their young draftees. Meanwhile, the new Grizzlies front office and coaching staff has nailed their draft selections and shown they can develop young talent with De’Anthony Melton and Desmond Bane being two bright examples. The hope is that a change of scenery will allow Culver to realize his potential that NBA teams saw to make him a lottery pick in 2019.

Atlanta Hawks v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Despite his overall struggles in Minnesota, Culver brings the Grizzlies a solid individual defender. He averaged nearly 2 stocks (steal + blocks) per game in his Timberwolves tenure and provides the size and length to defend the 1-3 positions as well as some 4’s. Particularly on a solid defensive team like the Grizzlies, Culver should be able to succeed on that end of the court with his size and length combination. However Culver’s struggles offensively are real. He has struggled from beyond the arc in 3 straight seasons after shooting 38% from distance his freshman season at Texas Tech. His efficiency hasn’t been there at the NBA level, either, making him a negative on the offensive end. In today’s NBA, you have to at least be decent on both ends of the court to stay on the court.

Culver’s preseason so far has been a mixed bag. In limited minutes against the Hornets in Charlotte he looked solid and didn’t force things. This resulted in 6 points (2-2 from deep) with 2 rebounds, an assist and a steal in just 9 minutes. However in extended minutes on Saturday against the Hawks we saw the bad in Culver. He shot 2-10 (1-6 from beyond the arc) and 3 turnovers. He did pick up 4 rebounds and and 3 assists but overall it was a poor performance from Culver.

Oklahoma City Blue v Memphis Hustle Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

It will be an interesting season for Jarrett Culver, as the Grizzlies have until November 1st to decide on his 2022-2023 team option of $8.1 million. The decision on Culver’s extension will likely determine how much the front office believes in their ability to revitalize his career. The Culver situation is very familiar to the Josh Jackson situation from a few seasons ago. Culver doesn’t have the off the court issues that Jackson had, but both were highly touted prospects turned lottery picks who struggled with their incumbent teams early in their careers. Josh Jackson spent the first half of his Grizzlies season on assignment with the Memphis Hustle before being called up and earning rotation minutes right before the season was suspended due to COVID-19. Potentially more importantly, the Grizzlies declined Josh Jackson’s team option that season making him an unrestricted free agent after the bubble concluded. I wouldn’t be shocked if we see the Grizzlies do the same to Culver’s team option.

Josh Jackson didn’t have as much of an option due to his off the court issues, but Culver should be open to a Hustle assignment this season. Things should be different from Jackson who didn’t really have a set timetable for his Grizzlies call up, but Culver should be open and willing to play some games with the Hustle. Culver is not likely to find himself getting consistent minutes with the Grizzlies to start the season as he is behind both Ziaire Williams and John Konchar in Jenkins’ current 10-man rotations in the preseason. Once Dillon Brooks returns from his thigh injury, Culver will fall even further down the depth chart. A G-League assignment will allow Culver to get some live game-action to help boost his confidence and help him get comfortable in the Grizzlies system. A G-League assignment isn’t ideal for a former lottery pick, but it could be just what Culver needs to get back on track. Josh Jackson didn’t spend more than a season in Memphis but he turned his Grizzlies tenure into what will be at least 2 seasons with his hometown Detroit Pistons.

If the Grizzlies decline Culver’s team option, he’s likely not going to be in Memphis past this season. However, a personal goal for Culver should be to be open to and accept any opportunities given to him by the Grizzlies. Even if it doesn’t lead to a long-term contract with Memphis, Culver should embrace any opportunity he gets to help ensure he even gets another NBA contract. Regardless of what ultimately happens with him, it’s unlikely he contributes in any major way for the Grizzlies. However, Culver can prove those with low expectations wrong if he locks in and buys into the Grizzlies system. It won’t be a major storyline this season, but how the Grizzlies and Culver handle this upcoming season will be an interesting secondary story this season.

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