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Trending in Memphis: Rotation questions getting harder

A few players made the inevitable rotation questions even harder

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Memphis Grizzlies v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images

WHO: Memphis Grizzlies (8-6, 5-1 road) at San Antonio Spurs (11-9, 5-6 home)

WHEN: 7:30 P.M. CT

WHERE: AT&T Center San Antonio, Texas

HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/NBA League Pass/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis


MEMPHIS: Grayson Allen (Out, health and safety protocol), Jaren Jackson Jr. (Out, knee), Jontay Porter (Out, knee), Justise Winslow (Out, hip), Jonas Valanciunas (Out, health and safety protocols), Sean McDermott (Out, shoulder soreness), Killian Tillie (Out, foot soreness)


MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Brandon Clarke, Xavier Tillman

San Antonio: Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker IV, DeMar DeRozan, Keldon Johnson. LaMarcus Aldridge

Memphis Grizzlies v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

On Saturday, the Memphis Grizzlies returned to action after an 11-day hiatus, and it looked like they haven't missed a beat. The offense was popping. They scored a season-high 129 points, drilled 17 three-pointers, and dished 34 assists on 51 field goal attempts.

Per usual this season, it was all about the next man up, and everyone answered the call. The Grizzlies had 7 players score in double digits for the 2nd consecutive game, as they embraced the “everybody eats” philosophy on the glamorous end of the floor.

The consistent production across the board makes one question even harder — what does a fully-healthy Grizzlies roster look like. Jonas Valanciunas and Grayson Allen aren’t going to be in health and safety protocols much longer. Justise Winslow and Jaren Jackson Jr. should be back soon (right?).

When you account for the stellar production from guys like De’Anthony Melton, Desmond Bane, and Gorgui Dieng — as well as the inevitable returns of these 4 rotation players — what happens to the 10-man rotation?

Saturday’s win against the Spurs makes that conversation difficult, and this matchup will continue to add more data towards a decision down the road.

The hottest trend in Memphis right now is...De’Anthony Melton

Memphis Grizzlies v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

It really sucks that we had 11 days to think on De’Anthony Melton’s “DNP-CD.” Saturday’s game erased some doubts over “DNP-CD” being Melton’s status on a fully-healthy team.

Mr. Do Something led all scorers with a season-high 20 points, connecting on 4 of his 7 triples as well. He was a mainstay in the paint with his 5 rebounds and 2 blocked shots.

Melton simply looked like the player who was garnering consideration for an eight-figure contract this past fall.

While he looks like a player that shouldn’t be out of a rotation, we have to have that conversation. Coach Jenkins wants to run a 10-man rotation, Grayson Allen looks like a coach’s favorite, and Desmond Bane offers more shooting than Melton. Nonetheless though, it’s no secret that De’Anthony Melton makes this team better — as the team outscores opponents by 6.5 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor, while getting beat by 3.5 points/100 possessions when he’s not.

A sweet encore tonight could further validate his role in the rotation.

Others Trending Up

Desmond Bane is doing something pretty gnarly.

The Grizzlies’ rookie is an absolute flamethrower, and the longer he continues igniting the net, the harder it’s going to be to keep him off the floor. He’s probably the best 3-point shooter the Grizzlies have had since Mike Miller.

The Not Quite Downward Spiral: Jonas Valanciunas

Memphis Grizzlies v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

I feel bad listing someone who had just dealt with COVID-19 here as the “downward spiral” part, but it’s also hard to pick any active player right now since there was not a single negative in the +/- column last game.

So here we are.

Jonas Valanciunas has missed the past 3 games due to health and safety protocols, opening up the starting 5 spot for Xavier Tillman. As the rookie continues to showcase his versatility and playmaking from the 5 spot, it’s going to be hard to take him out of the rotation. In addition, as Brandon Clarke is proving himself as a good starter, it may be hard to resist going towards a Clarke-Jackson starting frontcourt.

As I chronicled last week, it may be best to move Valanciunas into the 6th man role anyways to maximize his production and move towards lineups with positive net ratings. The longer the Grizzlies’ young big men are progressing and producing, the quicker Valanciunas trade talks are coming.

Granted, Valanciunas is still really good! He’s the 3rd or 4th-best player on the team, and some nights he looks like the best player on the team. He’s a force on the glass, and he’s an easy bucket in a time of need. There is value in guys like Valanciunas across the league — one that can bring back a good return for Memphis.

We’re just entering a phase here soon where these trade murmurs are going to grow louder and louder.

Memphis Grizzlies v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

There will be a lot of questions — rotations, trade talks, starting lineups, etc. However, it’s surely nice to see that the Grizzlies have multiple directions on this roster, and they have the personnel to go with the “next man up.”

This is also a good problem to have.

Nobody couldn’t have expected this Memphis Grizzlies to be this good or this deep a year and a half into the rebuild. And here we are. Zach Kleiman has done a masterful job orchestrating this rebuild and putting this team in a great position both in the short and long-term future.

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