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The steady hand of John Konchar

Jitty did a bit of it all in his 2nd season

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NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

After limited action in his rookie season as a two-way player, the Grizzlies signed John Konchar to a 4-year, $9 million contract with just over $5 million guaranteed. In his second season, Konchar more than doubled his games played as he appeared in 43 contests compared to just 19 his rookie year.

John wasn’t consistently in Taylor Jenkins’ rotation, as guards like Grayson Allen, De’Anthony Melton, Desmond Bane and Dillon Brooks most of the minutes at the 2-guard spot. However, whenever any of those guys went down with injuries Jenkins didn’t cut his rotations. Instead, he threw John Konchar into the rotation. Konchar had career highs across the board due to the extended run. His traditional stats won’t wow you. 4.3 points, 3 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1 stock (steals + block) per game don’t jump out at you, but that’s what makes John Konchar so unique.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Boston Celtics Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

The Grizzlies didn’t invest in John Konchar because he can score a lot like Jonas Valanciunas or dish assists like Ja Morant. Instead, they invested in him because John does a lot of the little things that simply don’t show up in the box score. John proved capable of putting up some pretty big games from a traditional stats standpoint when given the minutes as the season went on. John scored 10+ points in 4 games last season, with 3 of those games coming in the final month of the season, highlighted by a career high 18-point showing against the Dallas Mavericks. Regardless of the flashes, Konchar doesn’t seem like a guy who impacts the game much if you just follow along with the box scores.

Konchar is a bit of an advanced analytics darling, as he was second on the team with a .145 Win Shares per 48 and finished the season with a 125 Offensive Rating, again good for second on the team. These advanced stats are just a nod at some of the things Konchar does to positively impact the game for the Grizzlies despite not having big box score number.

Konchar really excelled this season for the Grizzlies by simply making a ton of hustle plays. The hustle plays came in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes it was a big block or steal, other times it was diving on the floor after a loose ball, Konchar would also frequently leap to tap rebounds out to his teammates to either create a second chance opportunity for the Grizzlies or prevent one for the opposing team. Throughout the season, John made the right plays at the right time to help the Grizzlies stay afloat and win games when multiple guys were down with injuries.

Taylor Jenkins trusts John Konchar when he’s needed because he doesn’t make mistakes or force the issue. Konchar turned the ball over just 18 times in his nearly 600 minutes last season and nearly all of his 138 field goal attempts were either in garbage time or came within the flow of the offense.

One of the biggest growth opportunities for Konchar heading into Year 2 was his aggressiveness. In his rookie season, he often floated in the corners on offense and stuck to his man on the defensive end. This season, however, John was much more engaged on the offensive end with the previously mentioned 138 field goal attempts compared to just 37 his rookie season. On a per game basis, Konchar averaged just 1.3 more attempts per game but it was his involvement moving the ball and being active in the offensive rotations that stood out. The biggest growth in his aggressiveness was his willingness to shoot the ball from beyond the arc. After shooting 5-10 from deep in his rookie season, Konchar made 21 of his 56 triples this past season which is good for 37.5%. The sample size is still fairly small, but if John can continue to develop a 3-point shot it will help the spacing of the bench units when he is out there while also help take his offensive game to another level.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

So what’s next for John Konchar? Likely a trip to Las Vegas for Summer League. 3rd year prospects don’t always make the trip to Vegas for Summer League, but with just 62 career games under his belt Vegas would be a great chance for John to continue to grow alongside some of his Grizzlies teammates. We are a ways away from knowing the squad, but alongside Konchar it’s likely we see at least a few games from Xavier Tillman, Desmond Bane, and Jontay Porter figures to get some run as well (if his roster spot isn’t replaced by Killian Tillie, who will be a restricted free agent this offseason).

Whether it is in Vegas or during the season next year, Konchar still has plenty more growth opportunities. He’s proven to be a great rebounder from the 2-guard spot, averaging 8 rebounds per 36 minutes last season, but can continue to be aggressive. His 3-point shot will continue to be a focus, and his aggressiveness in shooting those shots instead of passing up open looks will be something the Grizzlies coaching staff will focus on. I also suspect ball-handling will be a focus for John this offseason. He isn’t necessarily bad with the ball in his hands, but John is quick to grab a rebound and pass it off to someone else to bring it up the court or initiate the offense. Summer League and Preseason would be a great time to “experiment” with John playing a little point guard to gain some confidence in initiating the offense and controlling things.

John Konchar isn’t a flashy player, even if he can sneak up on you and throw down a thunderous putback dunk. His NBA career will likely be reliant upon his ability to make those winning hustle plays that only show up on film. Still, John could sneakily be a key piece for the Grizzlies in the future. Grayson, De’Anthony and Desmond don’t figure to all be on the roster in the next couple of seasons. As GBB has discussed multiple times, there will come a time the Grizzlies will need to consolidate their roster which is where John comes into the picture. Depending on who ultimately gets moved, Konchar likely can’t replicate what any of those 3 bring to the table, but he’s a great guy to have on the end of the bench.

This season John proved you can throw him in the lineup and he won’t lose you games, and in fact can be a very impactful player at the NBA level. That said, John still needs to grow to become an every day rotation player. John is one hell of a player to have as a 10th or 11th guy on the bench down the road because he is so reliable.

John Konchar is an effective and impactful basketball player because you know what you’re getting with him every time he steps on the court. You can trust he’s going to play his tail off, hustling for rebounds, loose balls and creating extra possessions. He isn’t going to disrupt the flow of the offense but will take his shots when they are there. With consistency plaguing some of the guys on the Grizzlies roster, John Konchar’s steadiness is something that Taylor Jenkins and the Memphis Grizzlies front office certainly values.

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