Over the next month, GBB will be profiling various players the Memphis Grizzlies may target in the 2021 NBA Draft. This year we will be breaking it up in to three sections - five to likely trade up for, five potentially available right around pick #17 where Memphis is slotted to pick, and five that surely will be there or perhaps the Grizzlies could even trade back and still select. But now, let’s talk about some 2nd round prospects as well.
VRENZ BLEIJENBERGH, GUARD, Belgium
- 6’11”, 220 pounds, (7’0” wingspan at least), 20 years old, Brasschaat, Belgium
- Last season with Antwerp Giants (EuroCup) - 23.9 minutes per game, 9.4 points per game, 43.4% from the field, 37.5% on threes, 52.6% from the free throw line, 3.1 rebounds per game, 2.4 assists per game
- STATS OF STRENGTH STATS TO IMPROVE — N/A, no Tankathon profile available
- ACCOLADES AND AWARDS: N/A
- CURRENT BIG BOARD PLACEMENTS: 72nd Overall (ESPN)
Can I go ahead and preface this profile with this? I promise you, this dude is a legit NBA prospect. I know he isn’t on any national big boards, but he’s been a popular name in NBA Draft Twitter, and he has such a fascinating — and draft-able — skillset.
Ok, let’s get it.
I feel like the second round can be used for 1 of 2 things: 1) take the older college player that slipped down the board because of his age, or 2) swing for the fences with an unknown commodity. Either way is just a free shot; there’s not as much pressure as drafting in the 1st round. Do people want to hit on any pick possible? Sure, but no one’s losing sleep or getting fired over a 2nd round pick. If it hits, great! If not, oh well!
One of the trendiest names outside the lottery in this regard is Vrenz Bleijenbergh out of Belgium.
Bleijenbergh is a near 7-foot prospect who plays the majority of his game on the perimeter. He categorizes himself as a guard, and his enticing trait is his playmaking. As a position-less basketball extraordinaire, I’m intrigued.
Bleijenbergh also worked out with the Memphis Grizzlies last Wednesday, so we know there’s interest. If the Grizzlies continue their trend of targeting NBA Draft Twitter favorites (Brandon Clarke, Desmond Bane, Xavier Tillman, Killian Tillie, and De’Anthony Melton), Bleijenergh could join the party.
And he has the skillset worth testing the waters on.
What He Does Well
The uniqueness of Vrenz Bleijenbergh is as a playmaker.
From the different scouting report videos and clips I’ve seen, his fluidity on the perimeter is incredible for a player of his size. He has really good dribble combos, and his vision is extraordinary.
Let’s take a look at the different actions he was used in as a primary playmaker.
I really like this PnR read from Vrenz Bleijenbergh. Sees the help defender take an extra half step towards the roll man and finds the open teammate in the corner right in his shooting pocket pic.twitter.com/bMsDFLf4ES— Caine Purnell (@caine_purnell) June 8, 2021
Bjeijenbergh shows a great sense of poise and deliberation in this PNR sequence. He waits for the defense to play help on the roll man, then dishes out a quick pass to the corner for an open 3.
Vrenz Bleijenbergh has been gaining some momentum but still feels underrated. First Round guy IMO. pic.twitter.com/f0DSzoCLA2— KnicksDraft (@KnicksDraft) May 3, 2021
He illustrates great decision-making and off-ball movement here. He baits the defense on the cut to get through the hand-off to find his roll man for the alley-top. That sort of skill and sequence could be a fun two-big action at the next level.
Great to catch up with 6-10 Belgian wing Vrenz Bleijenbergh in Antwerp. The 20-year-old is having an excellent season so far averaging 9.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 25.5 minutes. Excellent passer who has improved as a shooter. More on Vrenz: https://t.co/22OmdCQmjI pic.twitter.com/J3hIPHIdFl— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) April 29, 2021
In this clip he dissects with ESPN’s Mike Schmitz, it illustrates his potential as a grab-and-go initiator. If he can become a factor on the glass, or as a defensive playmaker, he can ignite the fast break and make plays for others in the open floor.
Bleijenbergh has shown the willingness to be a floor-spacer as well, and there’s upside for him there, as he shot 37.5% from 3 in EuroCup ball this season. Developing consistency there will be key, since there is a small sample size. Nonetheless, it’s intriguing as anything to see a 7-footer hitting 3’s like this.
Vrenz Bleijenbergh’s strengths are enticing, as it presents a unique skillset for a player his size.
Where He Can Improve
While the strengths are mesmerizing, Bleijenbergh does have flaws that could determine his NBA outcome.
The biggest question first will be, where on the floor will he be played? The majority of his areas of improvement stem from this question. While he categorizes himself as a big guard, he’ll likely command more minutes in the frontcourt. He could even be a wing as well.
One of the first things is adding strength. He’s going to need it to contest with other NBA big man — both in straight-up matchups, or if he’s caught in a switch. Offensively, it’ll help him with finishing inside, as well as capitalizing on mismatches against smaller players. That’ll serve as an aide as he continues to add more to his scoring bag.
I’m also interested to see who he primarily guards at the next level. He doesn’t necessarily have slow feet on that end of the floor, a common trait in most big men. However, does he have the defensive chops to guard on the perimeter? This has to be a question as he continues to fill out more to guard opposing big men.
Finally, what’s going to be his primary role offensively? He’s been used as a guard over in Europe, but at the NBA level, he’ll likely be a big 3 or a 4. How he adjusts off ball — as a shooter, cutter, and secondary playmaker — will be key for his development, especially since he probably won’t get the keys to the offense right away.
Bleijenbergh’s transition to the NBA will be interesting. Will his daredevil passing work, or will it cause turnover issues? Can he become a reliable outside shooter? Can his be a factor in the paint? How will his defensive translate? All are going to be valid reasons to be skeptical.
The Fit With The Grizzlies
A while back, I had asked Taylor Jenkins about going smaller with his lineups, and he said something that stuck out with me — and it applies here.
On the call, Coach Jenkins said that you can replace "small-ball" with "playmaking-ball" to get as many playmakers on the floor regardless of their size.— Parker Fleming (@PAKA_FLOCKA) January 29, 2021
As someone who loves playmaking outside the guard position, my heart skipped a beat
Vrenz Bleijenbergh would fit this to a T.
He could slide into either the big man or wing rotations, whenever he’s ready to earn NBA minutes. If his live-dribble playmaking does translate, maybe he could evolve into this funky backup point guard that gives the Grizzlies tons of size whenever Ja Morant is not on the floor. In addition, he’d give them another playmaker that could get Morant looks off the ball as well.
If everything translates with Bleijenbergh, he’s the kind of player that would fit the ideology of Jenkins’ pace-and-space system.
Taking Vrenz Bleijenbergh won't hurt anything for the Memphis Grizzlies. It’s a nice low-risk, medium/high-reward play over here.
The spectrum of outcomes is wide, but his skillset and his strengths are just too enticing to ignore. The big man role has evolved more and more each season, and Bleijenbergh can fit the modern demands for this archetype.
If he’s still on the board at 51, the Grizzlies should go get him. I mean, he’s a 7-foot big man with guard skills. Why not? What’s there to lose?
Verdict - Bleijenbergh will go in the second round, and it wouldn’t shock me if the Memphis Grizzlies bought another second rounder to go get him.