The Memphis Grizzlies continue to be among the most intriguing teams to watch this week when it comes to the 2021 NBA Draft. After a significant trade with the New Orleans Pelicans, the Grizzlies now own picks 10 and 40 in the 2021 NBA Draft. For one, this allows Memphis to have a more realistic shot at a significantly better duo of talents than they had before the trade. Secondly, it also could mean Memphis may be a bit more opportunistic in terms of upside when it comes to their picks.
However, even if overall upside becomes the number one preference with who the Grizzlies pick, selecting players who can contribute multiple ways is key. On Monday, I looked at several talents who could make sense for Memphis to target based off shot selection and creation. While that certainly is an important need for the Grizzlies, Memphis has shown a strong preference for talents that can contribute in other ways outside of scoring on offense.
Current Grizzlies such as De’Anthony Melton, John Konchar, Brandon Clarke, Desmond Bane and Xavier Tillman displayed this talent throughout their college days. Each of these talents showed a significant ability to create for others and rebound efficiently during their college days. The key is that they displayed each of these skills on a consistent basis.
In terms of front court players, both Clarke and Tillman showed a rare combination of rebounding and passing while in college. Both Grizzlies are two of 67 collegiate players since the 2009-2010 season to play in at least 90 career games and produce both a total rebounding and assist percentage above 14%. When that same criteria was applied to the 2021 draft class, no realistic names emerged as likely targets for the Grizzlies.
However, that result is not surprising. This year’s draft has many younger prospects with higher upside than previous drafts but also prospects when smaller track records. As a result, a logical method to identify targets that could contribute in multiple ways outside of scoring is looking at individual seasons from 2021 prospects. During the 2020-2021 season, 17 collegiate players produced total rebounding and assist percentages at 12% or higher while also having a turnover percentage of 12% or lower. This criteria not only identifies talents that were able to create and rebound, but those who did it in an efficient manner. The names that stand out as 2021 draft targets are Luka Garza, Franz Wagner, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, and Moses Wright. Garza is arguably one of the most productive bigs in recent collegiate history, while Wagner, Robinson-Earl, and Wright certainly fit the mold of wing talents that contribute in multiple ways that the Grizzlies are looking for. Both Garza and Wagner quickly jump of the page when you also consider each player attempted 100 or more threes, showing they can add value as a shooting option to go along with their non-scoring contributions.
Obviously, the main preference for the Grizzlies from a roster standpoint is wings who can contribute across the board. However, secondary playmakers who can support Ja Morant on the court and add new wrinkles to the Memphis offense also stand out. During their collegiate careers, both John Konchar and De’Anthony Melton produced seasons with assist rates above 20% along with significant rebound rates as well. It certainly seems that if the Grizzlies are looking to add another perimeter option to their roster, a significant and efficient creator who can also rebound is ideal.
During the 2021-2022 season, 29 collegiate players played in at least 20 games in which they produced an assist rate at 20% or above, total rebounding rate of 10% or above, and a turnover rate of 20% or less (indicating a positive AST-TO ratio). The names that standout as likely 2021 draftees are Jalen Suggs, Tre Mann, Ayo Donsunmu, and Jason Preston. While the previous four names are guards, Sandro Mamukelashvili, at 6-11, also stands out as a draft riser with a very refined all-around game. Mann, in particular, stands out as an shot creator who may also offer significant value as a playmaker in the NBA.
Once common characteristic of many of the names above is that, while they may not have the lengthy collegiate track records of several current Grizzlies, they have play multiple years at the college level. Once again, the strength of this draft is the upside it features, especially in terms of freshman talents. Though the track record may not be their like it has been in the past, the assist, rebound, and turnover rates of freshman talents certainly can indicate their all-around potential to compliment their scoring.
Among freshman who played in at least 20 games and produced an assist rate of 20% or higher with a turnover percentage of 20% or lower, Cade Cunningham, Jalen Suggs, Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson all jump off the page as 2021 draft targets. While Cunningham and Suggs are going to be top four or five selections, both Springer and Johnson fit the profile of talents that can create production across the board. In terms of a frontcourt option that really matches the Grizzlies preference for non-scoring value, Day’ron Sharpe was one of only three freshman to produce assist and total rebound rates above 15% with a usage rate above 20% (min. 15 games.)
For further validation that Memphis certainly remains interested in production outside of scoring in draft targets, Cameron Krutweig and Manny Camper were also among the aforementioned statistical groups. While neither play will likely be in play as a draft pick, the fact that the Grizzlies have been connected to each of them shows the interest Memphis has in all-around games.
When you start to combine the shooting potential and non-scoring impact of players thtargat could interest Memphis, a few names once again stand out. In this case, Franz Wagner (34% from three on over 100 attempts), Tre Mann (39% from three with significantly low number of assisted threes) and Jaden Springer (43% from three) stand out as sensible draft targets. The main reason is that all three players check the boxes of significant upside as shooters/scorers while adding value through non-scoring means.
The list seems to be narrowing as to which prospects will make the most sense for Memphis on draft night. In Part 3, the focus will be on which players in the 2021 Draft class truly have the potential to be significant sources of two-way production.