The last time the Memphis Grizzlies saw the Utah Jazz, it ended poorly for the bears of Beale Street. While it was a successful season for Ja Morant and company, it was unceremoniously shut down after a gentleman’s sweep at the hands of Donovan Mitchell and a Jazz team that appeared destined for the NBA Finals. That, of course, did not occur - the Jazz season ended in the next round. But still, the gap between the Grizzlies and the Jazz was quite wide. It was a reminder that Memphis was not yet ready for the NBA contender mantle, despite their overachiever status. The campaign was a success...but it was still a bittersweet conclusion.
This in-no-way-connected Summer League game was the mildest form of revenge for that forced exit.
The Memphis Grizzlies opened their Summer League trip in Utah with a 104-65 bludgeoning of the Jazz...well, their “Blue” team. With the Jazz hosting this precursor to the NBA Summer League for themselves as well as the Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs, they are fielding two teams for the week-long event. The Blue are lacking in true NBA talent, with only a couple players that have had true opportunities at the league. Meanwhile, Memphis started John Jonchar, Desmond Bane, Sean McDermott, Killian Tillie, and Xavier Tillman - five players who didn’t just get a cup of coffee in the NBA. They played, and in the case especially of Bane and Tillman were significant contributors for that playoff team for Memphis.
So...this was supposed to be a blowout. And it was. Good job, Grizzlies.
Some takeaways from a win that was always supposed to be.
“Point Guard” development!
In terms of long-term impact, there’s little to really take away from Summer League in general, much less the Utah league where you’re playing a watered down Jazz Blue team. But where the Grizzlies are prioritizing growth areas for their key main roster players participating bears watching. Both John Konchar and Desmond Bane spent considerable time on the offensive end running the schemes of the Summer League Grizzlies. While Memphis almost certainly doesn’t want these guys to run the point behind Ja Morant, they surely want to see the ball move around more consistently and through there traditional wings. It’s an area of growth to be sure - creating off of screens, initiating sets offensively, making life easier for Ja Morant off the ball and for the ball to swing once it hits their hands more clearly can be better developed when the ball is in their hands almost every possession.
Konchar finished with 7 assists, so his impact was more clear in the box score. But while the Jazz struggled with the “Jitty” one, it was Bane who really dominated the game. Again, he was supposed to - Desmond was arguably the best player on the floor, and he played like it. But to see Bane and Konchar thrive outside their comfort zone is a solid progression point - and the point of Summer League.
It wasn’t just the NBA guys...
The NBA contributors played that way - Xavier Tillman posted a double-double, and even last season’s two-way contract players Killian Tillie and Sean McDermott showed flashes of NBA potential. But beyond the (somewhat) known commodities, another point of Summer League is to watch the guys that are new to the organization, whether they’re of the NBA Draft variety (Ziaire Williams will play in Las Vegas next week) or are signed for Summer League/to the organization through two-way deals or Exhibit 10 contracts, essentially making those players likely members of the NBA team’s G-League system.
That’s the case of Yves Pons and Romeo Weems. Neither was drafted by Memphis. Both are here for the Summer Leagues of the Grizzlies, and both could see their Memphis stay extended. Weems thrived in this game, leading the Grizzlies in scoring while also attacking the glass (6 rebounds) and passing lanes/opposing possessions (3 steals). Pons scored an efficient 12 points on 7 shots and displayed both elite athleticism and range from beyond the arc. While neither will play much (if at all) for the Grizzlies this coming season, they could be core pieces of the Memphis Hustle. And the Grizzlies investment in their G-League affiliate is both smart business as well as viable for long-term roster building. Maybe Weems and Pons work out. Maybe they don’t.
But they have opportunity to play that didn’t exist on this scale for players like them 5 or 10 years ago. So far, they’re taking advantage.
Memphis is back in action Wednesday night against the Utah Jazz (White) at 8:00 PM CT.