The Memphis Grizzlies have done a lot of dealing this offseason. When you take away the draft picks of Ziaire Williams and Santi Aldama, they’ve picked up Steven Adams, Jarrett Culver, Patrick Beverley, Rajon Rondo, Daniel Oturu, Sam Merrill, Juancho Hernangomez, Kris Dunn, and Carsen Edwards.
Rondo, Beverley, and Hernangomez are already off on other teams, and with the Grizzlies loaded roster at the moment, a few more of these acquisitions could join those 3 as ones who didn’t make the opening night roster.
The roster crunch returned to a complicated 18 guaranteed contracts — they’re at the league maximum of 20 with the two-way contract of Killian Tillie and the exhibit-10 deal for Yves Pons — after trading Hernangomez to Boston for Kris Dunn and Carsen Edwards.
Those two have good skillsets in theory. Dunn has a more actualized NBA fit, as he’s praised for his defensive versatility and skill on the perimeter. Edwards is more known for his bucket-getting in college, though it hasn’t transpired in the pros at the moment.
So as the Grizzlies add two more players to its roster crunch, how likely is it that Dunn and Edwards stay on the roster for opening night? And what would their fits look like?
Carsen Edwards captured everyone’s attention with a spectacular run in the 2019 NCAA tournament, averaging 34.8 points in 4 games. He only put on an unbelievable display of shot creation and outside shooting, as he shot 45.9% from 3 on 15.3 attempts per contest in those games as well. It was easy to envision him coming into the league and taking on a role as a microwave scorer off the bench.
However, none of it has translated in his first two seasons in the league. His jumper hasn’t fallen, as he’s shot 37.2% from the field and 30.2% from 3 in 68 career games. In addition, he hasn’t displayed much upside anywhere else to warrant the shooting struggles. He doesn’t generate looks for others, something that he didn’t show at Purdue either, as he fell in 0th percentile in Assist Percentage (3.6%) and Assist:Usage ratio (0.25) — per Cleaning the Glass. He also doesn’t have the size to be a plus defender either.
So it’s not looking great thus far, but he has youth and a bit of pedigree on his side that may warrant a look.
It wouldn’t shock me if Edwards gets a look in training camp to prove himself as a shot-maker. If he shows out in training camp and in preseason, he could potentially find himself landing that final spot. He would likely get more time with the Memphis Hustle than the main roster, which could help him develop his point guard chops. However, because of his small contract and his production thus far, he seems like a roster casualty — especially since they wouldn’t have to eat too much money waiving him.
So right now, I’d have Carsen Edwards a little bit closer to Daniel Oturu’s situation than Sam Merrill or Kris Dunn — a prospect looking like a roster casualty more than a mainstay. If the Grizzlies roster was at 15-16 guaranteed contracts, I’d be a bit more optimistic about Edwards.
Kris Dunn had a rough shake last year, as injuries limited him to 4 regular season games after receiving a 2-year, $10M deal with the Atlanta Hawks. He was shipped to Boston via a 3-team trade this offseason, before finding himself in last Friday’s trade.
Despite the injury concerns, Dunn is the more appealing acquisition from this trade. Though he hasn’t lived up to his expectations as a top-5 pick, he has a clear-cut calling card in this league: defense.
Dunn uses his 6’9” wingspan and good lateral movement to be an impactful perimeter defender. Since entering the league, and aside from last season, he’s never had a block percentage below 0.8 and a steal percentage lower than 2.0% — and he’s been in the 93rd or higher percentile in steal percentage every season. He also received 31 All-Defensive team votes in the 2019-20 season, the most among any player that missed out on those honors.His defensive versatility would be welcoming on a Grizzlies team that prides itself on that end of the floor, and he’d also be another long defender to pair next to Ja Morant.
On the other hand, one area that’s made him expendable is his offense. He’s never been an efficient shooter, never possessing an efficient field goal percentage higher than 50%, and he’s been a relatively mediocre outside shooter. So the main question with him is, could he either become a good enough playmaker to take backup point guard minutes, or could he develop his outside shot enough to not be a liability off ball?
When analyzing his fit, Dunn has a strong chance of sticking around. The Grizzlies were tied to him in the 2019 offseason with a sign-and-trade possibility with Justin Holiday in Chicago, though it didn’t materialize. So there could have been previous interest there. Unless they find another move for him, Dunn could find himself as as an emergency combo guard that could fill in at the 1 or the 2 when called upon.
The only way I don’t see Dunn making the roster would be him looking injured in training camp and preseason, while one of Sam Merrill or Carsen Edwards balls out. Nonetheless, Dunn would be a solid guard to have at the end of the bench in case the injury bug hits.
The dealing continues, and more roster decisions are on the horizon too.
While Dunn and Edwards could have some exciting aspects for some people (Dunn’s defense and Edwards’ college scoring pedigree), it’ll be interesting to see what transpires over the next month and a half, and if they find themselves in the team’s plans this season.
Though they haven’t lived up to pre-draft expectations, this looks like another good move on the margins for this team.
Stay with Grizzly Bear Blues for further updates.