Close your eyes, and without any trades, think of what the Memphis Grizzlies starting 5 will be in 3-5 years. Go ahead.
4 of those 5 will likely be the same: Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Ziaire Williams, and Jaren Jackson Jr. That core 4 is the cornerstone of this Front Office’s roster. But what about the 5th guy? Ideally, is it Brandon Clarke? If so, where does that leave Jake LaRavia, Memphis’s top 1st round pick in the 2022 draft?
Prior to draft night on June 23, 2022, basically everybody knew the Grizzlies were not using both first round picks at 22 and 29. Trade rumors ranged from a blockbuster trade to a slight move up to get Memphis’s “guy.”
Not a total surprise, but Stein reports that the Grizzlies are looking to move up in next weeks draft. https://t.co/uQjT8V38VU— Brandon Abraham (@bcabraham) June 18, 2022
This composed, calculated front office did the latter trading up to draft Jake LaRavia at pick 19. What the 6’8 forward from Wake Forrest lacks in athleticism, he makes up for in efficiency, a sweet shooting stroke, and high basketball IQ on both ends of the floor. Remember that type I talked about in my Grizzlies-Magic preview? Jake LaRavia fits that type.
But why did Memphis not make the splash move? Why did Memphis draft Jake LaRavia? What can we expect from him this year and beyond (3 ball and growth in other areas leads to a consistent, plus role player)? Let’s break it down like a single file line, one at a time.
1. Memphis Trusts Ziaire Williams
My guy P. Shark said this in his Ziaire player preview: “Ziaire is a big part of this team’s present and future as his development will be key for this team to take the next step of becoming a true championship contender for years to come.” I couldn’t agree more.
Prior to the 2022 draft, Memphis was rumored to be interested in trading for the 4th pick. Now, imagine if they had. Who would they have picked? Probably Keegan Murray, Benedict Mathurin, or Shaedon Sharpe (not Jaden Ivey, in my opinion).
Are they three very good prospects? Yes. But what about Ziaire Williams? Didn’t the Grizzlies trade the 17th pick and the 2nd leading scorer on the team to draft him last year? Yeah, so? So, what message does not doing a similar trade for a player who plays a similar position signal to Ziaire Williams?
Memphis trusts him. Memphis wants him to be the 3 of the future.
So why did Memphis do a small trade-up to draft Jake LaRavia?
2. A High Floor-Low Ceiling
Ziaire Williams was a low-floor, high-ceiling player out of college. Jake LaRavia was the opposite. His junior season at Wake Forrest screamed efficiency. Offensively, he averaged 14.6 points, with a True Shooting % of 64.9 (wow) and a 3pt% of 38.4%. He also averaged 6.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.7 steals, and 1.0 blocks. His advanced stats were great too with a PER of 22.9, 5.3 win shares, .206 win shares/40 minutes, and a box-plus-minus of 8.5.
Watching his film, it’s clear he has a great basketball IQ on both ends of the floor. He knows how to find open space on the perimeter to knock down open 3s, use his body in post-ups and finishing at the rim, and position himself properly on defense using his quickness and instincts.
Jake LaRavia has a swagger to his game. When he’s on, he’s playing with passion and only helps his team win. That’s it.
What limits LaRavia on both ends of the floor is his lack of athleticism. On defense, he struggles staying in front of quick guards and forwards and projects as a better help defender than on-ball in the NBA. Though he has solid on-ball positioning, he must improve even more to make up for his slower feet.
Offensively, as my Up & Under Co-Host Grant Hechinger says, there are two types of hoopers: those with shake and those without. Jake LaRavia doesn’t have shake. He can’t create his own shot in isolation relying too much on post-ups, which won’t be as effective at the next level. If LaRavia will make an impact offensively, it’ll be by way of the trey, attacking hard close-outs, and making the right reads.
While his pros give Jake LaRavia a high floor, his cons limit his ceiling, leading to my next question. What can we expect from Jake LaRavia this year and beyond?
3. Reliable Depth and Future Trade Value
Jake LaRavia has a legit shot at consistent playing time his rookie season. Coach Jenkins loves and trusts high-IQ guys. If Jake can hit the 3, provide energy off the bench on offense and defense, then he’ll be in the rotation playing valuable minutes. As he continues to improve and his value goes up, don’t be surprised to see him in a blockbuster trade either.
Let’s be real though. The Wake Forrest product wasn’t drafted to hit a home run. He was drafted to hit a single that could turn into a double. But please don’t take that as disrespect. Small-market NBA teams find success on the margins, getting on base, turning singles into doubles. That’s why this front office is so good.
They hit a double in trading for Steven Adams, a single - which turned into a triple - in signing Tyus Jones, a double - which could turn into a triple or a home run - in drafting Desmond Bane, the list goes on and on.
Drafting Ziaire Williams was the FO’s home run swing. Time will tell if Memphis jogs the bases or strikes out. But Memphis is too smart to swing for the fences again when it doesn’t have to. If Ziaire needs more time or doesn’t work out, Jake LaRavia is a good safety valve who compliments Memphis’s stars and one who could add value for a big trade.
In King Kleiman I trust. You should too.