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Santi Aldama’s emergence makes the Grizzlies’ frontcourt even deeper

Santi has earned his spot in the rotation, but who gets cut out when Jaren Jackson Jr. returns?

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New York Knicks v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Santi Aldama is having quite the start to the 2022-23 NBA season for the Memphis Grizzlies. Following an up-and-down Summer League, the second-year big man out of Loyola is producing to his full potential given the door that was opened up during the offseason.

That door was the offseason foot surgery that Jaren Jackson Jr. had, which would have him sidelined at a minimum of six months. At the minimum, Memphis knew that they’d be without Jackson Jr.’s defensive presence, along with his ability to stretch the floor on the offensive end of the floor next to Steven Adams.

Charlotte Hornets v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Enter Santi?!

Flashback to the NBA Summer League back in July, and Santi had a roller coaster of a showing. A lot of things figure into that Summer League atmosphere. Quicker tempo, and a lot of motion basketball, Santi was playing a true five position for the Grizzlies at Summer League in July.

In four games this Summer, Aldama showcased his growth from the perimeter, rebounding, and protecting the rim without fouling. The latest development, becoming consistent in all of those areas for Memphis.

  • Santi’s averages in Summer League (4 games) - 25 minutes, 16.8 PPG, 7.8 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, and 38% from 3PT (3.3 attempts)
  • Santi’s averages this season (12 games) - 27.5 minutes, 9.4 PPG, 6.0 rebounds, 1.1 blocks, 28% from 3PT (3.9 attempts).

Jaren Jackson Jr. is set to make a return to the hardwood in the coming weeks, which will have a positive effect on the Grizzlies on both ends of the floor. However, it puts the Grizzlies in a good, but also tough, situation in terms of rotations.

This is a situation that a lot of NBA coaches would love to have, and Taylor Jenkins is on the verge of having it. That being, where does Santi Aldama fit once Jackson returns, and how does he still give rookie David Roddy burn as well?

Brooklyn Nets v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

Santi’s fit once the starting five is healthy:

First, I want to acknowledge how well Taylor Jenkins and his staff progress players one through 15. At one point, Aldama was number 15 on a very young roster. When getting on the floor last season, Aldama didn’t look the part.

You can attribute that to the inconsistency in his playing time, but Aldama showed flashes of what he is now last season. This coaching staff has a talent for putting players in positions to succeed. John Konchar is one of those guys, and now we sit here looking at how Aldama can still find minutes when this roster is healthy.

Santi’s game will fit within matchups during a long NBA season. The results haven’t returned on Aldama and Brandon Clarke pairing in the frontcourt, but I think that it’s a pair that can mesh over time.

A bench lineup of Tyus Jones, Ziaire Williams, Jake LaRavia/John Konchar, Brandon Clarke, and Santi Aldama fits for Memphis when healthy.

This throws David Roddy out of the rotation (depending on certain match-ups). That’s the downside to these situations — going from an everyday player to progressing from the bench, and in the G-League. Hindsight 20/20, Aldama progressed in this role last season with the Memphis Hustle. Same with John Konchar.

There is a reason for each move with this coaching staff. So far that schedule for player progression on the back end of this roster has been undefeated. Aldama becomes another example of hard work, and another guy that will contribute in various roles once this roster is full strength.

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