The Memphis Grizzlies have been through a lot of injury issues early this season. Jaren Jackson Jr. missed the first 13 games of the season, while Desmond Bane and Ja Morant will be missing an unknown amount of time over the next few weeks. The two leading scorers for the Grizzlies will be severely missed, and lots of players will have to step up to keep the them in games.
One player that has a huge opportunity is rookie Kennedy Chandler. He has not gotten a lot of chances to play so far this season, but it’s not because of his ability. Playing behind Morant and Tyus Jones is nothing to be ashamed of. Now, he will get a chance to show why the Grizzlies gave him the biggest 2nd round contract ever.
Chandler’s defensive prowess
For Kennedy, it all starts with what he can do defensively. Even though he is a bit undersized in terms of height, he has a 6’5” wingspan and is very quick on his feet. You will rarely see Chandler get blown past on defense which will be important going forward.
He also has some of the quickest hands in his class, at Tennessee, he averaged 2.2 steals per game which was 3rd in the SEC. Chandler continued this trend during the Summer League in Las Vegas where he averaged 1.8 steals per game. His ability to cause chaos on the defensive end will be even more important for the Grizzlies. As they navigate injuries, they will need to force a lot of turnovers and run in transition to compete during this stretch.
Kennedy Chandler game-winning steal— Fastbreak Breakfast (@fastbreakbreak) July 6, 2022
finished with 7 stocks pic.twitter.com/nhjbx3yWrZ
The Grizzlies have been struggling defensively all season, so that will be the biggest impact for Chandler. He is not on the level of Morant or Jones overall, but he is probably the best point guard defender on the roster.
Ball security and Playmaking
Another important aspect of Chandler’s game is his playmaking ability, specifically in the pick and roll. In college and in the Summer League, Chandler showed his ability to run an efficient offense and get his teammates involved. Chandler assisted on over 30% of his teammates’ made field goals while he was on the floor, he was the only freshman to do that last season.
Chandler will also be asked to be a game manager for most of his minutes, meaning he must minimize turnovers and make good decisions with the ball in his hands. In college, he has an assist-to-turnover ratio of over 2/1 and nearly did the same in Summer League, even though he did have a couple of tough games.
It’s a lot to ask of a rookie PG to be efficient with the ball when he has had limited minutes at an NBA speed, but that’s what the Grizzlies will need in his minutes down so many bodies.
Getting to the rim off the dribble
Offensively, Chandler will also be asked to score when he is in the game with bench units that are young, inexperienced, and also playing more minutes than expected. Even though he is still a pass-first player, Chandler can still affect the game as a scorer, most of that coming off the dribble.
Kennedy Chandler with the sweet crossover before the soft touch pic.twitter.com/1CKeHwMKoO— Grizzlies Nation (@GrizNationCP) November 13, 2022
Kennedy was one of the fastest players in college basketball and used that speed to get to the rim often and pretty easily. He was also efficient once he got there, hitting over 59% of his shots when he got there. I would like to see him attack the rim more consistently going forward, as he often has a speed mismatch whenever he is on the court. He also proved to be one of the hardest players to stop in transition.
buying in on Kennedy Chandler being a good change-of-pace point guard in this league -- insane amount of burst here in the open floor pic.twitter.com/UK259Ww29m— Parker Fleming (@PAKA_FLOCKA) November 21, 2022
How could it positively affect his development?
It’s common sense that more minutes are the key to development for young players. Chandler has all the tools to be successful, he just hasn’t gotten the experience or opportunity to show it yet.
For most of the year, Chandler will probably be on the bench. But this is the NBA and we have already seen a ton of injuries across the league. Playing now can help prepare him for more minutes later in the season, if there are more injuries or players are resting down the road.
These minutes will also help the Grizzlies down the line, as it seems Chandler is being groomed to be the backup PG of the future in Memphis. The more minutes he gets now, the better he will be for years to come.
Ja Morant is expected to be back sooner rather than later, but until then Chandler will be asked to have a more significant role. It’s also likely that this will not be the first time Kennedy has to step up. As the season goes on, there will continue to be injuries, resting players, etc. It’s always good to have a player of Kennedy Chandler’s caliber stepping in during those situations.