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Kennedy Chandler has an ideal developmental infrastructure around him

The Memphis Grizzlies offer Kennedy Chandler a developmental environment for him to thrive in the NBA.

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

There are so many factors that go into player development, but perhaps the biggest one is the landing spot. The wrong situation could rule out a talented prospect realizing their upside, whether it’s the organizational environment or minimal opportunities. A good destination could do wonders for a player’s career — as the developmental plans are more clear, defined within a well-run system — and it could propel the prospect to a ceiling no one expected in the evaluation process.

Landing with the Memphis Grizzlies is the ideal developmental infrastructure for Kennedy Chandler. I’m not saying this because he’s back in his hometown, but because of the environment around him.

Chandler’s playing time will be little with the Grizzlies, an expected case since he’s behind Ja Morant and Tyus Jones in the depth chart. However, he’ll get ample chances to learn and grow through the Grizzlies’ system.

After Tyus Jones re-signed with the Grizzlies, Kennedy Chandler’s developmental path became more clear. He’ll likely have a “redshirt” rookie year with more of his minutes coming with the Memphis Hustle rather than the Grizzlies. In the process, he’d learn the nuances of running a NBA offense ahead of becoming the full-time backup point guard — whenever that time comes.

So far in the early portion of the season, Chandler is seizing and attacking the opportunity.

Recently, Chandler had the chance to go play with the Memphis Hustle on a G League assignment — where Jenkins says he was “chomping” at the bit to go out there and get some reps. Jenkins described it as a “developmental opportunity,” and another step is leading up to his number being called.

“The reason they got me down there is to get myself going, get comfortable, and it felt good,” Chandler said of his Hustle debut. “It’s just being prepared, and whether it’s this game or an assignment game, they know I’m ready to play.”

The Memphis Grizzlies and Hustle is great for Chandler — and several other prospects, like Kenneth Lofton Jr. and Vince Williams, in the development pipeline — for a plethora of reasons. The distance between the major and minor clubs is a nice factor, as the Hustle play roughly 20 minutes away from the FedExForum. They also often practice at the Grizzlies’ facilities.

However, those luxuries wouldn’t resonate without pristine execution. The Hustle has done a quality job with player development for the main roster.

It’s hard to find a NBA/G League synergy like the Grizzlies and Hustle. Prior to the G League season, Hustle head coach Jason March talked to Brandon Abraham and I on GBBLive to talk about how their working relationship has been evolving over the past year.

Given the connection with the Grizzlies and Hustle, Taylor Jenkins has worked with Jason March on a replicated standard for player development between the two clubs:

So, it’s kind of like a holistic approach where there’s a lot of people involved in the planning, the execution, so our guys can go out there and just do the things that we expect of them to our Grizzlies standard. Before games, after games, during games... there’s a lot of dialogue in it, and then afterwards, we have great conversations about what was going on. Where can we get better? Can we watch the film? What’ve we got to do on the court, off the court, everything. We try to replicate as much as possible. We do with the Grizz as with the Hustle.

Game action reps are going to be important for Kennedy Chandler’s development, regardless of the competition or environment. It’ll be an opportunity to build some good habits and understand the nuances of running a NBA offense at his own pace.

Memphis Grizzlies v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

Mentorship can be important for player development, and for Kennedy Chandler, he has an ideal point guard duo to learn from. Ja Morant has emerged as one of the league’s best players in less than 4 seasons, and Tyus Jones has set a standard for floor generals among backup point guards — setting historic marks for assist-to-turnover ratio. While the talent level stands out as a prime example, the connection he has with these two veterans enhances the learning process for Chandler.

“There’s not many people that’s in my position right now that can learn from 2 people, and just watch them every single game and learn,” Chandler said of his spot in the point guard depth chart.

Chandler and Morant have built a relationship since the pandemic era, hooping together at private runs during that time. They have formed a “big brother, little brother” synergy, as Morant has shown his support for Chandler for his college commitment, his stellar SEC tournament run, and his moment getting drafted to the Memphis Grizzlies.

Now, that support is continuing — this time as teammates in the league.

Chandler posed an advantageous question when talking about learning from the All-Star point guard:

How many people can watch Ja every single game — and actually watching him and learning from him?

Kennedy Chandler also has a lot to learn from Tyus Jones. Coming into the league as a McDonald’s All-American and 1-and-done point guard as well, Jones also served as a third-string, developmental guard in his first few seasons in the NBA. During his time in Minnesota, he played behind All-Star point guards Derrick Rose and Jeff Teague. As one of the veterans in the locker room, Jones can use his experience to guide another young point guard down a similar journey.

“One thing I had was great vets that I felt helped me speed up that learning process,” Jones said. “Just them talking to me. If I was playing, they’d point out stuff I did well, that I could work on, little shortcuts, hints, things like that.”

He’s now passing down his wisdom with Chandler. Jones told the media that he and Chandler actually sit together on the plane, an opportunity for them to share observations.

“I’m just trying to talk to him as much as possible — just communicating with him. If I see something, don’t hide or not share information, but don’t try to overcommunicate with him. He’s extremely open to all that, which says a lot about him, and that’s kind of the first step is to being open to teaching points, criticism, things of that nature. and ask questions,” Jones said of his dynamic with Chandler. “We’re consistently talking through different things — whether he’s playing or not, just talking about the game… talking about what I see, what he sees, he’s asking me questions. He wants to learn, he wants to get better, and he’s not afraid coming to me or coming to Ja if he sees something or isn’t sure about something.”

Veterans matter for the environment in player development, and Kennedy Chandler has an elite point guard rotation to learn from.

New Orleans Pelicans v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

Early in the season, Kennedy Chandler is already seeing the dividends of his developmental plan paying off.

“I’ve been learning a lot, honestly.” The rookie point guard said. “My development’s gotten so much better from summertime to now. Confidence is being better and better every single day. The team has a lot of trust in me, and this year is going to be a lot of development. I’m here for it, and Coach knows I’m here to learn every single time. Whenever my name get called, I’ll be ready to step out there on the floor.”

The Memphis Grizzlies believe in Kennedy Chandler and prioritized him in this year’s draft, and they have the perfect plan in place for their approach this season. While he may not take a leap similar to Desmond Bane — or the presumable one that could be on the way for Ziaire Williams — guys like John Konchar and Santi Aldama have shown the dividends from trusting a patient process through the G League. There’s no reason to suggest he could become a rotation player soon.

The reps with the Hustle and the guidance of his veteran point guards and his coaching staff are coupling with Chandler’s work ethic to provide a great foundation for his player development as a NBA point guard — and a proper runway for the heights his game could soar.

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