The 2021-22 season will be one for the books. However, this offseason is going to be a pivotal one to build off their successes. The Western Conference will be ruthless next season with the returns of Kawhi Leonard, Zion Williamson, Jamal Murray, and Paul George — and there’s very little reason to think that any of this year’s Western Conference playoff participants, aside from maybe the Utah Jazz, will fall off.
Whether it’s internal development or strategically refining the roster, the Grizzlies got a lot of work to do this summer to keep things going, and the offseason could go in a lot of directions.
1) Which player has the biggest offseason, from a development standpoint?
GBB Site Manager Parker Fleming: I’m going to roll with Jaren Jackson Jr.’s offensive development. Defensively he took a massive leap towards becoming 1 of the best defenders in the league. However, his offense regressed from his sophomore season — as his shooting percentages fell from 46.9% from the field and 39.4% from 3, to 41.5% and 31.9%. Returning close to that form could solidify as the 1B to Ja Morant’s 1A, and it’d create a lethal foil for the Grizzlies’ offense. This offseason, shooting is going to be a priority, as is continuing to find his footwork and balance creating inside — whether it’s off the dribble or in the post.
GBB Assistant to the Site Manager Brandon Abraham: Jaren Jackson Jr. is the obvious answer. He proved he could stay healthy this past season and how much of a defensive force he could be. We saw flashes of his offensive potential but he was inconsistent most of the season. He’ll need to work on consistency with his 3-point shot, as well as shot selection. He showed flashes of being a really solid post player, and it would be nice to see that be a larger area of focus next season.
Host of “The Starting 5” Tev Shakir: From a development standpoint, I’m excited to Ziaire Williams take his next steps. Just as Desmond Bane benefitted from playing in the Summer League last year, I don’t see why that can’t be the case for Williams. He showed flashes of being the forward of the future for the Grizz. He’s only 20 years old.
GBB Staff Writer, Host of “The Starting 5” Parish Sharkey: Jaren Jackson Jr. just narrowly over Ziaire Williams. Jaren has so much unlocked potential on offense, and I believe a lot of it is building strength. He became more aggressive attacking the basket throughout this past season, but missed a ton of easy shots simply because of a lack of strength to absorb contact. Last season he took a huge step defensively, now it’s time for him to take the next step offensively.
GBB Senior Staff Writer Bryson Wright: Ziaire Williams. During the season he was mostly a catch-and-shoot player on the perimeter, but down the stretch he showed the ability to do a bit more. He showed flashes of shot creation and being effective at getting to the rim; he will look to expand his game this summer. When it comes to the Summer league, I expect the Grizzlies will take the Desmond Bane approach from last season. He should get reps as the first scoring option and continue to improve the areas of his game he flashed throughout the year. I wouldn’t be surprised if they let him get some reps at point guard as well. In the exit interviews, Williams talked about wanting to be in the gym every day and the older guys will be sure he is. Bane said he would drag him there “whether he liked it or not.” He’s only 20 years old so the sky is the limit.
2) Both Tyus Jones and Kyle Anderson are free agents. Which player do you think is the more likely to stay?
Fleming: I’m going to roll with Tyus Jones. Anderson’s comments in the exit interviews indicate his eyes might be elsewhere, and Jones expressed a comfortable fit here. The point guard market is small in free agency, headlined by him and Jalen Brunson. It’s all going to boil down to the trade market though. Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer indicated that Malcolm Brogdon, D’Angelo Russell, and Mike Conley could shape the trade market for the lead guard position. With new leadership in Minnesota, and the necessity for Utah to shake things up, it wouldn’t be surprising to see teams like the New York Knicks or Detroit Pistons address their starting point guard spot through a trade. If that happens, Jones could be back on this Grizzlies team.
Abraham: Jones. Anderson saw his minutes and importance decrease this past season, while Jones had arguably his most valuable season yet with Memphis. Anderson seems destined to sign on as a 8th or 9th man with another contender, while Jones will have plenty of suitors. Will Jones take a starting role on a bad to not good team, or will he stick in Memphis as one of the premiere back up point guards in the league? Both very well could be gone, but Memphis will prioritize Tyus over Kyle.
Shakir: I believe that Tyus is more than likely to stay. His consistent play in the second unit has been key for the Grizz. Yet when called to start, his performance was record breaking and helped led this team to a #2 Western Conference record. I believe that the Grizz front office know and understand the importance of having Tyus on our roster. Though there are other teams that could offer Tyus more financially, I’m hoping he decides to stay for chemistry-sake.
Sharkey: Tyus Jones. I believe the market might not be as high for him as rumored and the Grizzlies would prioritize him over Kyle. As great of an asset as Kyle was, he has never fit the style the Grizzlies want to play. De’Anthony Melton’s lack of ball-handling development has made Tyus important to retain if possible.
Wright: I think there is a good chance both of them come back, but if I had to pick one it would be Kyle Anderson. I expect that Tyus Jones will get significantly more interest from other teams than Anderson and he also won’t be as expensive. Anderson is one of the few vets on the team, and I think the front office values that. The question for Jones will be his market value, which we won’t know until free agency begins. If there is a team willing to pay Jones to be a starter, he will probably be on a new team next season.
3) Which player is most likely to be traded this offseason?
Fleming: De’Anthony Melton. His inconsistent minutes and play in the postseason could lead the team to move on from him. He has a team-friendly deal at a 2-year, $19M, and franchises will be enticed by that from a 23-year old guard. He’s a floor-raiser that could help a lottery team looking to make play-in tournament. For the Grizzlies, they might look to turn his spot into a bigger combo guard or wing.
Abraham: Both De’Anthony Melton and Xavier Tillman figure to be two of the more desirable Grizzlies players who could be acquired via trade. Dillon Brooks isn’t realistic, in my opinion, and both Melton and Tillman have shown flashes but not a ton of consistency. Melton disappeared against Minnesota before playing well against Golden State. Tillman was big in both Game 2’s but was relatively ineffective otherwise. With other prospects waiting in the wings, I wouldn’t be surprised if either is moved or if they’re packaged together in a trade.
Shakir: If I’m the Grizz, I’m listening for offers for Dillon Brooks. I understand the defensive mindset and grit that makes Dillon so special in a Grizz uniform. However, his inconsistency on offense gives Grizz fans, like myself, a headache after watching games. There is only one basketball. If we are expecting growth from our wings, and even for Ja to continue to grow, we have to make sure the ball is in their hands. As headstrong as Dillon is, moving him won’t be a bad idea especially on an expiring deal.
Sharkey: Steven Adams. His expiring contract combined with the mismatch of him playing in the 1st round series versus Minnesota and the possibility of Jaren becoming a full time could lead to Steven Adams being traded this offseason. His contract can help match salaries in practically any deal.
Wright: This is a very tough question because I think everyone outside of Ja, Bane, Jaren, and Ziaire could be available for the right price, but I would say Dillon Brooks. He has been good for the Grizzlies, but he missed a lot of last season and they were able to handle it. Ziaire Williams is the SF of the future, so it might get crowded with Brooks in the lineup as well. I also think that he would have a lot of value on the trade market even though he had some inconsistencies in the postseason. He is on an expiring contract that is actually pretty cheap for his production, so I’m sure some teams would take him on and send some good assets in return. The Grizzlies might keep him because of the chemistry aspect, but it’s definitely a possibility.
4) The Grizzlies have 2 picks in this year’s draft. Would you rather see them use both picks, or should they trade one or both of them to either move up or acquire a veteran?
Fleming: I’d like to see a trade in some capacity. As title contenders, the Grizzlies don’t need to field 2 rookies on the 15-man roster, assuming the 47th pick or any second-round pick will take Yves Pons’ two-way contract slot. Obviously, it’s too early to see how the trade market unfolds. We’ll find more over the next few weeks. My preference would be to trade up into the mid-teen’s (hello, Charlotte or Atlanta?).
Abraham: Zach Kleiman is typically busy on draft night evaluating all of his options and I don’t suspect the 2022 NBA Draft to be much different. I would prefer the Grizzlies use their two picks to move up, or a variation where they use one of this years first and the GSW first to move up. The Grizzlies have a plethora of draft picks in the coming years and a bunch of guys already on rookie contracts. You’ve got to consolidate a little bit and using the picks to move up a decent number of picks seems ideal.
Shakir: The Grizz have enough young pieces. It’s time to bring in some vets to help push the team to the next level. They have one of the best rosters in the NBA, and to say that they are one of the youngest definitely helps. I believe in the front office. Having young talent could help them in the long run, but how would they progress if we are expecting progression from the current core?
Sharkey: I would like for them to trade them to either move up or acquire a veteran. I don’t have a veteran that comes off the top of my head, but a trade-up candidate in the draft that I would like, if it is possible, is Jalen Duren. I feel like he’s the perfect fit next to Jaren in the frontcourt with his athleticism to defend, be a lob threat, and ability to rebound. Any 3-and-D or stretch-4 veterans would be fine as well.
Wright: The Grizzlies do not need two late first-round rookies added to the team next season. I think that one or both picks could be used to get a veteran player and/or move up, similar to the Jonas Valanciunas-Steven Adams trade last year that also resulted in the Grizzlies getting Ziaire Williams. Also, Kleiman has been active trading around draft time since he got to Memphis, including deals that eventually resulted in drafting Desmond Bane and Brandon Clarke, and I expect that to continue. If there is someone on the board that the front office really likes, history shows that they are not afraid to make the deal.
5) 1 prediction for this offseason
Fleming: The Memphis Grizzlies will make their first free agency acquisition since Tyus Jones in 2019, and that player is TJ Warren. After missing 2 years, he won’t command a lot in the open market. The Grizzlies provide him a spot where he can find his footing in a smaller role on a championship-contending team. He’d be a great flier for the backup 4 position that should open with Anderson’s potential departure.
Abraham: Memphis will be linked to a couple of “big names”. I don’t know if I necessarily see them taking a big swing this offseason based on who is available but I do believe we’ll see Memphis be more aggressive this offseason. None of Zach LaVine coming off knee surgery, Jerami Grant and his desire to be the #1 option, nor Bradley Beal coming off a bad season along with Desmond Bane’s resurgence aren’t as exciting as they were 8 or so months ago, but I think Memphis kicks the tires on them or any surprise star that asks out or becomes available.
Shakir: I don’t expect much. If we trade Dillon Brooks, it will be before training camp. If not, then I believe he will remain a Grizz for the entire season. Also, Ziaire Williams will win Summer League MVP.
Sharkey: Zach Kleiman has stated that his focus is now on the championship window so my prediction is that the Grizzlies will make a win-now move. Whether that’s taking a big swing at a star or using their draft picks and assets to trade for a much-needed veteran presence, any move they make will not be for developmental purposes as has been the case the past 2 seasons. The time is now!
Wright: If Tyus Jones signs elsewhere, the Grizzlies will find their next backup point guard in the draft. They probably would not even have to move up to do it. Two players I would watch late in the first round are Andrew Nembhard from Gonzaga and Kennedy Chandler from Tennessee. I think both of these players are good enough to contribute now and with the Grizzlies development team they could thrive. Nembhard also fits the mold of many other late round draft picks in the past, an older player that was good in college but has been a little bit overlooked when it comes to the draft. Both are of them also seem to have the right personality that would fit in with the group of players set in place already.