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Memphis Grizzlies 2022 Free Agency Primer

The Memphis Grizzlies could have options for this summer, but in which direction will they go?

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2022 NBA Playoffs - Memphis Grizzlies v Golden State Warriors Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

The NBA offseason is about to hit another gear, as free agency is underway starting at 5PM CST on June 30th. For the Memphis Grizzlies, they will have some tough questions to face.

After adding 4 rookies to the roster, the Grizzlies are at 15 roster spots with (speculated) Vince Williams and Kenneth Lofton Jr. as the 16th and 17th guys on two-ways. Surely, their method of replacing free agents Tyus Jones, Kyle Anderson, and Jarrett Culver isn’t through rookies. Right?

The Grizzlies will likely be making a few tweaks after the edges here and there. Killian Tillie and Xavier Tillman are two low-cost players that could be on the outside looking in if push comes to shove. However, don’t expect anything ground-breaking this offseason — as Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer reported, they are “not going to do anything to shake up their culture.”

After a 56-26 season, and a 6-game second-round series exit without your star player for half of it, that’s a good call.

If the Grizzlies aren’t going to dramatically shake things up, what could we expect starting tomorrow?


The Cap Situation

Before diving into any specific player storylines, let’s look at how the Grizzlies are lining up financially.

This scenario would revolve around them renouncing free agency rights to Jones, Anderson, and Culver — while waiving Green and Konchar before their guarantee dates. It’s unlikely to happen.

Per Cleaning the Glass, the Grizzlies will likely have nearly $20M in cap space ($19.7M) with the cap holds of those 3, Sam Merrill, and Daniel Oturu. They can still have cap space after re-signing players within their cap holds — Jones has one of $15.9M, and Anderson’s is at $14.9M.

Regardless, the Grizzlies should have financial flexibility to work around the margins this offseason.

Memphis Grizzlies v Golden State Warriors - Game Six Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Obvious

The Memphis Grizzlies have 3 players going into free agency: Tyus Jones, Kyle Anderson, and Jarrett Culver.

Of the 3 players, Culver is the most likely to be gone. After having his fourth-year option declined prior to the season, Culver will enter restricted free agency. He didn’t have much of a role last season, averaging 9.1 minutes over 37 games, so it’s unlikely they’ll match any offers he may receive. His roster spot can be easily replaced by one of the 4 rookies.

Kyle Anderson’s situation has a bit more layers. During the team’s post-season exit interviews, he didn’t sound like someone who’d be back. In addition, the Grizzlies picked two players — Jake LaRavia and David Roddy — who fit as theoretical replacements for him as the team’s backup 4. From a fit standpoint, it’d be shocking if he’s back.

However, there’s a non-zero shot he returns to Memphis. The Daily Memphian’s Chris Herrington outlined an idea to bring Anderson back as Tyus Jones replacement. That’d be a fascinating idea; it’d lead to a jumbo-sized bench unit, and it’d put Anderson in his most optimal position to succeed.

I’d bet he’s on another team by opening night.

The only other obvious element of the offseason for the Grizzlies is John Konchar’s guarantee trigger. His $2.3M becomes fully guaranteed if he’s not waived prior to July 3rd. The Grizzlies will likely keep him on the roster past the deadline, as he’s been a solid 11th man for this team. Memphis will stay jitty.

2022 NBA Playoffs - Memphis Grizzlies v Golden State Warriors Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

The Biggest Question: What’s going to happen with Tyus Jones?

Tyus Jones’ free agency will likely send a ripple effect into what’s in store for the rest of the Grizzlies’ offseason plans. After possessing a 21-6 record as a starting point guard, and playing the best basketball of his career, Jones could be in line for a starting point guard job and a sizable payday.

The suitors are running low though.

The New York Knicks are all in on Jalen Brunson, and the Washington Wizards just traded for Monte Morris — who's an incredibly similar player to Jones (undersized guard, serviceable starter replacement for Jamal Murray, incredible passing efficiency).

The Minnesota Timberwolves also have rumored interest in Jones, per Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer. It’d likely take a sign-and-trade with either Malik Beasley or Taurean Prince, two players that’d shore up the Grizzlies’ perimeter depth.

The San Antonio Spurs are a team to monitor here, as they don’t have a starting point guard after trading away Dejounte Murray. They can offer him more than the MLE and a starting job. The only reason I wouldn’t pick them as a serious suitor is their unspoken intention to tank for the enticing 2023 draft.

The Dallas Mavericks could also step in as a suitor, with Jalen Brunson on his way out the door. However, it’s more likely they pursue Malcolm Brogdon through a trade, rather than Jones via free agency.

Which scenarios are on the table?

  • He walks for nothing.

This situation would be the most catastrophic. They’d still have a good amount of cap space, but they won’t be using it to replicate the Tyus Jones’ production. I doubt this happens.

  • Sign and trade.

If Tyus Jones is off somewhere else, it’s easy to foresee a sign-and-trade possibility. There’s one with Minnesota with Malik Beasley, something also speculated in Chris Herrington’s aforementioned column. San Antonio and Memphis could probably agree to a sign-and-trade with Josh Richardson coming to Beale Street. There aren’t any other intriguing, realistic possibilities here. If a sleeper team swoops in, it’ll likely occur via a sign-and-trade, as it’d be from a club with limited cap space.

  • The Grizzlies agree on a deal.

Obviously, this scenario is the best case. He’s proven as a point guard capable of righting the ship when Ja Morant is not on the floor. He’s a major reason for sustainable success. If they agree to a deal, it’s like one beneficial for both parties. Ideally, they could get to a declining contract at 2 years worth between $20-24M. The Grizzlies would bring him back and give him more money upfront in Ja Morant’s final year on a rookie-scale contract. It’d also allow Jones to enter unrestricted free agency one more time before he enters his 30’s. The Grizzlies could also use his expiring contract as a trade chip, if they feel like rookie Kennedy Chandler is ready for the full-time back-up point guard role in his 2nd season.

Tyus Jones’ market has gotten a lot more interesting over the past few days. If there aren’t many starting jobs out there, he could likely wind up back in Memphis.

Secondary storylines with external storylines to watch

In free agency, the Memphis Grizzlies will have needs to address this offseason, primarily finding someone to fill in for De’Anthony Melton off the bench at the 2. However, most of these situations will be dependent on what happens with Jones.

What else should we look for?

  • If Tyus is gone, who replaces him?

If the Grizzlies lose their backup point guard, there are several routes they can go down. I outlined the possibility of trusting Kennedy Chandler as the backup point guard from day one. I’m not there entirely yet, but a stopgap could be useful. Ricky Rubio would be great in that role, but it’s likely he returns to Cleveland. The Commercial Appeal’s Damichael Cole made great arguments for veterans Rajon Rondo and Delon Wright — the latter is more intriguing, because his versatility and size make him a clean fit to play next to Morant. A fun “home run swing” would be Collin Sexton. They’d have the money to pay him if Jones walks, and he’d be a dynamic weapon to have off the bench with his athleticism and shot-making.

  • Finding 2-guard depth

The Grizzlies do need depth at the 2-guard spot. They could use Danny Green’s $10M partial-guaranteed contract as a trade chip to add someone, or they could opt for free agency. If they want a versatile glue guy, they should target Donte DiVincenzo or Bruce Brown Jr. They may opt for more scoring pop off the bench with Lonnie Walker or Malik Monk. If they did want to add a veteran, Gary Harris or Gary Payton II would be good options too. Regardless, the market for reserve guards is nice for what the Grizzlies are looking for.

  • Adams replacement?

With Steven Adams entering free agency in 2023, could the Grizzlies look for an eventual replacement this offseason? The Grizzlies could sign a young center with this summer’s MLE, then slot him as the backup 5. In the process, they could further evaluate whether or not Jaren Jackson Jr. should start at the 4 or 5 long-term. I only add this section here, because there are two fascinating, available names on the market: Isaiah Hartenstein and Mo Bamba. Hartenstein is the perfect signing for the Grizzlies, hitting a ton of statistical benchmarks in GBB’s Shawn Coleman’s player acquisition method. Mo Bamba showed promise in his best season so far in his 3-year career, and his combination of rim protection and outside shooting would make for a neat fit next to Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr.

  • Swarm the Hornets’ nest.

Miles Bridges is a dream target for all, but that notion was kind of thrown out the window in Jake Fischer’s latest notebook. If he doesn’t interest them (he shouldn’t), they should explore a salary-shedding trade for Gordon Hayward. That trade would likely take Steven Adams, or the combination of Dillon Brooks and Danny Green. Hayward would bolster their title chances, but I’d be more comfortable if there was a definite answer at center if they dealt Adams — whether it’s starting Jackson there, or acquiring a cheaper big man.

  • How can the Grizzlies’ boost their title chances?

The Western Conference will remain tough next season, especially with the Los Angeles Clippers and the Denver Nuggets getting healthy. Right now, DraftKings has the Memphis Grizzlies 8th in title odds (+1500). The odds could shift in the Grizzlies’ favor, depending on what happens with Deandre Ayton. For the odds to change with player acquisition, there are only 3 available players that could alter them — Deandre Ayton, Gordon Hayward, and Collin Sexton. Either of those players would be great complements that fill positional needs and make the Grizzlies a more formidable threat to win it all.

Memphis Grizzlies v Golden State Warriors - Game Four Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Predictions

  • The Grizzlies re-sign Tyus Jones to a 2-year deal worth a bit more than the MLE. As the starting point guard market is drying up, it may bode well in the Grizzlies’ favor. The Grizzlies value him, and Jones has expressed comfort in this situation. Let’s run it back with Stones, while Kennedy Chandler is eased into the NBA under the guidance of two of the league’s smartest point guards.
  • The Grizzlies will make an easy decision with Danny Green... and Killian Tillie. It was reported that the date for the rest of Green’s $10M to be guaranteed is January 10th instead of July 1st. The Grizzlies won’t drag it out long though. If Green was expected to play, the situation might be different. He’d be a candidate for the Grizzlies’ rotation. Instead, Zach Kleiman will either look to waive him, or get creative with some sort of trade. The Grizzlies will also open up a roster spot by waiving Killian Tillie. The Grizzlies have a lot of similar players with Brandon Clarke, Xavier Tillman, Santi Aldama, Jake LaRavia, and David Roddy. Tillie didn’t separate himself from the pack when he did play, and he also has trouble staying healthy. It’s an unfortunate situation, but Tillie is a likely candidate to be the odd man out this summer, especially with only $2M owed to him next season.
  • The Memphis Grizzlies make their first free agency acquisition since 2019. The Grizzlies haven’t signed a free agent in the summer since, ironically, Tyus Jones in 2019. That will change this offseason. The Grizzlies will be looking into acquiring more depth at the guard position, and they’ll do so with Donte DiVincenzo. Despite a rough season this past year, he embodies a lot of traits the Grizzlies look for in their players. He’s a “dribble, pass, shoot” guard that’s also a relentless rebounder — something important when building around Jaren Jackson Jr. — and he’s a versatile defender that helps create cycles (1.1 steals per game in his career). DiVincenzo has proven himself as a winning player on a conceding team, and Taylor Jenkins is familiar with him from his time in Milwaukee as well. Zach Kleiman and company will capitalize on his falling stock.

Turn on your notifications for Adrian Wojnarowski, Shams Charania, Marc Stein, Chris Haynes, and Jake Fischer. Things are about to get crazy.

What will the Memphis Grizzlies do to continue their trek towards a NBA championship?

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