The prospect profiles continue on Grizzly Bear Blues. For more, visit the “Memphis Grizzlies 2022 Draft Coverage” group to see more of our profiles on draft prospects and their potential fits with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Andrew Nembhard, Guard, University of Gonzaga
- 6’5”, 6’6” wingspan, 193 pounds, 22-years-old, from Aurora, Ontario.
- Last season at Gonzaga: In 32 games (32.2 minutes per game) — 11.8 points on 45% shooting (38% from three on 4.2 attempts and 87% from the foul line), 3.4 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.1 blocks
- Four-year college career (two seasons at Florida and two at Gonzaga): In 131 games (32.1 minutes per game) — 10.0 points on 45% shooting (34% from three on 3.3 attempts and 79% from the FT line), 2.9 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.1 blocks
- 3 STATS OF STRENGTH (per Tankathon): AST/TO (2.9), FT% (87), DBPM (3.4)
- 3 STATS TO IMPROVE: FTA rate (.177), points (11.8), wingspan (6’6”)
- AWARDS AND ACCOLADES: SEC All-Freshman team (2019), WCC Tournament MOP (2022), WCC SIxth Man of the Year (2021), Second-Team All-WCC (2021), First-Team All-WCC (2022)
- CURRENT BIG BOARD PLACEMENT: 57th (Tankathon), 50th (ESPN), 42nd (Bleacher Report), 69th (The Athletic), 67th (CBS Sports)
No matter what else the Memphis Grizzlies decide to do this offseason, so much seems to hinge on the Tyus Jones decision in free agency. If they are able to retain him, then the backup point guard position is set for likely the foreseeable future. But if not, then the Grizzlies will have to find a replacement, whether in free agency or the draft.
With the surplus of point guards that should be available at each of Memphis’ three picks, the draft would seem to be the most likely avenue. And when looking for a point guard that can replace Jones’ abilities as a floor general as well as his leadership intangibles, one of the most obvious option is Andrew Nembhard from Gonzaga.
Areas of Strength
Team performance is usually an important metric for me when evaluating college point guard prospects, because the college game is so heavily dependent on guard play. Typically, great college teams have great point guards, yet even otherwise talented teams tend to struggle when they don’t have a great point guard (see: Memphis Tigers).
So it means much to me that no player in college basketball outside of several of his own teammates won more college basketball games over the last two years than Andrew Nembhard. Of course, Gonzaga was a great program before him, and they likely will be after him as well. It also helps that he played with another great lead guard in Jalen Suggs for one of his two seasons at Gonzaga. Still, no one was a better floor general during this past season in particular than him.
And it’s precisely Andrew Nembhard’s ability to thrive as a playmaking floor general that should quickly translate to the NBA. He does everything that a playmaking point guard needs to do: He takes care of the ball (7th in the nation in AST/TO ratio), he’s probably the best and most NBA-ready pick-and-roll playmaker in the draft (94th percentile), and he generates plentiful opportunities for his teammates (14th in the nation in assists). He’s truly an exceptional passer whose undeniable feel for the game and superb basketball IQ elevates his teammates.
One of the ways to beat a no-middle defense is to not get stuck on one side of the court. Middle post entries are great, but you can also do it in ball screens. Zags ran this same 3-low middle ball screen all night, and Andrew Nembhard's patience and passing ability is incredible pic.twitter.com/n8fL9a8cUT— Steven Karr (@SKarrG0) November 15, 2021
Nembhard’s improvement as a shooter should also help him unlock his playmaking in the NBA. While he increased both his volume and accuracy from beyond the arc as a senior, his most noticeable improvement came in the type of shots that he was taking and making. He made 41 shots off-the-dribble this year, making a solid 41% of them and 37% of them from behind the arc. If he continues to be that proficient as a pull-up shooter, defenses will be unable to go under his ball screens, and it will further increase his opportunities as a playmaker.
NBA Combine invite for Andrew Nembhard, who finished his career with 691 assists to 256 turnovers. Special passing IQ aside, it's improved pull-up shooting that's been key in helping scouts picture an NBA PG. Made 41 dribble jumpers on 41% + 38% 3PT (87% FT). pic.twitter.com/XGBzy7IGR1— Jonathan Wasserman (@NBADraftWass) May 5, 2022
It also can’t be understated that Nembhard played in a true NBA offense under Mark Few, in which he was given the freedom to make quick read-and-react decisions, rather than run the anachronistic sets that many college coaches still embrace. He should be ahead of the curve in comparison to other prospects, which already appears to be the case.
Andrew Nembhard had the single-most impressive performance of the NBA Combine thus far with 26 points, 11 assists. Made all the right reads out of PNR and had his floater and pullup game working all game long. pic.twitter.com/3qdBlQnZUh— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) May 20, 2022
Add in the fact that he that he has great size for a point guard at 6’5”, and he seems like a perfect candidate to be a steal in the 2022 draft.
However, there are concerns.
Areas of Weakness
Don’t be concerned about Nembhard’s age or wingspan; no one will be drafting him because they think he’s some young phenom who will turn into a bonafide star. And the existence of Desmond Bane’s dinosaur arms should put all concern about wingspan to rest.
Yet a clear red flag that bothers me about Nembhard as an NBA prospect is his inconsistency, which is a concern that you don’t want to have about a four-year college player with questionable upside. Gonzaga just never quite knew what to expect from a production standpoint on a game-to-game basis.
This becomes immediately noticeable when glancing at his individual game logs, especially near the beginning and end of the season. He only scored in double-digits once (which was admittedly a strong 24-point outing in a primetime game against UCLA) in Gonzaga’s first 10 games. He was also generally disappointing in the NCAA tournament, in which outside of a strong 23 points/5 assists win against Memphis, he only scored 16 points combined in their other two games. This included a 2-11 stinker in Gonzaga’s Sweet 16 loss to Arkansas in which he also totaled a measly 3 assists and a putrid 5 turnovers.
While Nembhard’s inconsistency is frustrating, it’s not inexplicable. He has clear athletic limitations which hinder him as a scorer. His lack of explosiveness and burst means that he won’t be a steady shot-creator at the next level; his points will almost always come out of the pick-and-roll as well as spot-up opportunities.
Fit with the Grizzlies
But don’t let Andrew Nembhard’s weaknesses fool you. After all, even Tyus Jones displays offensive inconsistency as arguably the league’s best backup point guard. Nembhard’s offensive IQ and ability to command the court would make him an ideal fit in Memphis, whether to replace Jones or to even be an understudy to him for a few years.
However, if the Grizzlies draft him, it would most likely be with their 47th pick rather than with either of their two first-rounders. They will probably attempt to package the 29th and 22nd pick together to move up. But even if they don’t, picking him in the first round is too big of a swing when he’ll likely be available later.