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The investment in John Konchar

The Memphis Grizzlies have invested in John Konchar’s development since his arrival in 2019. His latest extension signifies the investment in his next step.

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John Konchar’s extension caught people by surprise.

That’s not an indictment on his game; it’s more about the contract situation. Konchar’s $2.3M for next season was guaranteed, after the Grizzlies’ bypassed the July 3rd trigger date — as expected. With two years remaining on his current deal, the Grizzlies announced a contract extension for $19M over 3 years, which has him on the books through the 2026-27 season.

Extending John Konchar this far out from when it expires is just another step in the Grizzlies’ investment with him.

Starting his career out on a two-way contract, Konchar quickly proved his value despite only playing 19 NBA games in a total season. He was an analytics darling in his rookie year — posting a BPM of 4.5, PER of 18.0, a true shooting percentage of 71.3%, and an offensive rebounding percentage of 10.7. His rebounding and two-way playmaking fueled that, leading to a 4-year, $9M (partially-guaranteed) contract through the 2023-24 season, referred to NBA enthusiasts as “The Hinkie Special.”

Konchar’s 2nd-season was more of the same, as he proved to be a valuable player to have towards the end of the roster — especially in the pandemic season. Last season was when he made a notable improvement.

Konchar’s role was pretty simple: he was the 11th man that would step into the rotation whenever a player was down. With Dillon Brooks missing 50 games, and Ja Morant out for 25, opportunities were abundant. In those chances, he highlighted the improvements in his game, and his leap from beyond the arc shined the brightest.

Three-point volume has been an emphasis for his development since the end of his rookie season. Last year, he upped his volume from 56 total attempts (1.3 per game) to 126 (1.8 per game), while also increasing his percentage from 37.5 to 41.3. More notably, he had a stretch in December where he looked automatic — connecting on 15 of his 27 triple tries, good for a 55.6% clip. In the process, he managed to translate his production into a slightly larger role, averaging a career-high in rebounds per 100 possessions (12.2).

Why the Grizzlies like Konchar and want to invest in him is pretty clear. He’s a good player to complement a core — he doesn’t command shots, thrives off doing the dirty work, crashes the boards like a madman, makes defensive plays, and moves the basketball without turning it over. With his contract extension and this offseason’s events, a larger role as a full-time rotation should ensue.

Indiana Pacers v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

With De’Anthony Melton out of the fold, there’s an opening for the reserve 2-guard spot — barring an unforeseen trade, perhaps one involving the injured Danny Green and draft capital. There’s plenty of time in the offseason for the roster to take shape, as the Grizzlies illustrated this past summer with a flurry of trades. Does Konchar’s contract extension signify the confidence in him to fill that role? More than likely, yes. If that’s the case, there are several things to monitor with the next stage of his development.

The most important one comes on the offensive end. He had a usage rate of 9.5%, which falls in the 1st percentile among wings, per Cleaning the Glass. Now he doesn’t need to become a bench gunner, one Melton was challenged to be in his role. There just needs to be a bit more aggressiveness on offense, and there’s a pathway for him to do so.

For Konchar, it boils down to the 3-point shot and building upon his marksmanship from last season. It doesn’t need to be drastic or anything, nor do the Grizzlies need to run sets for him to create looks. However, firing 3 three’s per game, rather than a shade under 2, would be a good start.

The Grizzlies rely on driving and kicking quite a bit, and that’s also a strength for Konchar. If he could take advantage of defensive shifts by letting it fly, it’s going to open up the rest of his game. Launching more triples makes him a bit more of an emphasis in the scouting report — which in turn could generate opportunities for him to attack closeouts to either get an open lane to the rim, or to make the extra pass. In addition, defenders cannot sag off on them too hard, and those situations open more driving lanes for downhill player and more room for Konchar to cut to the basket.

If he could do that, while looking for cutting and transition lanes inside the arc to make some dunk shots, he should continue his effectiveness in a larger role.

The Grizzlies will need him defensively, especially after the losses of Kyle Anderson and De’Anthony Melton — two of the biggest event creators on the team. Konchar is a solid team defender, possessing a defensive box plus/minus greater than 1 in each season of his career. Though he doesn’t possess the same abilities as Anderson and Melton at creating events, he’s shown the potential to do. He ranked in the 98th percentile in Steal Percentage (2.2%) in his sophomore year, and in the 80th percentile in Block Percentage (0.9%) last season.

Replacing the events from Anderson and Melton is run by committee, especially for a team that emphasizes cycles of defense into offense, and Konchar has the defensive chops to chip into it.

In this expanded role, John Konchar has the opportunity to expand upon his strengths to maintain his effectiveness towards winning.

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

There’s not any risk associated with this contract extension. Though some people think promoting the 11th man in the rotation to 9th or 10th is drastic, it’s really not the case with John Konchar. He’s shown the ability to be a rotation player on a winning team. Case in point, he played 72 games and averaged 17.9 minutes per game in the Grizzlies’ 56-26 campaign. It’s like he’s already done it! It’s not like they’re promoting an unproven commodity into a rotation player; the build-up with Konchar has been nice and calculated.

From a contractual standpoint, the investment is wise given the salary cap implications on the way. The cap rose this season, and with a new CBA and new TV deals on the horizon, more spikes might follow. His contract may end up being the equivalent of a $3-4M one in this current salary structure. Locking in role players, especially one that’ll technically be a 6-year veteran by the time the extension hits, seems like a smart idea. For those that love to look at the transaction side of things, he now has a more favorable contract in trades in salary-matching purposes.

Regardless, the Memphis Grizzlies are making a smart investment on John Konchar, as they’ve continued to do since he inked a two-way contract in 2019. He plays to the Grizzlies’ standard on both sides of the ball. Though the counting stats don’t pop off the page, he’s made incremental strides in each season of his career, and he stepped in as a key player in the team’s “next man up” philosophy. And last season, he flashed the potential to be a full-time rotation player in a higher dosage. As a result, the Grizzlies deservingly rewarded him with a contract extension and with the opportunity to play a key role off the bench.

In this latest investment step, the Grizzlies are banking on John Konchar to maintain his effectiveness in his role to one in a larger capacity, while continuing to expand his game on both sides of the ball.

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