The Memphis Grizzlies Summer League was one of the more highly anticipated in recent memory; with 5 rookies added to the roster less than 2 weeks before the first game, everyone was excited to see how they would do. The roster also included Ziaire Williams and Santi Aldama, who the Grizzlies used first-round picks on last season, meaning that 4 first-rounders from the last two years would be participating. There were definitely some up’s and down’s, but overall the Grizzlies' front office, coaching staff, and fanbase should be encouraged by what they saw. Here are a few of my takeaways from the young Grizzlies.
The 2nd year guys showed improvement
Santi Aldama and Ziaire Williams showed promise as two of the more experienced players on the Summer League roster. Williams was one of the more intriguing storylines to watch going into the summer. He was put in an on-ball role that he had never played before at such a high level. He made a lot of mistakes and even had a game with 8 turnovers, but overall he showed improvement from game to game.
Williams also got a chance to showcase his improved shot-creation ability, especially in the mid-range game, and his promise as a secondary ball-handler and facilitator. Despite some struggles, Williams ended up averaging 15 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 4 assists on 47% shooting and showed even more potential than the year prior. Williams won’t be asked to be a primary ball-handler during the regular season, but having that experience will only help him develop even quicker.
Aldama started slow but ended up averaging 16.8 points and 7.8 rebounds during the Vegas Summer League. His best game came against the Nets where Aldama finished with 31 points and 9 rebounds on 12-14 shooting and making 4 three-pointers. Aldama was named 2nd team All-Summer league for his performance and showed improvement from his first year as a professional.
With Jaren Jackson Jr. likely out to start the season, Aldama may play a much larger role either as a starter or in more minutes off the bench. It is impossible for Aldama to make up for Jackson Jr.’s absence completely, but he showed enough offensive game and rim protection to help the Grizzlies during his absence. Both 2021 first-round picks will be asked to do more than the season prior, so it was good to see them shine during the summer.
Kenneth Lofton Jr. deserves a shot
Kenneth Lofton Jr. was signed to a two-way deal after going undrafted in the 2022 NBA draft, but his Summer League performance proved he deserves a real shot at making the rotation. Lofton Jr. averaged 15.2 points and 7.2 rebounds and was arguably the most impressive player of the summer league.
Lofton Jr. had success with his bully-ball approach inside, making some very Zach Randolph-esque moves in the paint. He also showed some touch around the perimeter and an off-the-dribble game that has some promise. On the defensive end, he was solid even though a lot of people worried that his size would cause him problems on that end.
Lofton Jr. has a lot to work on, but there is no denying that he is talented and should at least get some looks in the rotation early in the season. As I said earlier, Jackson Jr. will miss the beginning of the season, so there are some extra minutes to go around. Because of Lofton Jr.’s play this summer, there is no question that he will be considered for those minutes coming into training camp.
With moves like this Kenneth Lofton Jr. might not be in a 2-way contract for long. pic.twitter.com/jdLaNHjnNW— Bryson (@BrysonWright3) July 10, 2022
David Roddy is ready to contribute
Roddy struggled to get going at the beginning of the Summer League, but he showed improvement in every game and became one of the more exciting players to watch. In Vegas, Roddy averaged 15 points per game, including a 20-point performance in the Grizzlies’ blowout of the Nets, and energized the crowd with a few impressive dunks.
David Roddy (15 PTS) ripping it DOWN— NBA (@NBA) July 12, 2022
Watch Now on ESPN 2 pic.twitter.com/YLIKaOlZPc
As he grew more comfortable with his role on the team, Roddy became more aggressive offensively, ending the summer as the 3rd-leading scorer. He showed his offensive versatility, scoring inside, in the mid-range, and from behind the arc. He was the number one option in college but showed that he can still be effective when he isn’t, which will be important for his inclusion in the Grizzlies' regular season rotation.
The Grizzlies moved De’Anthony Melton in order to get Roddy onto the team, so it is clear that the front office likes what he brings to the table. Based on his performance in Summer League, the potential is definitely there for Roddy to be a day-one contributor. He still needs to improve his outside shot and continue to get better on defense, but with the Grizzlies development team, there is no doubt in my mind that he will do just that.
Jake LaRavia needs to be more aggressive
LaRavia's Summer League started strong in Salt Lake City, opening with a 13-point, 4 three-pointers made performance against the 76ers. After that game, LaRavia never got above double-digit points and took 5 or fewer shots in every game. As the earliest pick in this year’s rookie class, and the one most likely to play big minutes next season, I would have liked to see more sets run for him and for him to seek out his shot a lot more.
Even though he did not score the ball well, he did show a lot of promise in affecting the game in other ways. He showed flashes of his playmaking ability and was solid as a connective passer, especially during the Grizzlies' big win against the Nets. He also played solid defense against positions 2-4, averaging a steal and a block per game.
Although it would have been awesome to see more from LaRavia on the offensive end, he still has the ability to help the Grizzlies in the regular season. His shooting ability alongside players like Ja Morant and Tyus Jones at the PG position will leave him with tons of open looks, but he has to take the shot when it’s there.
What About Kennedy Chandler?
Kennedy Chandler was inefficient from the field during Summer League but still made a lot of really impressive plays. He was often the fastest player on the court and got to the rim easily, he just needs to continue to improve as a finisher. Chandler also showed off his playmaking skills, averaging a team-high 5.2 assists per game, and led the team in steals with 1.8 per game, including this one that sealed the Grizzlies' first win in Salt Lake City.
Chandler remains one of the biggest question marks going into the regular season, but as of now, I think that playing some time with the Hustle will be good for his development. He has the ability to contribute now, but with Morant and Tyus Jones dominating the point guard minutes, he probably won’t play much. Sending him to the Hustle where he could be a starter for the majority of the season, while also practicing with the Grizzlies, will be the best thing for him going forward. He might not be ready to be the main backup point guard today, but if he continues to improve, he very well could be by this time next year.
Overall, the Summer League was definitely a success for the Memphis Grizzlies. With the loss of Kyle Anderson and De’Anthony Melton this offseason, the Grizzlies will be looking to Ziaire Wiliams and their new rookies to replace that production, so it was good to see how they played together and got better as the Summer League went on. This was just the first step in a long road of development for a lot of these young players, but the foundation is definitely there. With the Grizzlies’ development proving to be one of the best in the NBA over the past few seasons, the future is bright.