Just like the actual Memphis Grizzlies, the talent pool is getting even better here at Grizzly Bear Blues this summer. Many new folks will be apart of this great group that will be creating consistent written and audio content for Grizz Nation this upcoming season. Three of the new arrivals - Chase Bobbitt, David Buckler, and Xavier Dotson - joined me to answer a few questions about the Grizzlies offseason as they head into training camp.
With training camp still a few months away, is there an area on the roster (wing, frontcourt, etc.) that you would like to see the Grizzlies upgrade? What skill set matters most if that upgrade is made?
David Buckler - The area of the team that concerns me the most, and seems to always be a problem area for Memphis, is our shooting. I think the Grizzlies have made strides in this area over the past few seasons, especially with the emergence of Desmond Bane...but the rest of the guys (Brooks, JJJ, Konchar, etc.) can be streaky, and when the shots aren’t falling, we become a pretty average team. I’d like to see the Grizzlies continue to upgrade the 2-3 spots to put as many knockdown shooters as possible around Ja Morant.
Xavier Dotson - I’m selecting a backup center. With the void of Jaren for the first half of the season, the Grizzlies are without their best rim protector and backup center. I’m not asking for too much to fill the back up center role, just a guy whose goal is to protect the paint and rebound.
Chase Bobbitt - I think a player who can add a scoring spark off the bench in a guard position (similar to what Melton added last year) could be a nice addition to round out the roster. With that being said, that role can be filled with a number of first year players already on the roster, so it is not life or death.
Which Memphis player’s outlook changed the most for you based off their summer league performance?
David Bucker - I think most people will say Kenny Lofton, Jr. because he really shined in Las Vegas. I am cautiously optimistic about him - but we’ve seen players look great in Summer League and not be able to translate that to the regular season. Santi Aldama looked much more comfortable as the Summer League progressed, and I think the coaching staff has done a nice job bringing him along. However, the player’s outlook that changed the most for me...unfortunately in a negative way...was Jake LaRavia. I didn’t see the offensive aggressiveness I was hoping for from a 1st round pick. He has a beautiful jump shot, but it is a little confusing how lost he looked at times. Its only Summer League, but I was hoping to see more playmaking and “electricity” from a player I watched a lot in college (as a rival UNC fan).
Xavier Dotson - Jake LaRavia. In the first game of the Jazz Summer League, he had me fooled, thinking he was the next “Mike Miller.” After that game, he played with less aggression for the rest of the Summer League and looked lost at times. Of course, you must take Summer League Hoops with a grain of salt. But I think his game will flow better around Ja and Bane, especially when defenses collapse with penetration.
Chase Bobbitt - I know it is the easy answer, but Ziaire Williams. He appeared to be on the “Desmond Bane path” in terms of what he was asked to do with the ball in his hands and as a scorer for the summer league squad. Him being able to get his own points with Ja and/or Bane off the floor opens a whole new dynamic to the offense.
As of now, where do you feel the Grizzlies stack up against the rest of the Southwest Division? Are they clear favorites going into next season, or is there another favorite among Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, and New Orleans?
David Buckler - I was very proud of the Grizzlies for winning their 1st ever Southwest Division title last year, but I don’t think a repeat of this success is going to be easy. Jaren’s foot injury could impact the first few months of the season, and that’s baring any setback in his recovery. Foot injuries always make me nervous. If the Grizzlies get off to a slow start, they could be looking up at the Mavericks and Pelicans, both of whom I think will be improved next season. There are only 3 players in the NBA I truly fear (especially in a playoff series) - Steph, Joker, and Luka. If Dallas comes cruising out of the gate, and Doncic plays at an MVP level, there might be too much distance for Memphis to make up by the time we get Jackson back.
Xavier Dotson - Boy o boy! I’ll select second in the division. We will miss Jaren’s defensive presence for the first few months, which will cost us some games. The Mavs adding Christian Wood provides them with another scorer; of course, Luka is going to be ‘Luka.” But who concerns me are the Pelicans. They gave the Suns a scare these past playoffs without Zion. Adding a healthy Zion, the Pelicans can be a contending team this year. Lastly, San Antonio and Houston look to be in their rebuilding state and look the part of non-contenders.
Chase Bobbitt - I would put the Grizzlies 1a to the Mavericks 1b going into the season. We’ve all seen the pictures of “fit Luka” going around the internet, and I expect the Mavericks to have another good season.
New Orleans is the wildcard. If they build off their late success last year while adding one of the most exciting players in the league back in the mix, they can be dangerous. With that being said, the Grizzlies also have one of the most exciting players in the league and I think a Ja vs Zion rivalry is ready to heat back up.
All the insight above is just a glimpse of what you can expect from David, Xavier, and chase in the future here at GBB. Thanks to each of them for sharing their perspectives.