It has been a long 53 days since we’ve seen the Grizzlies in action, but the wait is over tonight as the Grizzlies are set to tip off against the Philadelphia 76ers in the Salt Lake City Summer League tonight at 6:00 PM CT. The game tips off the summer evaluation period for the Grizzlies with 3 games in Salt Lake City and then moving on to the Vegas Summer League. Grizzlies assistant coach David McClure will follow in the footsteps of Darko Rajakovic as a Jenkins assistant to coach the team in summer league. The Grizzlies also announced their roster for the Salt Lake City Summer League. Things will probably chance on the margins when the team moves to Vegas.
Summer League is always an interesting experience as the players and team have different goals to work on instead of just trying to pile on the wins. To preview the overall summer league experience, I’ve put the roster into groups and will go over what to watch for this summer with the Grizzlies.
Ziaire Williams will be the most important player for the Grizzlies this Summer League. Similar to what the Grizzlies did with Desmond Bane last season, Williams is going to focus more with on ball reps and being more of “the guy.” Expecting a Bane type leap like we saw last season could be asking for too much, but the goal would be for Ziaire to fall in Bane’s path and get the “too good for this” treatment with being benched the final few games in Vegas.
It will also be a big summer league for Xavier Tillman as well. Tillman is entering his 3rd season out of Michigan State and has seen an inconsistent role so far in his career. After finding himself in a rotation role his rookie year, Tillman wasn’t part of Jenkins’ primary 10-man rotation with Brandon Clarke’s bounce-back season. With Steven Adams struggling in the Minnesota series, Tillman had a couple of big games in the postseason but ultimately found himself back on the bench by the end of the Golden State series. It’s not common to have 3rd-year players playing in summer league, and it’s not necessarily a great sign. It’s certainly good that Tillman has been in the gym working on his craft and wants to take advantage of the opportunity in Summer League, but the fact that he’s in Salt Lake City isn’t a good sign for his role next season.
Santi Aldama has the opportunity to play himself into a rotational role early this season. With Jaren Jackson Jr. out the next 4-6 months recovering from foot surgery along with Kyle Anderson’s departure, there are minutes available at the 4. Aldama had a nice stretch in the season as the team dealt with a mini COVID outbreak but was mostly limited to garbage minutes. Aldama did cap off a solid end to the season with a stint with the Memphis Hustle where he was dominant and then played well in the game against the Phoenix Suns. Aldama has a chance to really show his worth this Summer League after not getting much time last season as he traveled from Spain to the States after the draft.
Outside of the 3 players mentioned above, Grizzlies fans are likely most excited to see their draft night acquisitions in action for the first time. Jake LaRavia, David Roddy, Kennedy Chandler will join two-way players Vince Williams and Kenneth Lofton Jr. as the remaining guys on contracts into next season.
As mentioned previously, there are minutes at the 4 up for grabs, and both Jake LaRavia and David Roddy both have a decent chance at earning those minutes with a strong showing in SLC and Vegas. Vince Williams will be an intriguing player to monitor after being selected 47th overall on draft night. Williams profiles as a really solid 3-and-D player, and his defense should really shine in the offense-heavy Summer League. Kenneth Lofton Jr. will also get his first action in a Grizzlies uniform after being picked up as a two-way player as an undrafted free agent. The big man out of Louisiana Tech made a name for himself at the NBA combine and summer workouts flashing his skills despite his size.
Kennedy Chandler has yet to sign his rookie contract with the Grizzlies, so his availability may take a little longer to get here, but he’ll get to flash his skills that make him the potential back up point guard of the future. With Tyus Jones re-signing on a 2-year deal, Chandler figures to have a limited role next season, but Summer League will be a great first step of NBA action.
The Hustle guys
Shaq Buchanan gets rewarded for his stellar play with the Hustle over the last few seasons with another trip to SLC and Vegas with the Grizzlies for Summer League. For Buchanan, Summer League is a great opportunity to be picked up by an NBA team and get extra eyes on him. Buchanan’s role this summer may be limited until some of the Grizzlies contracts, but he has a great chance to show his all-around skills in front of a bunch of NBA teams.
EJ Onu also joins the Grizzlies in Summer League after a stint with the Hustle and then spending some time with the Niagara River Lions of the Canadian Elite Basketball League. Onu is an interesting Summer League signee after getting some DNP-CD’s towards the end of the Hustle season with Santi Aldama on assignment. Onu will get the opportunity to flash his rim-protecting skills after being one of the league leaders in blocks at the G League level.
Romeo Weems will look to prove he is healthy after appearing in just 3 games before suffering a season-ending wrist injury. The Grizzlies are clearly interested in Weems potential, bringing him back for Summer League for a second consecutive summer. Weems will get the chance to show the Grizzlies, and other teams, what he’s all about after missing basically the entirety of last season.
According to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony, Keve Aluma will be signing an Exhibit 10 contract with the Grizzlies heading into next season. This means Aluma will get to participate in Summer League with the Grizzlies before ultimately spending next season with the Hustle if he doesn’t get an NBA contract elsewhere. Aluma is an older prospect out of Virginia Tech but is a solid scorer and brings size and length on the defensive end.
Other G League guys
Dakota Mathias has spent most of his G League time with the Dallas Mavericks affiliate, the Texas Legends. Mathias did earn a 10-day contract with the Grizzlies last season as part of the COVID outbreaks, and the organization is clearly wanting a deeper look at Mathias by locking the 3-point sharpshooter up for some Summer League action. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Grizzlies try and parlay this with Mathias ultimately ending up with the Hustle next season.
Tremont Waters, a former two-way player for the Boston Celtics, joins the Grizzlies summer league team after a short stint with Gigantes de Carolina in Puerto Rico following the G League season. Waters was the 2020 G League Rookie of the Year with the then Maine Red Claws. Waters split last season with the Wisconsin Herd and South Bay Lakers where he averaged 12.8 points on nearly 36% shooting from beyond the arc. Waters is an undersized point guard listed at 5’10” which has been what has really held him back in his NBA career.
Ronaldo Segu wraps up the Grizzlies Summer League roster as a guy who figures to spend next season in the G League. Segu played last season with the Bulls at the University at Buffalo. Segu was a 4-year player for the Bulls and averaged nearly 15 points per game on 37.3% shooting from beyond the arc. Segu fits the Grizzlies profile as an efficient player who can stretch the floor, as Segu never shot below 35% from deep in a season. Segu hasn’t been linked to Memphis on any commitment past summer league, so he may not be on the roster as they head to Vegas but should he get minutes, the 6 foot guard will certainly let it fly.
Memphis will have an extremely talented roster heading into tonight’s first game. They have 3 guys who played in the NBA last season, to go along with some solid rookies and talented G League guys. Anything goes in Summer League, as the league experiments with new rules and teams themselves focus more on development than wins. That said, Memphis certainly has enough talent on their roster to bring attention to themselves this summer.