Summer League action is here! For a more extensive breakdown of the roster and the expectations, visit Brandon Abraham’s column here.
WHAT: 2022 NBA Summer League
WHEN: 6:00 PM CT
WHERE: Salt Lake City, Utah
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: ESPN/92.9 FM ESPN MEMPHIS
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Kennedy Chandler, Ziaire Williams, Jake LaRavia, Santi Aldama, Xavier Tillman
PHILADELPHIA: Jaden Springer, Isaiah Joe, Julian Champagnie, Paul Reed, Charles Bassey
Summer League basketball is underway, and there are plenty of reasons for Memphis Grizzlies fans and followers to be excited.
The most popular one will be the development of Ziaire Williams. After Desmond Bane’s exponential leap, and after the upside shown from Williams last season, you can’t help but think of the sophomore making a similar rise.
The Grizzlies also surprisingly took 4 rookies in this year’s draft — Jake LaRavia, David Roddy, Kennedy Chandler, and Vince Williams. So with that, there are more players to keep an eye on, when it comes into a focus towards next season’s roster. The tandem of Roddy and two-way player Kenneth Lofton Jr. is going to be fun; I’m absolutely rooting for the Roddy-Lofton bully-ball.
How about Santi Aldama? Through these two storylines, as well as Xavier Tillman’s inclusion here, the sophomore from Spain is sliding under the radar. Will he show more flashes this time around?
Anyways, what should we watch for in today’s Summer League opener?
Interesting Veteran Matchup
The Memphis Grizzlies got a healthy balance of “veterans” and rookies on their roster. Ziaire Williams, Santi Aldama, and Xavier Tillman are the ones with the more prominent roles for this team — while they also have G-League veteran Shaq Buchanan and former Boston Celtic Tremont Waters. This game with the 76ers is a good test for them.
Tillman and Aldama against Paul Reed and Charles Bassey is a solid matchup for them, from an evaluation standpoint. Reed has been insanely productive in these environments, averaging 22.3 points on 58.2% shooting, 12.5 rebounds, 3.6 stocks, and 2.5 assists in 24 regular season games with the G-League over the past two seasons. Bassey is also a big-bodied (6’11”, 235 pounds) shot-blocking machine, as he swatted 3.4 blocks per game in the G-League last season. Both Reed and Bassey are looking to impress the Sixers brass en route to a responsibility of backing up Joel Embiid, while Tillman and Aldama want to secure a rotation spot.
The Grizzlies’ backcourt will also have a big test against Isaiah Joe and Jaden Springer. Joe is a versatile scorer that will fire 3’s in variety and in bunches. Springer should provide a defensive challenge to the smaller Kennedy Chandler — be still, the beating heart of Tennessee Vol fans around the world.
One thing I’m fascinated to see in Summer League is the interchangeability of the Grizzlies’ roster.
Summer League is a great opportunity to experiment with lineups and to empower with responsibilities. That’s when growth occurs.
The Grizzlies tend to do this by not really making any sort of definitions on positions. Their most prime example was not sending down a pure point guard last season — which led to on-ball growth from Desmond Bane, and to a “rotation player” jump from John Konchar. This season, the Grizzlies will be sending down traditional point guards in Kennedy Chandler and in Tremont Waters. However, the remaining players provide a great dose of versatility, which should lead to ample opportunities to do more than what’s expected in main-roster action.
Williams is obviously the main player to watch here; he’s going to receive a lot of on-ball and go-to scoring responsibilities. We should see some facilitation from LaRavia and Roddy. Aldama and Tillman will have chances to operate as high-post playmakers.
It should also bode well for defensive development as well. Between Williams, LaRavia, Roddy, Aldama, Tillman, and two-way player Vince Williams, they possess the versatility to guard multiple positions. This roster structure should be helpful for their defense, because the rookies will get an intro-level course in NBA schemes, primarily in switching.
Prepare to see some funky stuff from the summertime Grizzlies.
Which rookie makes the best first impression
While Summer League is such a thrill, split-second evaluations are made. It goes on both ends of the spectrum — some players are at their best in this environment (see Josh Selby and Wayne Selden), and some are not (see: Ziaire Williams and Santi Aldama, last season).
Tonight, we should get the opportunity to see Jake LaRavia, David Roddy, Kennedy Chandler, and Vince Williams for their first game in Beale Street Blues. We’ll see who makes the best first impression.
LaRavia and Chandler should primarily be starters in Summer League. Roddy and Williams should also play prominent roles off the bench, with the possibility of starting in later games over the next few weeks.
The flashes will be fun to see, and it’ll be interesting to see how they’re deployed for the first time with the Grizzlies. However, the lesson should remain that Summer League isn’t the end all be all here.
Stick with Grizzly Bear Blues for all your Summer League coverage.