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GBB Mailbag Roundtable: Frontcourt and rookie fits, expectations

In this roundtable, we talk about fits in the frontcourt and the expectation with the rookies

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2022 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot Photo by Michael J. LeBrecht II/NBAE via Getty Images

This week, GBB Senior Staff Writer Bryson Wright went to Twitter to look for mailbag questions for a roundtable this week. The first part of the roundtable can be found here. This section centers around the rookie expectations and fits in the frontcourt.

I join Bryson Wright, Bryce Hayes, Lauren Harvey, and David Buckler for this part of the mailbag roundtable.

Bryson Wright, GBB Senior Staff Writer: David Roddy. Based on what I saw in Summer league he fits in with the rest of the team really well. He’s a solid defender who can play multiple positions and has a good enough jumper to keep defenses honest. He is also really good in transition so it will be exciting to see him run the break with Ja and Ziaire Williams. Roddy and Jake LaRavia will get more minutes than any of the other Rookies and I’m expecting Roddy to do just a little bit more.

Bryce Hayes, GBB Staff Writer: The knee-jerk reaction for most will probably be Kenneth Lofton Jr. after his spectacular Summer League showing, but I believe the answer is still Jake LaRavia or David Roddy. Whoever wins this camp battle will have a limited role most likely — compared to say Desmond Bane’s or Ziaire Williams’ roles as rookies, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The rookies have been blessed to come into a situation where they can come in and develop with minimal pressure. I believe LaRavia, if he settles into a role as a shooter off the bench he can have the biggest impact if he can provide wing depth behind Brooks, Bane, Williams and company.

Lauren Harvey, GBB Staff Writer: I expect Jake LaRavia to make the biggest impact next season. He had a worrying Summer League, but if he can become a more willing shooter, he theoretically helps the Grizzlies on both ends of the floor more than any other rookie. The Grizzlies have been able to find minutes for their first round draft picks lately and LaRavia should lead the Grizzlies rookies in minutes played.

David Buckler, Co-host of “The Core 4” Podcast: Of our 5 rookies, I expect David Roddy to made the largest impact on the upcoming season. Although a bit undersized, I like to way Roddy attacks the rim and plays with power. He didn’t look out of control or overwhelmed during the Summer League. A friend of mine watched him a lot in college, and he liked Roddy’s style of play and toughness. If the coaches can hide him a little bit on defense, I think his impact in transition and at the 3-point line will keep him in the rotation. In the end I think he ends up with Kyle Anderson’s minutes.

Parker Fleming, GBB Site Manager: Of the rookies, Jake LaRavia is the best bet to have the biggest impact in year 1. Summer League was underwhelming for him, but I just want to see him next to Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, and Tyus Jones — the playmaking and system contexts in Summer League are never really great. He has to be a more willing shooter, but his ability to knock down catch-and-shoot 3’s would be a big boost off the bench. In addition, he has shown good team defensive instincts and playmaking chops since college, and those attributes might earn him a rotation spot. David Roddy is another name to watch with his scoring and toughness.

Phoenix Suns v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Bryson: I think that Santi Aldama will definitely get minutes, mostly because Jaren Jackson Jr. could miss some time to start the year. He has shown potential both in the NBA and in summer league so I would be happy to see him get some more chances. In terms of his position I think he could definitely play the 5, but I do think he could be better as a stretch 4 in the future.

Bryce: Santi Aldama has an uphill battle of cracking the rotation even without the presence of Jaren Jackson Jr. most likely until Christmas. Steven Adams and Brandon Clarke are locks and the absence of Killian Tillie in summer league seems like a major endorsement of how the staff sees him compared to Aldama and Tillman. Aldama had spurts where he looked like a pro and others that were...suboptimal to say the least. The spot vacated by Jackson will be a battle between Tillman and Lofton Jr. that he may not be able to separate from. I do not believe center is the way to go, even with his flashes of being able to protect the rim against lesser competition.

Lauren: Santi Aldama showed flashes in Summer League, but you want to see more than flashes from a second year player in Summer League. I think he is definitely most effective as a power forward and will need to bulk up to regularly play the 5. With Jaren missing the start of the season, this may be the perfect opportunity for him to show he can stick around in the NBA.

David: We’ll know much more about Santi Aldama around Christmas time. He certainly looked to be an improved player during the Summer League. As a rookie, I thought he had some nice skills, and at 6’11” he was worth the risk because as the saying goes, “you can’t teach size”. Santi will get every opportunity to complete with Xavier Tillman, Sr. and Killian Tillie for minutes, but I am not convinced he’ll be a regular rotation player as the season wears on. He’s very slight, and I don’t love his game out on the perimeter defensively. The good news is during the regular season, when the roster is stretched a little bit, Aldama will find himself on the court, looking to fill some of the holes at center and power forward left by Jaren Jackson, Jr’s injury. Now it’s up to him.

Parker: Santi Aldama can end up being a rotation player this upcoming season, especially with Jaren Jackson Jr. likely missing time at the start of the season. That race for the 4th frontcourt spot between Aldama, Jake LaRavia, David Roddy, and Xavier Tillman will be interesting to watch in training camp. However, because the loss of size and rim protection from Jackson, Aldama seems like the cleaner fit to step in — opening up an avenue to solidify himself as a rotation player next season. Positionally, he’ll be a big that floats the perimeter, while the other big is in the high-post slot.

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

Bryson: With Jaren’s frontcourt partner, you need someone who helps with his weaknesses, which at this point is rebounding and fouling. Big bruiser type of guys like Steven Adams and Jonás Valanciunas have had success with Jaren in the frontcourt. I think that a guy like Adams who can stretch the floor a little bit more, even if it’s just from the mid range, would be ideal. Basically a Kevon Looney, type of player.

Bryce: I don’t think the ideal player next to Jaren Jackson Jr. is something that should be overthought. The best partner for Jackson Jr. is one that is available. Last season, Jackson Jr.’s potential asserted itself all over the film whether it be with Adams more physical, paint-anchored work or Brandon Clarke’s who worked a lot of high pick and rolls offensively and played a role in co-protecting the rim defensively. They both worked when Jackson Jr. himself stayed healthy and out of foul trouble. I believe any style big can work alongside Jackson whether he be at center or power forward in lineups as long as Jackson himself can be available on the floor.

Lauren: An elite rebounder that sets tough screens so basically Steven Adams. I sincerely doubt Steven Adams is in the Grizzlies’ long-term plans, so assuming Jaren eventually moves to the 5, a stretch 4 that is strong enough to hold their own inside seems like the best long term fit. Jaren’s positional flexibility will give the Grizzlies some time to find the right front court partner for Jaren.

David: During the regular season, I still like Steven Adams in this role, as Jaren’s front court partner (at least in the starting line-up). As we know Adams was very solid defensively, good in the pick-and-roll, and a great rebounder. The problem is now that Memphis is such an improved team, we should be looking ahead at what a playoff rotation might look like, and Adams is not an ideal fit against smaller Western Conference opponents because of his limited offense. At the end of games, I like Jaren in the middle, with a bunch of shooters around Ja Morant. It’s going to be fascinating to see the rotations that Coach Jenkins utilizes, because I think the roster is still very much a work in progress.

Parker: The beauty with Jaren Jackson Jr.’s game is there are multiple directions. He could be starting at the 4 or the 5, and it shouldn’t mess with his production. The numbers with him alongside either Steven Adams or Brandon Clarke are fantastic. Last season proved to me that his best optimal scenario might be starting at the 4 while closing at the 5. In that case, the bruiser 5 (Adams or Jonas Valanciunas type) and the versatile 4 (Clarke) are ideal fits alongside Jackson. Whether it’s Clarke and/or Adams will be a question over the next 10-12 months, given their free agency status in 2023.

2022 NBA Summer League - Memphis Grizzlies v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Jeff Bottari/NBAE via Getty Images

Bryson: I think he deserves a chance and he will play a lot in preseason, but I still think he will be mostly a G-League player this year. He’s on a two way deal and will definitely get a shot early in the season with Jaren being out and we will see how he does, but I don’t expect him to be in the rotation for most of the year. I’m still impressed with how he played in the summer and he could have a bright future, I’m just not convinced that it will be this year.

Bryce: He did what he needed to do as an undersized, mid-major product as Lofton Jr.’s production was as high as anyone’s in NBA Summer League. Now, as the competition rises, he’ll have a chance to once again prove himself. If he can show the ability to guard legitimate NBA players, he has as much of a chance as anyone to have a few of the minutes voided by Jackson Jr. thrown his way.

Lauren: His Summer League performance showed that Kenneth Lofton Jr. can score at the NBA level the question is can his defense come along enough for him to secure a roster spot. I imagine he will see some run, but it is important to not put too much stock into a Summer League performance and remember that he is still a two way player. That said he has quickly become a fan favorite and is incredibly fun to watch and it would be a welcome sight to see him in the rotation.

David: Everybody is excited about Kenny Lofton, Jr. He was so much fun to watch in Las Vegas, and I am curious to see how the coaches bring him along during training camp. I’m sure he’ll get a look to stick with the main roster, but I would rather have him spend the majority of his time in the G League (with Kennedy Chandler and Vince Williams, Jr.) so he can keep learning and getting reps. If he plays as hard as he did this past summer, he’ll eventually get a shot. My bigger concerns are Xavier Tillman, Sr. and Killian Tillie. Would we be having this discussion if those two guys looked ready to bolster the second unit? Tillman and Tillie need to contribute or suddenly our bench looks very thin.

Parker: Kenneth Lofton Jr. is such a fun offensive player. His post footwork is tremendous for a prospect his age, and he flashed more shooting touch than expected. His defense will likely hold him back from being a rotation player in year 1, as teams could hunt him in switch situations. That’s all good though; he’s on a two-way contract. The Grizzlies could let him refine his game and get acclimated into the NBA system, and then they could get him on a 4-year deal similar to Xavier Tillman’s deal next offseason. Hammering any sort of odds on Kenneth Lofton Jr. winning G-League MVP next season.

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