In terms of their title-contending window, the Memphis Grizzlies
are perhaps in the best position of any team in the NBA.
The fact is that Memphis forced their window open a few years
earlier than anyone would have anticipated. The oldest guys on the
current roster are Steven Adams and Kyle Anderson, both 28 years of
age. At the start of the 2022-23 season, the top three players for
the Grizzlies will be 24 years old (Desmond Bane) and 23 years old
(Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr.). The team with the second-best
record in the league has a core that has not even scratched its
Memphis is here, and with Morant likely to be locked up through
2027, this franchise will be competitive for quite a while. And
moving ahead, recently named 2022 NBA Executive of the Year Zach
Kleiman is now tasked with some decisions for Memphis to continue
on this fast-rising arc.
“There’s definitely a lot to be said about core continuity,”
Kleiman recently told Drew Hill of the Daily
Memphian. “We are not going to have any issue paying anyone who
we want to pay. There is not going to be any issue with retention
here. I’m very grateful, and we wouldn’t be in this spot without
(Grizzlies owner) Robert [Pera]’s vision and support and commitment
on that end. We are not worried about small-market notions or this
or that. We are not going to have any issue whatsoever keeping
together who we want as we continue to prioritize continuity.”
There a few names that come to play in regards to "retention."
Heading into this offseason, Tyus Jones, Jarrett Culver and
Anderson will all be entering unrestricted free agency. The Grizzlies were able to steal
Jones and Anderson from their respective teams during their
restricted-free-agency summers, but now the question is whether
they will retain either of them this offseason.
There should be little to no argument that Jones is the best
backup point guard in the NBA. His steady play and care of the ball
played a major role in the Grizzlies winning the way they did this
season, even when Morant went down with injury. In his exit
interview, Jones told reporters that, while he does desire to be a
starting point guard, he "loves the organization and playing with
Paying Tyus starter money to back up Morant is like paying for
an expensive insurance policy. You may never get your money's
worth, but when you need it in an emergency situation, you are sure
glad you have it. With Ja's style of play, having Jones on the
roster seems like the most valuable potential signing Memphis could
have this summer. They could front load the contract to make the
money work long-term, and then draft another point guard to be
ready by the end of Jones' next deal.
Anderson, while more likely to return than Culver, has probably
played his last game in a Memphis uniform. His veteran presence was
important in the playoffs this season, but his inability to shoot
leaves Memphis looking for an upgrade. Anderson is a holdover from
the Chris Wallace regime, and though he has been a cultural fit in
the locker room, it may be time to move on.
Adams, Dillon Brooks and Killian Tillie will all be on expiring
deals worth over $30 million combined going into next season, and
both Morant and Brandon Clarke are eligibile for their rookie-scale
extensions. While Morant will get a max offer the second he is
eligible, the decision on Clarke will loom large this summer.
Memphis would do well to avoid restricted free agency in 2023 with
the springy forward, and should look at a four-year, $50 million
dollar extension as the ceiling for him.
With a pair of first-round picks and enough expiring money and
cap space heading into the 2022 NBA Draft, will Memphis make a
splash? The free-agent market is not enticing enough for them to
sign anyone — especially considering they are going to have to pay
Bane soon as well. A reunion with Delon Wright seems to be the best
option if Memphis were to lose the Jones sweepstakes. Don't expect
the Grizz to put their name in the hat for Zach Lavine this summer
Could Memphis pry Pascal Siakam away from Toronto for a package
of Adams, Brooks and three first-round draft picks? Or perhaps Utah
is open for business and there is a similar package, plus
De'Anthony Melton, for Donovan Mitchell. A simpler upgrade for the
Grizz could be Brooks and a pick for Bojan Bogdanovic, a veteran
shooting presence Memphis needs.
The Grizzlies' summer will be unpredictable. On one hand, they
could be completely silent, doing nothing crazy and opt to run it
back. On the other, they could swing for it, seeing their window
open before Morant hits his first max contract.
Another big storyline for them will be the development of Ziaire
Williams at NBA Summer League. The previous season, Bane went from
a low-usage rookie to a summer-league standout to receiving a Third
Team All-NBA vote. Williams is on the Bane plan, and if he were to
breakout in a similar way, that is a massive development for the
Grizzlies' title aspirations.
No matter what Memphis does this summer, the organization is
ahead of schedule. Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane
make up one of the most lethal trios in the league, and they are
just getting started.
The Grizzlies do not care if you believe in them. They believe
in themselves, and are going to be in the thick of it for years to
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