After a less than stellar 2017-2018 campaign, the Grizzlies entered the 2018 NBA Draft with the 4th and 32nd overall picks. Prior to draft night, it was unclear what the Grizzlies would do with their pick.
Would they trade it away for an already established NBA player? Would they trade picks with another team to get more picks and more players? And of course, the three teams picking ahead of the Grizzlies would impact who was left when the team was on the clock.
The Grizzlies ultimately held onto their picks and drafted Jaren Jackson Jr. and Jevon Carter. It’s time to meet the newest members of the Memphis Grizzlies.
Jaren Jackson Jr.
Jaren Jackson Jr. played college basketball under Tom Izzo at Michigan State. The 18-year-old from New Jersey was a McDonald’s All-American and was ranked as the fifth best player in the country coming out of high school. His father, Jaren Jackson Sr., played in the NBA and World Basketball League for 13 years.
Jaren showcases the skills of the modern NBA big man. He carries a massive 6’11 frame with a wingspan over seven feet. On the offensive end, he can space the floor and knock down perimeter jump shots, something the Grizzlies have needed desperately over the past handful of years. He can also put the ball on the floor as he possesses rare agility and control for a young man of his size. On the defensive end, his shot blocking is a major upside for the Grizzlies as well as his ability to defend bigs out on the perimeter which is an important skill in today’s NBA. At worst, he’s a good defensive big with long arms who could work nicely next to Marc Gasol. The upside? He plays phenomenal defensive next to Gasol, who is also great on defense and shoots the ball just as well.
Jevon Carter might be the safest pick in the draft. The Grizzlies know exactly what they are going to get from him. Carter spent four years at West Virginia as one of the best backcourt defenders in the country. Every year in Morgantown, he improved on offense and earned second-team All-America honors his senior year.
Last season, Carter led college basketball in steals. He recorded six of them against Trae Young, the fifth overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft, during a matchup between West Virginia and Oklahoma last season. As mentioned before, he improved his offensive play while in college and shot just below 40 percent from the three-point line during his senior season. He’s tough, he’s relentless, and he plays with a tenacity that can’t really be taught, but will translate nicely to the NBA. Sounds like a Grizzlies player, doesn’t he? He will bring a toughness on defense that has been lacking in the backup point guard position behind Mike Conley.
The Grizzlies have been unlucky with their draft picks in recent years. However, on paper, these picks are low-risk picks that have the potential to be useful pieces in a Grizzlies rotation. Unlike players Trae Young, Jackson Jr. and Carter who have skills that will no doubt transfer to the NBA.
In their first summer league game, the two rookies showed promise as Jevon Carter had 10 points and five rebounds, and Jackson Jr. had 29 points and knocked down eight three-pointers. Granted, it’s summer league but first impressions are important and these two gave Grizz fans something to be excited about.
Is that you, Grit and Grind?
Grit and Grind is synonymous with Grizzlies basketball. The golden years of seven straight playoff appearances were due in large part to this nitty-gritty way that Memphis approached winning ball games. However, when Tony Allen and Zach Randolph left, Grit and Grind seemed to slide out the door right behind them.
However, I can’t help but think it might return a little bit with these two draft picks. Both of these rookies are going to bring it on the defensive end every single night.
If nothing else, Carter and Jackson will run through a brick wall to play basketball, and that’s the kind of player that is well received in the 901. We don’t really want the drama queen, “it’s all about me players,” and we certainly don’t want those who will lollygag on defense. Memphis takes a liking to those who will buy into what the Grizzlies are trying to do and give it their all night in and night out. I think that’s what you are going to get with these two players.
Another New Face, More Grit and Grind
On Monday, the Grizzlies signed Kyle Anderson to a multi-year contract. The 6’9 guard was drafted 30th overall by the San Antonio Spurs in the 2014 NBA Draft. Last season, Anderson averaged 7.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.7 assists and ranked 13th in the league in total steals.
Over the past couple years, the Grizzlies have taken a chance on their free agency signings. In 2016, the team signed Chandler Parsons who had proven his worth in the NBA but had struggled with injuries. Unfortunately, Parsons has not been able to stay healthy for long periods of time resulting in a constant state of rehabilitation. In 2017, Ben McLemore joined the Grizzlies. McLemore looks the part of a basketball player and the Grizzlies hoped he would turn into a solid player but it didn’t quite work that way.
On the other hand, the Grizzlies know exactly what they are going to get with Anderson. Like many of the Grizzlies, he isn’t going to blow you away in a workout with his athletic dunks and moves. But the guy knows how to play the game of basketball and when you put him on the floor, good things tend to happen. Unlike the past couple years of free agency, the Grizzlies know they are getting a basketball player that will contribute to the rotation. He’s going to be very comfortable in the defense-first philosophy that the team seems to be returning to. In case you weren’t convinced, the signing of a player like Anderson reinforces the fact that a Memphis team hanging their hat on defense is making a return. It’s comeback season for Grit and Grind.