When accounting for injuries that kept both Jaren Jackson Jr. and Justise Winslow sidelined for the majority of the season, the 2020-21 campaign was fairly kind to the Memphis Grizzlies. They were defeated in tidy fashion by the top-seeded Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs, but Memphis turned in an encouraging 38-34 season behind Ja Morant, with plenty of hope for the future.
Memphis has drafted quite well in the recent past, unearthing gems in Desmond Bane, Xavier Tillman, Brandon Clarke and Dillon Brooks. The Grizzlies are clearly building the ship around that but, beyond the clear need for more perimeter shooting and creation around Morant, this is a roster that doesn’t have screaming issues and that opens things up for the team’s brain trust to focus on value. They made a big move in trading Jonas Valanciunas to New Orleans to move up to the 10th pick from 17, taking on Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams’ salaries in the process, seeming to indicate they had their eyes on someone in particular. They later traded back into the first round to get the 30th pick from Utah.
Roster Needs: Shooting (and health for Jaren Jackson Jr.), another big wing
Ziaire Williams (No. 10 Overall), Grade: C+
Williams is a fascinating prospect. He endured a brutal season in myriad ways and, if you simply scouted Williams from his time at Stanford, this pick would seem quite aggressive. At the same time, he has the length and shooting potential to return value here. If anything, I’m probably higher on Williams than some, but the knock on this pick would be that players like Moses Moody were still available.
Santi Aldama (No. 30 Overall), Grade: C
This one came from well off the radar, but Aldama is not an unreasonable pick at No. 30 overall. He played at a small school (Loyola) but dominated the competition and he has NBA skills. That is particularly true of his shooting as a 6’11 combo big, and if he can weaponize that floor spacing, there is an NBA future here. He needs to get stronger, and that could trigger some more athletic burst, but the skill level is real.
Eric Bledsoe (expected to be bought out or traded)
Jaren Jackson Jr.
Jontay Porter (non-guaranteed)
Tim Frazier (UFA)
Killian Tillie (RFA)
Justise Winslow (Team Option)