With yesterday’s additions of guards Mike Miller and Josh Akognon, the Memphis Grizzlies have reached the limit of 15 players on their roster.
At this point, their rotation looks set. Last year’s starters are returning, with possibly Quincy Pondexter or even Mike Miller replacing Tayshaun Prince at small forward. The bench will be rounded out by the two of those players that don’t start, as well as Jerryd Bayless, Ed Davis, and offseason acquisition Kosta Koufos. That’s ten players that are all reliable to a pretty strong degree, and they could potentially be a dark horse in the Western Conference.
With that said, the Grizzlies still have some minor roster moves to tend to. Most notably, they have to deal with the rookies they selected in this year’s draft, Jamaal Franklin and Janis Timma, and also Nick Calathes, who they recently acquired from the Dallas Mavericks.
Because their roster currently stands at 15 players right now, they’d have to waive players to sign any of those three players. However, they do have two unguaranteed contracts for next season that don’t factor into any sort of long-term plan. Those contracts would be the ones of Donte Greene and Willie Reed.
Both Greene and Reed were signed on April 17 of this year. They were late-season acquisitions that rode the very end of the bench, and neither saw one second of playing time. The Grizzlies most likely viewed the two of them as worst case scenario-insurance for a bench that was struggling heavily entering the playoffs.
Now, however, the bench is in much better form and neither Greene nor Reed are needed. Neither of them have that much upside, and with Ed Davis and Kosta Koufos firmly entrenched up front, the Grizzlies are welcome to waive the unguaranteed contracts of both forwards to open up two roster slots.
Now, if you’ve been doing the math, that’s two roster slots for three players. They can choose to keep Janis Timma or Nick Calathes overseas–Timma is playing with BK Ventspils of the Latvian League and Calathes is playing with Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar of the Russian Professional Basketball League.
Of the two, they’re much more likely to stash Timma. Timma was the very last pick of this year’s draft at 60th overall, and doesn’t project to be any sort of impact player at this stage in his career. Conversely, Calathes was drafted 45th overall way back in 2009 and is coming off of an MVP season while leading his team to a championship in Europe’s second-tier level of basketball, the Eurocup.
24 years old now, Calathes is a 6’6″ point guard with strong passing skills and the ability to finish strong at the rim. In that regard, he’s very similar to Tony Wroten. Just like Wroten, he’s not much of a shooter, either. If they bring him in from Europe (he has one year left on his contract but has an opt-out clause to go to the NBA), Calathes slots in as one of the last guards on the Grizzlies’ roster. Most likely, the Grizzlies will give Wroten the first shot at claiming the back-up point guard job (Bayless is too much of a gunner to deploy at point guard primarily), and then turn to Calathes from there if necessary.
As for Jamaal Franklin, he fell into the Grizzlies’ lap with the 41st pick after being projected to go in the late first round. He’s an all-around player that can score, rebound, defend, and shoot to some degree. It’s very unlikely that he’s NBA ready at this stage in his career, and most likely, the Grizzlies will take their time developing Franklin with all of the other options they have on the wing.
In the event they decide to keep Janis Timma, he’s a very raw player that is clearly not ready for the NBA. However, he has intriguing athleticism and decent size for a perimeter player at 6’7″. His offensive game shows potential and he already has a decent jumpshot, but he is still in need of further development in his ball-handling and decision making as well as practically every other area of his game. It’s very unlikely that they would elect to sign Timma now, especially over Calathes or Franklin.
In the end, it’ll likely be Nick Calathes and Jamaal Franklin that the Grizzlies waive Donte Greene and Willie Reed to sign. By all indications, that’s what they plan on doing, and frankly, it’s the right move to make. While none of those players slot into the Grizzlies’ immediate plans at the moment, their upside far exceeds that of Greene or Reed. Down the road, these could be players that emerge as solid role players and possibly even starters for Memphis.