NBA Free Agency does not start until June 30th, but that is not stopping Jaren Jackson Jr and Ja Morant from recruiting Jonas Valanciunas for a return to the Memphis Grizzlies.
Earlier this summer, Jonas Valanciunas declined his $17.6 million player option for next season, making him an unrestricted free agent. According to reports from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Memphis Grizzlies‘ incumbent starting center is expected to prioritize re-signing with Memphis, ostensibly to pursue the security of a multi-year contract in NBA Free Agency.
Valanciunas, seen by many to be the top free agent priority for the Grizzlies this offseason, received a little extra motivation to re-sign this week from some of his younger teammates.
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Earlier on Wednesday, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ja Morant took to Instagram in a public recruiting foray aimed at the big Lithuanian. Jackson posted an Instagram story from his account (give him a follow, people) which featured a video of Valanciunas’ locker, along with the message, “Tell JV to come back — spam his page.”
Morant followed suit less than an hour later, posting a story from his Instagram account in which he tagged Valanciunas with the message, “HEY.”
Valanciunas posted star-like numbers with the Grizzlies this season after being acquired in the trade that sent newly-named NBA World Champion Marc Gasol to the Toronto Raptors. Averaging 19.9 points and 10.7 rebounds in 19 games with Memphis, Valanciunas was one of the bright spots in a disappointing 33-49 season for the Grizzlies.
The big center took advantage of his minutes increase (27.7 per game with the Grizzlies, as opposed to only 18.8 with the Raptors) and asserted himself as an absolute force in the paint, on the boards, and in the hopeful hearts of Grizzlies fans.
Though Jonas’ future with Memphis is still uncertain and will be for a few more weeks, it is good to see the Grizzlies’ new young core lobbying to re-sign their favorite double-double machine. If Valanciunas inks a multi-year deal with the Grizzlies, the future of the team will look much brighter than it has in a couple of years. However, the Grizzlies still need to give the big man a nickname. My submission? The Bearded Behemoth.