The Memphis Grizzlies could make the 2021 Western Conference playoffs with the help of a couple of 2020 Eastern Conference champions.
The Miami Heat may be on the verge of losing the NBA Finals — trailing the Los Angeles Lakers 2-0 going into Sunday’s Game 3 — but some of their players are lining up for big wins in the offseason.
Contributing to a successful run on the postseason stage can pay off for a free agent. We’ve seen one-hit wonders like Timofey Mozgov and Matthew Dellavedova cash in thanks to one shining moment in the playoffs, attracting teams that want players with winning experience who come from winning cultures.
Five of Miami’s rotation players will be unrestricted free agents this summer: Starting point guard Goran Dragic, starting forward Jae Crowder, backup forwards Solomon Hill and Derrick Jones Jr., and backup center Meyers Leonard.
Forty-year-old Udonis Haslem is also slated to be a free agent, but he’s not going anywhere. He’s a Miami native and a Heat lifer. Haslem is staying in South Florida, whether it’s as a player, a coach or in the front office.
Can any of Miami’s free agents help the Memphis Grizzlies? More importantly, which ones could realistically sign with Memphis?
Two that fit that description are Jae Crowder and Derrick Jones Jr.
Crowder played for Memphis last season before being traded to Miami. In 45 games with the Grizzlies, he averaged 9.9 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. His shooting was subpar, however; Crowder made just 36.8 percent from the field and 29.3 percent from 3-point range. In February, Memphis traded Crowder to the Heat as part of the deal to unload Andre Iguodala.
Listed at 6’6″ and 235 pounds, Crowder is known as a defensive stopper. The 30-year-old still has some good years left. And his shooting has been much better with Miami; he’s making 36.4 percent of his 3-pointers in the playoffs.
Jones, 23, is more potential than production at this stage in his career. The 6’6″, 210-pound human pogo stick is best known for winning the 2020 Slam Dunk contest over All-Star weekend.
Coming off the bench most of the time, Jones averaged 8.5 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.0 steals per game in the regular season. His playing time has dipped as Miami tightened its playoff rotation, and he’s playing just over seven minutes a night.
Crowder and Jones would help address the Grizzlies’ biggest positional need at small forward. In the starting lineup, Memphis is set at point guard, shooting guard, power forward and center with Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Jonas Valanciunas.
Small forward can be an open competition in training camp. Justise Winslow, acquired from Miami in the Iguodala/Crowder trade, is a jack of all trades whose natural position is small forward, but he’s coming off a season in which back and hip injuries limited him to just 11 games.
Crowder made $7.8 million this season, and Jones made $1.6 million. They’ve been valuable for Miami and could be affordable options for the Grizzlies, who are looking to get where the Heat are right now.