Too keep or not to keep. Which free agents should the Memphis Grizzlies look to re-sign, and who should they be willing to lose?
There are a handful of guys on the Memphis Grizzlies roster that are coming to the end to their contracts this offeason. The Grizzlies currently do not have the cap space to keep them all and to be able to sign any new free agents.
When NBA free agency begins on Nov. 22, the Grizzlies will have De’Anthony Melton, Josh Jackson, Anthony Tolliver, John Konchar and Yuta Watanabe become free agents. Tolliver, Konchar and Watanabe barely get playing time. Frankly, whether they’re re-signed for cheap or let go is inconsequential.
The important questions that need answers are related to Melton, a restricted free agent, and Jackson. Those two leave the Grizzlies with some big decisions to make.
Jackson has been on a decline since his NBA debut in Phoenix in the 2017 season. Jackson showed promise coming out of Kansas, and after one season with the Suns, the young talent looked good on paper during his rookie campaign.
The issues came during his second season, when Jackson’s stats dropped in every category except for assists. With Jackson being the 4th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, the expectations behind the small forward were high — the production just wasn’t there.
Melton was a second-round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. He was taken by Houston and eventually traded to the Suns. Melton’s minutes and production for the Suns were minimal, and when they looked to trade Josh Jackson, he was added in the mix because he was viewed as being expendable and the Suns were looking to clear cap space.
The Suns would go on to trade Jackson and Melton and two future second-round picks to the Grizzlies for veterans Kyle Korver and Jevon Carter. With the relocation of both Jackson and Melton to a young team, it provided both with a fresh start to prove themselves and earn their role with a new squad.
Unfortunately for Jackson and Melton, their arrival on the Memphis Grizzlies was not as smooth as they would have hoped for. Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. were a couple of the Grizzlies’ foundational pieces ahead of Jackson and Melton on the depth chart, sticking Jackson and Melton in role-player positions.
How did Jackson and Melton perform for the Grizzlies?
De’Anthony Melton played 60 games for the Grizzlies in the 2019-20 season. He averaged 19.4 minutes, 7.6 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game and shot 40.1 percent from the field. Melton was a key player for the Grizzlies especially during the “bubble” portion of the season following the COVID-19 hiatus.
Melton added backcourt depth; he was a key role player for the Grizzlies and proved himself worthy of a contract extension. Melton is a perfect role player for this young Grizzlies squad and he is a must-sign.
Josh Jackson was sent to the G League and only played 22 games for the Grizzlies in the 2019-20 season. Upon his arrival back on the NBA main roster, Jackson averaged 17.3 minutes, 9.0 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game, shooting 44 percent from the field. Almost across the board, Jackson’s stats were career-lows.
Jackson seems to continue to struggle in the current play style of the NBA. The Grizzlies have a big decision to make with Jackson, because with his potential he could command a $9 million salary in free agency.
Are Melton and Jackson worth re-signing for the Grizzlies?
While neither Melton or Jackson are good shooters from beyond the arc, they have had to earn their paycheck by being dogs on defense and scoring from mid-range or in the paint.
Melton has earned his spot and proven his worth by being a good perimeter defender and getting his points when opportunities present themselves. He is a must-sign. Jackson seems to be an average forward in the league and he struggles to thrive even with his strengths. He’s not worth the money he will be chasing come Nov. 20 when free agency starts.
The Grizzlies should offer Jackson a minimum and see if his production goes up or continues to fall, then make their future decision based off the upcoming season. The other option is to go ahead and cut Jackson loose and look to sign another forward for the minimum and go from there.
The main focus of the Grizzlies is not and should not be on Josh Jackson; the front office should be looking for a diamond in the rough shooter in the upcoming NBA Draft with the 40th pick, as well as signing a free agent guard to add depth and 3-point shooting. If Jackson goes for more money than he deserves, the Grizzlies should look to part ways and look to make a run a playoff spot.